All the signs are adding up: you're pulling less diaper duty, your toddler has more awareness of his body, and you're both starting to eye that training seat. Is it time for potty training?
Potty training can be one of the most exciting--and the most frustrating--parts of your little guy's childhood. Learning this new skill comes with a collection of hurdles, confusion, and accidents, but with the right attitude and a healthy dose of patience, you'll work together to create healthy habits.
Here are some of our team's favorite tips on how to stop hiding from potty training!
- Start with research. If you're reading this blog, you're already halfway there! One of the best ways to prepare yourself for potty-training is to read up on different techniques and tips from other parents. Every child is different, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to potty training, but by arming yourself with a variety of techniques, you can adapt to your toddler's needs and find a comfortable path forward. For parents, one of our favorite places to start is Jamie Clowacki's book Oh Crap! Potty Training: Everything Modern Parents Need to Know to Do It Once and Do It Right. You can also introduce your children to potty-training through board books, like Potty by Leslie Patricelli or Big Girl Panties! by Fran Manushkin. Reading together encourages familiarity with the potty routine, and makes potty training fun!
- Introduce the potty early. The potty shouldn't be a scary new addition to a familiar routine. You can avoid potty fears by introducing it as a gift--shop together for a potty in your child's favorite color, or gift-wrap it for them to open as a surprise. Then, keep the potty in the bathroom so it's a familiar sight whenever you're changing diapers. When the potty is in the room every time a diaper gets changed, your toddler will start to understand the connection between diaper time and the potty. Once potty training starts, it's a good idea to keep a potty on hand whenever you go out, as well. Keeping a travel potty in your car can be a great way to minimize the time between "I gotta go!" and "I'm going!"
- Encourage grown-up behavior on and off the potty. As your toddler shows more signs of growing up, celebrate these whenever you can. Behaviors like playing nice with their siblings, saying "please" and "thank you," and switching from a sippy cup to a regular cup without spilling should all be encouraged. This affirms the connection in your toddler's mind between grown-up behavior and encouraging words, and helps them approach potty training as another way to receive praise.
- Dress for success. When it's crunch time, you're not going to want to deal with complicated buttons and straps. During potty training, stick to two-piece outfits that can be easily pulled up and down. This is especially important at night, when sleepy parents and overtired toddlers can become easily frustrated. We recommend PJs like our two-piece footed sets and short sets. These are easy to pull off and put on, and comfy for both sleep and play.
- Go commando. One lesser-known technique is skipping disposable pull-ups in favor of the commando method (in other words, having your toddler wear pants but no underwear). One drawback of pull-up diapers is that they dry out quickly, which lessens the feeling of discomfort that comes with having an accident, and can actually draw out the time it takes to get the hang of using the potty. Going commando makes it easier to understand why you don't want to go potty in your pants--and makes it easier to tell when someone's had an accident.
- Teach by example. Some toddlers pick things up immediately through mimicry: if they see how Mom and Dad do it, they'll get the hang of going potty on their own. Alternatively, you can teach by example by showing things like wiping and flushing, and encouraging your toddler to try it himself. If your child has an accident, show them the process of dumping a full diaper and flushing its contents. (You can start by just showing the dumping, and flushing after if she's afraid of the noise it makes.)
- Boost motivation with simple rewards. It's helpful for toddlers to have a visual representation of their progress. Potty charts and "I did it!" stickers can have a great impact on your child's motivation. Every time she uses the potty successfully, celebrate with kind words, back rubs, and a sticker on the chart. If she has an accident, don't punish her or talk down--this could set off a "fight or flight" response that makes your toddler miss the easier days of babyhood, and start acting accordingly.
- Keep the conversation open and educational. Looking at your two-year-old today, it can be hard to picture the adult he's going to be someday. But when you talk to your kids clearly and politely--skipping the baby-talk and using words and phrases adults use every day--they start to understand that using the potty is a normal part of everyday life. It's important too not to refer to accidents or diaper contents as "icky" or "yucky." This establishes that bathroom time is something bad, when you want your toddler to understand going to the bathroom is a natural, easy process.
- Encourage extra fluids, not less. There's a common parent misconception that restricting a child's water intake will make it easier to control when they go to the bathroom. This isn't fair or safe for your toddler--and in fact, providing more juice and water may be the more effective path, because you're creating more opportunities for success on the potty. Just be sure you're not doubling up on fluids right before bed--it's harder to control your bladder while you're asleep, so extra fluids at night could lead to frustrating accidents.
- Be patient. Toddlers typically start having an interest in potty training around age two, but every kid is different. Some toddlers might be ready as early as 20 months, while others don't really get the hang of potty training until they're well past three years old. Try not to nag your toddler about practicing on the potty, or comparing him to his friends and siblings who are already out of diapers. If your toddler is fighting the potty tooth and nail, it might be time to take a break. Switching back to diapers for a couple of weeks can give your toddler--and you!--a much-needed break, so you can approach potty training with more motivation.
What are your favorite potty training techniques?