Potty Training 101
Potty training is a huge milestone for little ones and marks the beginning of the big kid days! As exciting as it sounds to end your time with diapers, potty training is a milestone that parents, nannies, and children should prepare for.
Anxious? Sure! But with patience and consistency, your child will successfully graduate from the diaper stage!
If you are unsure where to start, we've got your back! In this article, we review the process and provide resources and suggestions to make potty training a friendly experience for you and your child!
Understanding Potty Training
To lead your child to success you must meet them where they are. Potty training is a learning experience for the child. This process takes patience and understanding.
Little ones should learn, identify and understand the whole potty training process to perform the actions that create the desired result. In other words, children should understand their bodies and how it feels when they need to potty, then connect to the logical process of going to the restroom to relieve themselves (Feeling-Action-Result).
As simple as this can seem, success requires a very complex set of skills! And, after all, toddlers are new to the world and are still learning from it! Your main job is to guide and support them through the process.
When to start?
Simple! Start when you and the child are ready!
Going to the potty is a process that needs to be taught, it is not instinctive. In that sense, you are their teacher! As any other teacher, you need to make a lesson plan and implement it. If the lesson is not successful you must reassess, adjust and try again until it makes sense to your child.
Make your plan! Your child may not be even crawling yet, but knowing your potty training approach will prepare you to identify the signs of readiness and begin right away.
There are many potty training methods; however, they all have something in common, patience and consistency! For this post we will group them into three categories:
Child-Led Methods: These methods use a gentle approach and usually take longer as the primary focus is the child and their readiness to potty train at their unique developmental stage. Potty training only starts after the child shows spontaneous interest in the process and is comfortable continuing with it.
In this method, parents are observers and guide the child through the natural process. They follow the child’s lead using a series of steps to help them connect feeling-action-result at their own pace.
It starts with a subtle introduction of the potty, its purpose, and how to use it. Once the environment is prepared, the child is free to explore and imitate as desired. Other steps such as emptying the potty chair or flushing and hand washing are introduced afterward.
Here are a few resources, If you are interested in these methods: The Gentle Potty Training Book, Toilet Awareness: Using Montessori Philosophy to Create a Potty Routine, or Toilet Training - The Brazelton Way.
Fast-Track Methods: These methods are preferred by families requiring fast results. Fast-track training methods can successfully potty train a child in as little as a day. Though quick, full-time attention from parents and caregivers is required, as the child must be closely supervised and stimulated to use the toilet, so prepare to block a few days in your agenda to get this done!
A fast-track approach is started by the adult. The child is exposed to the experience of feeling-action-result to make a quick connection.
Most fast-track approaches ditch the diapers from day one to never go back during daytime (night time is a whole other story!) and follow steps to encourage the child to be aware of their body, experience the consequences and prompt them to take quick action to avoid them.
While these methods are effective, they are not tailored to every child and must be used with caution. If a child is not loving the process, interrupt and restart again after one or two weeks or switch to a different approach depending on your child’s personality.
Learn more about fast-track methods with these books: Potty Training in 3 Days: The Step-by-Step Plan for a Clean Break from Dirty Diapers, Toilet Training in Less Than a Day, Potty Train Your Child in Just One Day: Proven Secrets of the Potty Pro.
Parent Guided Methods: These methods use a combination of other potty training techniques and are initiated when parents believe the child is ready or needs to be trained for a certain reason. These approaches require careful planning and observation.
The adult takes the initiative, dictates the course of action, and sets the expectation. Practice runs to the potty, gentle reminders, and even walking the child to the potty are common practices in the parent-led approach.
These methods take as little or as long as the child cooperates and often include lots of praise, sticker charts, or treats as rewards for meeting the expectation.
A few books to explore these methods are Oh Crap! Potty Training: Everything Modern Parents Need to Know to Do It Once and Do It Right, The First-Time Parents Guide to Potty Training: How to Fitch Diapers Fast (and for Good!).
It may be a little overwhelming at first but knowing your child, paying attention to their cues, identifying their preferences and motivators are great elements to consider when choosing and building the strategy that works best for you and your child.
Is my child ready?
There is not a right age to start! The child must be physically, and emotionally ready to successfully potty train. Most children are ready to begin this process from 18 to 36 months of age; however, every child has individual needs and develops differently.
We have already established that potty training is a complex process. A child should develop and master certain abilities to ultimately do this task independently. Here are a few signs to identify when a child may be ready:
Children stay dry for periods of two or more hours. If you are changing fewer wet diapers through the day, it may be time to consider potty training. A child who can stay dry for more than two hours may be achieving bladder control, a required physiological skill for potty training.
