“It wasn’t until my child was three and a half that he was fully potty trained,” a mother abashedly admits. “My child was fully potty trained at 16 months,” one parent gloats. “Well, it just took a week or so to train my puppy!” one lady eagerly volunteers. Potty training is serious business in the toddler world, and when I decided to get serious about potty training my two year old, I learned that while all parents of toddlers (and puppies too) and even non-parents have opinions on the matter, the bottom line is that it’s all about knowing my child and what techniques are best for her.
Potty training for first-time parents can be like traveling to a distant land and not knowing how to navigate through it. It’s been a little over a month since I have entered this remote land, and I am proud to say that my GPS has not steered me wrong. While I can’t guarantee that the navigation system I utilized will help you reach your destination of potty training your little one, I still feel inclined to share what helped us reach that destination.
1. Look for signs. When Quinn was really, really ready, she began taking off her diaper or pull-up when she had to go. I knew this was a definite sign. She also enjoyed flushing to the toilet and would even ask to use the restroom when we went to Target or Walmart long before I started training her outside of the home.
2. Support: I made sure family, friends, caregivers and were aware that I was starting the potty training process and even asked some for advice. Also, I did not want Quinn to be confused and receive mixed signals, so my husband and I had to implement the same strategies, even it it was in our own ways. Also, my mother had to be fully aware so that she could be prepared whenever Quinn visited. Since Quinn is not at daycare, I did not need the support of many caregivers, but this is obviously important if your child is going to be successful.
3. Child’s interest: All children have different interests. Quinn loves music, certain characters and books, so I made sure to incorporate them into the potty training process. One of Quinn’s favorite potty songs and episodes is by Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. “If you have to go potty, stop and go right away! Flush, and wash and be on your way!” Quinn actually sings this song in public settings to let me or her dad know she needs to use the potty. It’s also a cute and catchy song and let’s kids know the importance of washing their hands after they go to the potty. Also, letting her select and purchase her Minnie Mouse panties makes her feel empowered and excited about being a big girl. She wanted to hold her shopping bag containing the panties the whole time, even when I put her in her car seat.
I also purchased a couple of potty training books. One is called, “Diapers Are Not Forever,” which is great for transitioning to panties. Another book I purchased is interactive and a story about Elmo’ Potty Time. Quinn loves pushing the button for the flush sound and will often request it when she is using the potty. I also allow Quinn to let her friends (stuffed animals) use the potty. Watching her go through this process lets me know that she is comfortable and confident with all that potty training entails. She’ll often tell her stuffed animal, “Don’t forget to flush and wash your hands!”
4. Acknowledge achievements: While some people are against giving children incentives, such as stickers or a special treat, I think it depends on the child. Quinn enjoys receiving stickers and earning stars, but she does not refuse to use the potty until she gets a sticker or rely on getting a sticker each time she uses the potty. Oftentimes, a high five or me saying, “Mommy is proud of you for telling me you had to use the potty!” carries so much more weight.
5. Don’t underestimate or overestimate child’s capabilities: I am aware that Quinn is still learning, so I try not to put too much pressure on her, but I make sure to support her and give her positive reinforcement. Sometimes, she eagerly pushes down her panties to use the potty or pulls them up once she has finished, and other times she seems disinterested about the whole process, so it is up to me to step in and remain motivated. Also, I have to keep in mind that she is still learning to control her bladder, so I must use common sense and not always wait for her to tell me when she has to go. I will simply tell her, “It’s time to use the potty honey.” Now, it is becoming a routine. Quinn knows that she must use the potty when she wakes up, after meals and any other time when she feels that she has to go.
6. Keep moving forward: If there is an accident, the punishment should not be to put her back in pull-ups or a diaper. I need to let her know in a loving way that we all have accidents but that it is not okay to pee in her panties. Making her feel ashamed or embarrassed doesn’t help her or me.
7. Accountability: People often focus on the accountability of the child, but the parents, guardians and caregivers must hold themselves accountable too. It is unfair to expect a two year olds (maybe even older) to hold their bladder for a half hour or even fifteen minutes after they have told you that they have to go to the potty. If they have an accident, it is your fault, not theirs, and I think the child should be told by the parent, “Mommy or daddy should have gotten you to the potty sooner,” so that the child knows that he or she is not at fault and shouldn’t be ashamed.
8. Consistency: The same rules at home apply when Quinn and I are outside of the home. At first, I was very nervous about using regular panties on Quinn instead of a pull-up when we went on outings, but I did not want to send mixed signals. Amazingly, Quinn does an even better job letting me know when she has to go when we are outside of the home. It’s as though she knows that she may not have a change of clothes (I do keep a change with me, but I don’t share this with her) or maybe she just enjoys going out and does not want to have to go back home because she wet herself.
9. Communicate: While I’m a type “A” personality, my husband is more laid-back and casual. Initially, this did not go over well in the beginning stages of potty training Quinn, but after I made sure to effectively communicate my plan and strategies, the process went smoothly. Usually, the main caregiver is the one who takes on the overwhelming task of potty training. It cannot only be overwhelming but place unnecessary stress on a relationship. Yes, you may have the support of your significant other, but if you do not effectively communicate the plan or strategies you would like to implement and consider the advice of your significant other, you could be dealing with some bickering and explosive arguments in addition to potty training (I’m glad I communicated before it got to that point), especially since you both may think you have all of the answers and know what’s best.
10. Seek Out Resources: A book that helped me out a great deal and that I have already recommended to quite a few friends and colleagues with toddlers ready to potty train is “Oh Crap! Potty Training” by Jamie Glowacki. Even though I already had some ideas, this book gave me the confidence I needed to implement them. It also presented “common sense” methods I did not even consider. Once I read this book, I had Quinn out of pull-ups and in panties within two days and haven’t looked back since.
I most certainly do not have all of the answers, but I am so proud of my little girl and how well she’s doing and how well her father and I are doing with keeping her on the right track with potty training. If you have any techniques or advice that may help a parent or caregiver with potty training, please feel free to share as well.
All the best,