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Potty Training Tips

My friend Syl is working on potty training her two girls. Since I am somewhat of a potty training guru from my five years of toddler room work, I thought I'd do a post about it in order to help her gather some techniques. Please share your experiences and tips with her too.

I've trained a wide variety of children, both girls and boys ranging in age from 18 months to 3 years. Over the five years of daycare I did I'd say I potty trained at least 40 children (probably more). The children I taught were all fairly well potty trained before they moved up to the preschool room (usually about 33 months old at the time). Not all of them asked to go potty when they needed to go. I call it potty trained when children can stay dry with an occasional reminder to try to go potty. While that's not necessarily required in most day care settings, it sure helps make it much easier for the teachers to deal with the larger teacher/child ratio.

How did I do it?

1. The MOST important thing is for ALL care providers to be on the same page. There is nothing worse for a new potty trainer than inconsistency. Discuss with your partner/child's care provider that you are potty training and the techniques you are employing. If you are not all ready to commit it is fairly likely that there will be potty training issues. They may be some otherwise, but if everyone expects the same thing it will be much less stressful for the child. Communication is key. If things change, keep each other aware.

2. Model the desired behavior. It was easier to help show my own children figure out how to go potty because I could take them and have them sit on a potty chair while I went potty. Not really something that you'd really want to do with someone else's kids.... If you don't have that luxury, then there are some other tips you can use.

3. Take them to the bathroom when they wake up. They need to be awake to go potty when they get older. If you catch them right after they get up from either a nap or sleeping, it makes a wonderful first success.

4. Give them something they really like to motivate them to WANT to go potty. It can be hard to get them in the habit of peeing in their diaper. I have found bribery works well for this. We often used candy- a smartie, skittle, or m and m for example though raisins would work great too. Another "treat" they may appreciate is one on one time with an adult reading or game playing are a few favorites. I gave one for #1 and two for #2 though you can do what works for you. I placed these "treats" in a clear plastic container and reserved them for potty training only. It needs to be a special thing for them.

Once the child is successful at going potty, I praised them profusely and give them their "treat".

At first it didn't matter if their diaper was wet or dry to get a treat, but as they became more and more successful, I explained to them they needed to keep their diaper dry to get a treat.

After they are dry most of the time, discontinue the treats and give them special underwear instead. I explained that big girls (or boys) wore big girl (boy) underwear. I also really talked them up to be proud of their accomplishment. Potty training is a huge deal and it should be treated that way.

5. Some children discover they HATE the feeling of being wet. For those children, underwear are the best way to get them potty trained. If you don't like those messes make sure to use plastic diaper covers to help contain the mess. I just loved the cloth training pants with the vinyl lining built right into them because the offending material had a tougher time escaping from that than underwear.

6. Watch a movie or read books about potty training. These are age appropriate and geared towards young children. There are many fascinating resources out there. Check your local library. Your child's pediatrician may also have some wonderful recommendations.

7. Have them pick out the underwear they want to wear. This is a great way to excite your young one to stay dry.

8. Establish a pattern. If you watch them they can do some weird things that tell you they're getting ready to do something. Hiding and making funny faces are two ways to check their pattern. Once you know they're ready at certain times to do their duty, it makes things easier to get them to the bathroom at the proper times. Some people go to the bathroom shortly after eating a meal or snack. The pattern is different for different people so it's not always completely predictable.

Remind a new trainer to use the potty AND before going outside. It seems that especially cool weather brings out the need for release to potty trainer's bladders.

9. Talk to them about how they feel. You may think it is hard to talk to a young child about this stuff, but they really DO understand. Why do they hide? Once you help them to figure out these things are normal signs that their body uses to tell them to go potty you'll find it's easier than you thought to potty train.

10. Don't push them if they aren't ready. It doesn't help to belittle them or shame them into going potty, this will only serve to create bigger issues. They will go when they are ready. Expose them early and often so they can figure out when the time is right for them. You will know when they're ready by the frequency of their successes.

Thank you for stopping by. Please leave me a message. I'd love to hear your thoughts!



Aunt Debbi/kurts mom said...

I have one and only one suggestion. Cloth diapers. I didn't have to potty train mine. When they reached the right age the wet cloth diapers were very uncomfortable to them so they just decided to use the potty.

Ms. Huis Herself said...

I liked your comment over at Syl's about snapping the onesie over the shoulder when they go. My 21 month old has apparently decided she's ready - or at least is interested at the moment. _I_ was planning on waiting until summer with fewer clothes & no onesies, but it's just too chilly in our big old non-insulated house to go without a onesie for her. So I'm totally going to use that idea! Thanks!

Gardeness said...

My little guy is 19 months and started showing interest in the potty seat. So this is great advice, some of which we're already doing. Good to know we're on the right track.

Anna/Flowergardengirl said...

Awesome explanation! Of my two kids, one was easy and the other fought it every step of the way.

Cinj said...

Debbi- I'm sure it's much easier to get them to learn to go potty with those. Good for you.

Ms. H- I'm always MORE than happy to share my hard won knowledge with others. I have to say I learned that one the hard way! Maybe you'll be training sooner than you planned.

Gardeness- It's definately easier to teach them when they're interested than when we feel it's time for them to learn. Some of it is just plain common sense.

Anna- Thanks! I was lucky, both of my kids were pretty easy. I suppose it may have had something to do with my experience.

cindee said...

My son was a hard one to potty train but my daughter was ready at 16 months. She didn't like wet diapers.
Basically same as puppy training to me. Give them praise and a treat and they are good to J/K

Hocking Hills Gardener said...