Bowel movements become regular. Is the child passing a bowel around the same time every day? Great! Being aware of this allows you to perfectly time the opportunity to use the potty!
Children can pull their diapers, underwear, or pants up and down. This is a skill also associated with being able to dress or undress. However, children may start undressing or taking their diapers off when they feel wet or dirty.
The child can safely sit or climb up to get to and off the potty.
The child uses “potty language”. If the child uses phrases like “my diaper is dirty!”, “I need to go potty”, “I’m wet!” or anything related, it is a sign of body awareness which means they are starting to make the connection of the feelings in their bodies related to the natural function of relieving themselves.
Parents notice curiosity and an increase in questions about the restroom and what it is for.
The child can follow basic directions or copy behaviors.
The child hides behind furniture when passing bowel and shows discomfort being dirty or requests to be changed immediately after.
Start your potty training journey once your child shows one or more of the above signs!
My child is not showing any signs! Now what?
No need to panic! Children develop at different rates. If your child is not showing any signs of potty training, throw some hints. Start by introducing board books that talk about potty training, or take the child to the potty and narrate why you need to pay a visit to the restroom, how you know that, and explain the process to spark their interest. You can also try a parent-led method!
Ready, Set, Go!
Once you decide the method to follow, make all the necessary arrangements such as buying books, getting a potty chair or a step stool to climb to the potty, selecting and purchasing training diapers or underwear, and even clearing your schedule for a couple of days if you are trying a fast track approach! Access a little selection of our favorite potty training books to read with the child and other suggested items to start your journey by clicking here.
To start potty training your child, carefully choose your words during the whole process and communicate those with other family members, nanny, or other caregivers or staff in the household. Keep the words positive and avoid negative words and expressions such as stinky, dirty, or yikes!
Take time to talk to the child about the awesome journey they are starting. Slowly introduce training diapers or underwear, how to put them on and off, and pull them up and down. Make a field trip to the restroom, talk about the toilet, what it is used for and how it works. Have them feel the toilet paper or wipes and, finally, describe the whole process when using the potty, from pulling their pants down, to washing and drying their hands.
After this detailed introduction, implement your preferred method and carefully follow the steps. The most important thing is to remain consistent and be patient!
Celebrate the wins and let go of any setbacks! Potty training should be a positive experience for the child. Stress and frustration become an obstacle in your journey and may even delay successful potty training.
Children love to be active participants in any situation, especially those involving them. They even like to take control! Maintain an open mind and handle each step at a time. As tempting as it may be, do not rush the process!
When your child does not show improvement, becomes frustrated, anxious, or fearful, pause training, wait a couple of weeks and restart. If you are not getting anywhere try switching to another training method or talk to your doctor to get additional recommendations.
Ready your cleaning supplies and face the fact that accidents WILL happen! As with any other learning journey, children should face the consequences of any actions, even the natural ones.
If your child has an accident, let them take in on the experience while using their senses. Yes! Even if it means allowing them to touch their body fluids and waste. Encourage children to clean up! This experience allows them to associate and make the necessary connections to avoid the mess next time.
Avoid any negative reactions when an accident happens but never say it is okay to potty anywhere besides the toilet or potty chair. Instead, remind them that pee and poo are meant to be in the potty and not on the floor. When cleaning up, deposit any waste in the toilet and flush as usual.
When children wet or soil themselves, make them aware of the feeling. Ask questions such as, how does it feel to be wet? or do you like being wet? Then, remind them what to do to avoid the feeling.
When accidents happen remember to stay calm, be positive and try again!
Nap times are typically covered by every method of your choosing! The most important thing to remember is to take the child to the potty before nap time to ensure their bladder is empty and can hold for at least two hours.
Prepare the child's bed for accidents or have them wear disposable training pants.
Potty Training at Night
Potty training during the day is typically accomplished faster than at night. This is linked to a physiological reason since children develop full bladder control between the ages of 5 to 7.
Your preferred potty training method may include nighttime training, but do not expect it to work as successfully as daytime training.
Since accidents are more common at night, disposable training pants, mattress covers, or disposable bed mats are great options to consider. Also, avoid any liquids after dinner time or limit the intake to a few sips, and always make sure the child goes to bed with an empty bladder, including a last trip to the potty as part of the bedtime routine.
When to Seek Help
If your child is showing signs of readiness but is having difficulties, is more than 3 ½ years old and showing no interest, or is overly stressed or anxious with the process, talk to your pediatrician to get professional advice or identify any underlying problems.
Potty training takes practice! Practice makes progress and progress builds success!
The potty training stage is exciting but can also be stressful for children, parents, and even nannies! Make sure to prepare, take a relaxed approach, and be patient and consistent. You and your child will succeed when working together!