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Your baby just turned two, and what an amazing transformation! There are so many milestones in your child’s life at this point that they can be overwhelming, and one of the biggest ones can also turn into one of the most stressful. Potty-training. For many parents, the mere mention of the word causes distress. As the pressure starts to pour in from friends and family, how can you be sure that now is the right time to start such a time consuming venture? As soon as the second birthday party, you might start to hear the questions. “So, when are you going to start potty-training him?” You hear the stories of the neighbor’s children, all trained by eighteen months, and the fear that you are an inadequate parent starts to creep in. Relax! There are several things to consider when you start thinking about potty-training your child.
First, is your child ready? The biggest way to take the stress out of potty training is to be sure of the signs your child is giving you. Trying to train a child who isn’t ready increases the pressure on both of you to perform, and prolongs this transformation, making it a negative milestone. Let your toddler accompany you on trips to the bathroom, and answer her questions honestly in terms she can understand. Explain that the potty is the place where big girls and boys go to use the restroom. Start referring to your toddler as a “big girl” or “big boy” so she can make the connection that the potty is the place for her to go now. Decide whether or not to get a toddler size potty, and remember to surround even minor events with fanfare. Take the toddler with you to buy the potty and make sure she’s there when it is unpacked and put in its place. Now waiting for a few telltale signs will increase your chances of early success. Your toddler may start to notice or make a big deal of using their diaper. When they come to you to tell you they’ve gone in their diaper, change it immediately, helping the toddler to understand that his diaper is not a desirable place to go to the bathroom. Simply saying “Shew!” or “Yucky Diaper!” are effective deterrents in a two-year-olds mind. Your approval is very important to your child, so it is imperative not to send mixed signals at this point. Be sure the child knows where you want them to use the bathroom, reminding them that they can start to use the potty now. Change the diaper quickly, and don’t take any time to play with him like you may have done when he was a baby. Instead, save all of the fun for times when he expresses an interest in the potty. Pay close attention to the times of day your child uses his diaper, even making a note somewhere to use later. Next, your toddler is likely to pull his diaper off often and say he needs to go potty several times an hour. At this point your child is probably ready to learn to use the potty.
Second, be patient and realistic. This process is going to take more than one day, and it is important at this point to be consistent. Many parents may chose to switch to training pants now. If you make that choice, be prepared to stick with it so you don’t send confusing signals to the child. Be sure to continue to stress that he is now a “big boy”. Again, when purchasing the training pants, let your child accompany you, if possible making the trip just for him. There are many good options among disposable training pants, some especially designed to help you with the process. Don’t just stick the training pants on the child and tell him to let you know when he needs to go, because he still might not have associated the physical signals with the need to use the bathroom. Take the training pants out and make a big fuss over them, stressing how big and neat they are. Let the child take her diaper off and throw it away, making sure she knows that it is being replaced with “big girl pants”. Now is a great time for the first trip to the new potty. Let the child get acquainted with it, looking underneath it and sitting on it. Encourage her to use it, but don’t be disappointed if she doesn’t. Still praise her for being such a big girl now. Now it’s time to remember the information you gathered earlier about your child’s bathroom schedule. Near times the child used his diaper during the days, take him to his potty at regular intervals (even using a timer to help) and encourage him to try using the potty. When he is successful, make sure it is a big deal, cheering and clapping with the child to celebrate. Making a simple chart that the child can put stickers on after each successful trip to the potty is a great and inexpensive way to encourage successful potty training. Praising the child in front of other loved ones is another way to make her success seem important to everyone.
Lastly, be careful never to punish the child for accidents. Instead encourage him, letting him know that no matter what happens, you still love him. Unless you ask for advice from family and friends, listen politely, but use only as much of the advice that fits into the schedule you and your child have established. The way mom did it might or might not work, but keep an open mind. Some of the best hints will come from those who have been there before. This can be frightening the first time, but remember that patience will yield the results you’re looking for, while pushing and impatience will only cause distress.