When talking to other parents, I am always amazed by the differences in potty training success. Some children achieve success within days, while others take months to even master bladder control. I know from first-hand experience how hard it can be. To maximize your chance of success, I collected tips from experts and parents all around the world.
1. When to start
For successful potty training, it is important to get started at the right time Generally most kids are ready for training between the age of two and three. Luckily, there are some signs that can help you determine when the time is right.
- Diapers stay dry and clean for a couple of hours each day or after nap time
- The child is aware of ‘the need to go’, demonstrated by verbal or facial expressions, squatting or hiding in another room
- Bowel movements show some regularity
- Your child is able to walk and pull their pants up and down
- The toddler can follow simple and more complex instructions and understands the concept of putting things where they belong
- He/she understands one-word statements like potty, wet, dry, go etc.
- Your child shows imitative behavior, is eager to please you and takes pride in their accomplishments
- Some kids might even take interest in the potty or the process of you, your partner or siblings going to the toilet
- Always change diapers in the bathroom. This establishes a connection in the mind of the kid
- Buy a potty chair and involve your child in the decision making. Get it in advance so they can get familiar with it, for example by placing it in the bathroom and encouraging them to sit on it when they want to
- Buy all that you will need: pull-up and training pants, clean clothes, wipes etc.
- Start the potty training at a suitable time. Avoid stressful periods of change like e.g. relationship problems, illness, moving,…
- When your child is about one and a half years old, start teaching vocabulary like potty, pee, poo etc.
- Make your child understand the concept and process of going to the potty/toilet by discussing it, reading about it, or watching a dvd together
- Expect accidents to happen. New skills are always learned by trial and error. Patience is key. Never push your child too hard and know when to leave him or her alone
3. Training time
- Switch from diapers to cotton underwear after a few successful potty attempts, so you child experiences the discomfort of being wet and discovers the pleasure of being dry
- Explain and show your child how you sit on the toilet, use paper, flush and wash your hand afterwards. This is called modeling and also works very well with peers e.g. praise older siblings or cousins who set an example
- When you are at home, set aside time specifically for potty training. Give your child extra fluid and encourage (don’t force!) them to go on the potty after 30 minutes to 1 hour
- When on a trip, take your child to a public toilet regularly. Don’t forget to bring wipes and spare clothes
- Every time you see signals of ‘need to go’, ask your kid to go on the potty. Sometimes they will ask you themselves
- Some toddlers like a bit of privacy, so try leaving the bathroom room for a while when they are on the potty
- Others don’t like the sound of flushing, so flush after he or she has left the bathroom
- Always keep a positive and upbeat attitude. Whenever your toddler makes progress, respond with positive feedback and excitement. You could for example smile, clap your hands and say things like “you’re such a big girl/boy now”. Remember that forcing, negative response and punishment work counterproductive
- For some kids, material rewards like stickers work really well as motivational tools. You can even set a goal for them to reach e.g. they get a little gift when they collect 5 stickers
- Use your child’s imagination. For example, target practice works well for many boys. Throw some cheerios in the toilet and let him aim to ’sink the battleships’, or encourage him to write his name in the snow. You could even make this a father-son thing
- From the start, associate going to the potty/toilet with putting the toilet rim down and washing hands afterwards
- Discuss your positive approach and your child’s progress with your childcare provider. You want to be on the same wavelength
One important lesson I learned along the way is that patience goes a long way. All your child needs is some help and support to work potty or toilet routines into their life. As a final note, I will share with you my favorite potty training tools that make life so much easier
4. My favorite potty training tools
Potty Power – For Boys & Girls (DVD)
The most captivating potty training DVD I have come across and thousands of moms seem to agree. It is filled with songs and games. Fun!
‘Mommy! I Have to Go Potty! A Parent’s Guide to Toilet Training’ by Jan Faull (Book)
Got this book as a gift from my sister. Probably the best one on the subject. For those of you who like a hands-on approach and practical advice
Seventh Generation Training Pants
For a smooth transition from diapers to big-kid underwear. They have a great fit, are hypoallergenic, contain no chemicals and are totally eco-friendly.
What are your favorite tools of the trade? How do you motivate your child to go on the potty? Please share in the comment section!