Oh my God, where were you when I was potty training my kids? I know you weren't born yet. I would have dumped them right on you :) I had the awfullest time and wanted to pull my hair out before it was over :)

Cinj said...

Cindee- Yah, basically. LOL.

Lona- Well, what can I say? At least you were able to muddle through. It's easier when you have some things to try.

Frances said...

Hi Cinj, those are such great suggestions for that task. Where were you about thirty two years ago? I could have used that advice on my first child. The other three were easy, they watched the older one. This will be bookmarked for many rereadings I predict!

gardenerprogress/Catherine said...

Great tips! My first daughter practically trained herself in one day. I'm in the midst of working with my 2 year old right now. She's definitely not interested, although she sure wants to have My Little Pony underwear. Hopefully by summer she'll have some interest.

Anonymous said...

With my boys I learned the hard way the first time around. It's better to wait until the child is ready.

garden girl said...

Hi Cinj, I apologize in advance that this will be long, but I wanted to share a method that worked great with my kids, niece, grandson, a nephew, and several friends' children.

In fact it worked great for me and everyone I know who tried it, including my grandson who did NOT want to use the potty AT ALL even at 3-1/2 years old.

This takes a fair amount of concentrated time - I cleared my schedule for a week and did little else until the kids 'got it - usually just a couple of days, in my experience never more than three - I say a week just to be safe.
I kept them in the kitchen for as long as it took (except of course during naps and at night when they were in bed with a diaper on.)

This will work for just about any kid who is physically ready for potty training even if they are reluctant. They wore shirts - no pants, no diaper, nothing on their bottoms.

First step is getting them 'big boy' or girl underwear, and some M&Ms, Hershey kisses, or some other small treat that they love. Kids who rarely eat junk food are especially motivated by this kind of reward. Ruffly panties worked like a charm with the girls, and superhero underwear was very desirable to the boys - get what they like - with my grandson it was Thomas the Train and Bob the Builder. Keep the potty in the kitchen (or any room with a hard-surface floor - I never said it wouldn't be a little messy.) Confine yourself and the child in that one room with a gate or close the door - you want to be aware of their every move.

When they pee (or worse) on the floor, that's good! Without anything on their little bottoms, you and they will be aware of it immediately. The right frame of mind for this method is calm, matter-of-fact, and full of praise when they start to get it, no scolding or punishing - just teaching. It doesn't take long before they get it.

Explain that it's time to learn how to use the potty, and every time they do they will get a treat (and lots of praise.) Tell them once they learn how, they will get to wear their new big-boy/girl underwear.

Have them sit on the potty every 30 minutes or so. Chances are they will pee and even poop on the floor the first few times or even the first day or two, but I've never met a potty-ready kid who enjoyed 'going' without their diaper or something covering their butts. Before long they will head for the potty in time to use it for its intended purpose once they become aware they have to go. Each time they do, lavish them with praise and hugs, and give them just one M&M or whatever treat you've decided on, and let them know they can have another the next time they successfully use the potty.

Within just a few hours or days, depending upon the child, they will be using the potty consistently. They will probably still need a pullup or diaper at night for a while, and like any newly-potty trained kid will have an occasional accident, but I've never known anyone who's tried it that it didn't work, and I've recommended it alot. My girls were all trained within a month of their second birthday, none of them took more than three days to train. Even my grandson was trained in three days, although he had accidents more frequently than my girls. Any friends or family who tried it had the same success I did, and I don't know of a single child who was ever traumatized by this process. I read about it somewhere in a parenting book or magazine - I can't even remember where, when my oldest was a baby over 30 years ago. I'm really surprised this method isn't more widely used. It's quick, easy, even fun, and it really does work. The hardest part is committing a solid block of time to nothing else but spending time with your child - read to them, play with them to pass the time, and teach them how to use the potty. Once they're doing it consistently, reward them with their new big kid underwear.

Keep up the treat and praise for another week or so, and the praise and hugs for another couple of weeks at least. You'll probably be wiping up a lot of pee off the floor for a couple of days, but it's amazing how quickly and how well this method can work, and you'll have potty training behind you in almost no time. The only drawback is the time - this would be hard for a working parent to do unless they can take some vacation time. A weekend's probably not enough time unless the kid is like my first daughter and gets it the first day. This isn't a casual, when-you-feel-like working on it kind of thing. It's intensive, but it's faster than just about every other method I've seen, and I think, well-worth setting aside the time since it works so well and so quickly.

VW said...

Great tips. It would be so much easier if each child would respond to the same treatment! My son was 3 yrs/1 mo when we told him that he needed to be diaper-free when we returned from my sister's wedding. The morning after we arrived home, he reminded me to take off his diaper and he never had an accident after that - day or night. My daughter turns 4 next week and has been day-trained for a year but pees every night. I tried putting her in underwear for a week a while ago but got sick of washing her pj's, bedding, etc every morning. So we're back to a diaper at night. She tells me that it's too cold to get up and go to the bathroom. I figure she's going to figure it out before college, so I'm not going to stress over it too much! - VW

Kathleen said...

So many good tips Cinj. I agree with Aunt Debbi that the cloth diapers probably encourage kids to become potty trained faster. The disposable pulls the wetness away so they don't feel it. Any signs of spring your way??

Monica the Garden Faerie said...

Whew--cats don't need any help in that arena! :)

Envelope Printing said...

These are excellent tips! I wish you've written this waaaay before! Potty training can be real hard. I love your concept of rewarding the children, it doesn't have to be big stuff. But this really encourages them to really learn. Thanks!