With a 3 year old in the house, our world mostly revolves around bodily functions, especially those pertaining to potty training. All little ones need to go through the process….some are easy and some are more difficult. The end result is generally the same, but how smooth or stressful the process is depends on the parent. So, I’ve decided to share our experiences in potty training to help provide some tips and tricks for a semi-stress free potty training process.
More Than a Mommy – Not only am I a mom, but I have a Bachelor’s Degree in child development and have been working with preschoolers for over eight years. In general most of the children we work with are potty trained but there are still a few that come in needing that gentle nudge to ditch the diapers.
The Potty King – Now my son is a pretty typical youngster. On every rating scale I’ve seen he rates pretty much on target for his age. Personality wise he is a laid back child who is much more the follower than the leader. I knew when he was still a baby that potty training time was not going to be an easy process as he never really cared if he had a dirty diaper or not. He was just as content to sit in it for hours.
Tip #1: Timing is Everything
If you have read anything regarding how to potty train, you have definitely read that it will happen when the child is ready for it to happen and no sooner. The pressure is all around to have children trained early as this is a badge of honor. Your sister’s genius of a son was potty trained at 18 months and here’s your 3 year old with no interest what-so-ever. Your neighbor swears up and down that her 6 month little girl is potty trained using the Elimination Communication technique. In addition to these pressures, a vast majority of preschools will not accept children until they can use the toilet on their own.
Here’s the thing to keep in mind… every child is very different. First things first they have to be developmentally ready to take on toilet training. Here’s how we got started…
When my son was around 15 months old he began to show interest in the toilet. He would watch us go and would try to explore the toilet (much to our dismay usually). Once I saw this I would talk to him about the potty and occasionally let him sit on the toilet. At this time he thought this was the coolest thing ever. I purchased him a potty seat that sits on top of the toilet so he could have some stability and not be scared of the toilet as well. There was a chunk f time in there while all this was new that he would poop on the toilet pretty much everyday. Was this because he knew what he was doing? Nope… he was a regular child and I knew when he would typically need to go so I was luck enough to catch him. The novelty wore off and that was the end of it for the time being.
On and off we experimented with potty training but never pushed anything. At two years old, our nanny had him to the point where he was dry during the day with her, but this was primarily because she was sitting him on the toilet every 30 minutes. He never expressed at this time that he had to go, again it was luck primarily.
Finally at 2.5 years, our little man started showing the potty training signs:
- Able to be dry for long periods of time
- Ability to express himself to tell us what he needs
- An interest in the potty
- An understanding of the concepts we were talking about
We used Pull-Ups for quite a while and had several babysitter changes right at this time as well so we delayed probably longer than was needed. Around July (age 2 yr 9 mo) we began to get aggressive with potty training. Within the summer he pretty much had a good grasp on what he was doing. I would love to write that now at over three years old he is completely trained, but that is not quite the case. There are times, as with many preschoolers that he has accidents, but those are fewer and fewer as we continue on.
Tip # 2: Use Your Resources and Tools
There are loads of books, videos and potty training aids available on the market. The biggest thing we did to get the ball rolling was to talk with Little Man about the processes using books and videos. One of the cutest ones was the Elmo’s Potty Time video. Another valuable resource that some over look too is other children. At this age children are aware of what others think and it is important to them. Also, little boys will want to be like daddy.
Another valuable resource is rewards and/or potty charts. This gives the child something tangible to work towards. Our current nanny uses a chart/sticker system with the children. They receive a sticker for each time they potty and have dry underwear. For each sticker is a small reward and 5 stickers equal a larger reward. Eventually, children will get to the point where smaller rewards are no longer enough. Recently, to keep up the motivation to keep dry underwear, use full day increments. A few weeks ago, the reward was to go see Santa if he made it the whole day with dry pants. We also save up for things like movies or dinner out as well.
For parent information, you can go to www.pull-ups.com for resources as well as a free informational DVD. This set comes with a parent DVD as well as a potty chart featuring Dora and Diego. Printable potty charts can be found at www.freeprintablebehaviorcharts.com.
Tip #3: Make the Process His Own
What ever you can do to make the process the child’s will make it more successful. Picking out new underwear, giving choices, having a potty of their own and responsibility for clean-up are all great ways to allow a child to own the process.
Big kid underwear goes a long way to getting the job done, especially if it has a beloved character on it. We first got Diego unders and then he received Mickey Mouse and Cars underwear which were very special for him. Many parents take the child to pick out their first underwear almost like a rite of passage as well.
Having a potty that is the child’s size is important too. As I stated above I had a ring that sat on the toilet and we were also given a 3 in 1 seat. Often Little Man preferred just sitting on the regular toilet seat and he learned quickly to balance. Be sure to have little boys point down or you will have a mess on your hands. We let out little guy pick out which potty seat he wanted within a few choices we were willing to buy.
Then came the clean up. Very quickly I tired of potty time clean-up. This became my son’s responsibility with guidance. If he soiled his underwear, he needed to rinse them out, regardless of what was in them. I also taught him how to clean out the potty chair. Not only does this teach these skills, but it is teaching independence and self-help skills as well.
Tip # 4: Give Set Potty Times
Children get to playing and basically forget they need to stop and go to the bathroom since they are so used to just going in a diaper. Giving many reminders throughout the day is vastly important to child’s success. In the beginning the easiest way to get the concept to stick is to have them sit on the potty regularly – generally every 20-30 minutes. This helps the child connect the feeling they have when the have to go, with going to the bathroom.
One of the things that works well with my son is having a set transition time when he needs to use the bathroom. For example if we are playing with toys, I tell him that we will do one more thing then it is time to go. Definitely at any time prior to leaving the house he must use the bathroom as well. Basically I use as many natural transitions as possible. In-between TV shows, before/after dinner etc…
Tip #5: Ditch the Pull Up
I’m sure that Huggies will love me saying this but the A-#1 thing that truly motivated Little Man to use the potty was having underwear on instead of a Pull-Up or diaper. These truly are only convenience items and will only impede a child’s process of potty training. I will say that as soon as we stopped using diapers during the day was when we started making progress toward potty training. Was it a mess… Absolutely. For several days we went through several changes of clothing. But within the week, Little Man began to get it and would let us know when he had to go instead on hiding in the corner when he needed to go. Now I only use a Pull-Up at night since my son is such a heavy sleeper and is no where near night time trained yet.
Day time is tackled with minimal accidents. It has been a long process and an interesting struggle, but it’s coming to an end and My son is emerging successful. Hopefully you gained a little insight on the potty training process and learned that you are not alone if you are having difficulties. My best wishes to you as you embark on this journey.
Oh yeah… and for those potty training boys… here’s a bonus:
Bonus Tip: eventually you need to teach little boys how to urintate standing up. Due to their height, generally this is not an easy task. When my son started saying he wanted to “do it like daddy,” I knew it was time to figure out a way. *** Using a step stool, have the child stand up on the stool facing the toilet, then lean forward placing his hands on either the top of the toilet seat (means it must be clean), or the back of the toilet. This positioning will aim them directly into the toilet bowl and you will have minimal worries about mis-guided pee.