Are you in the weeds of potty chairs, paper towels and sprints to the bathroom, or is it on the horizon? If so, I’ve got the answers to all your potty-training questions.
Last month I saw a mother of a 2 year-old with a new baby on the way who asked for a potty training resource. Without a reference to give her, I’ve decided to share all my potty-training secrets with you.
Most common potty questions are: What’s the right age? How do I know my child is ready? Potty chair or the real deal? How do I start? How do I get my child to go number one and number two? Let’s break these down…
What’s the right age?
For me, age doesn’t matter It’s all about maturity and being able to follow and vocalize commands to a parent– can they let you know they have to go potty? Those things matter more than a child being 18 months or 3 years old. I see videos of kids on YouTube being potty trained at 9 months old, and to me that just seems crazy. You’re going to have to ask them all the time if they have to go potty, and they won’t even know what you’re saying!
The simple answer is this: most 2 year olds are not potty trained, most 3 year olds are. And — to be honest — none of my kids were potty trained before age 3. They will get there, don’t worry.
How do I know when my child is ready?
This is another tough question that will vary from child to child. At the very least, kids need to be able to follow commands, communicate their needs and know some body parts and articles of clothing.
The child should also be warm to the idea of sitting on a potty in general. It’s more likely that a kid will be willing to sit on the toilet if they’ve seen parents and/or other adults on the potty, too. So instead of trying to predict the predict the perfect age, wait for these signs to become apparent. You want to be able to say, “pull down your pants,” and expect they’ll know what to do.
Potty chair or toilet?
It really doesn’t matter, but I certainly have a preference. At our house, I’d rather not to have my kids deposit their bodily waste into a separate vessel that we then have to dump and clean out (just think of the spray and spillage possibilities…). It’s just an extra step that isn’t quite enjoyable. With a real toilet, you may even be able to entice your child with certain aspects of the experience. Flushing can be pretty cool!
I also think that putting an insert right on the toilet helps kids get the picture of where to go to the bathroom: the toilet. We went over to a friend’s house a couple years ago and their child was taking a dump right in the living room in front of the TV– that was awkward for all of us. If you train your child to go potty anywhere, you’ll then have to re-train them to do it in the right place once you take that potty chair away. If you just keep it all in the bathroom in the first place, you will be far more successful.
Where do I begin?
So you think your kid is ready to potty train… how do you actually get started? It’s a lot easier than you’d think. Begin by introducing your child to the potty chair or potty insert you’ve purchase for them. Let them sit on it, let them stand on it, let them carry it around the house– just let them get used to this new thing that they’ll be spending a lot of time with. If they’re not interested at that point, wait a few weeks or months if you have to. A resounding “no” or resistant screams will only make things harder for both of you.
Once your child seems ok with the idea of going on the potty, sit them there. Maybe they’ll go pee, maybe they won’t, but either is ok at this point. Let them wipe with some toilet paper, flush and wash their hands just to get the full experience.
Assuming this test-round went well, now the real training can begin. Pick a time to load your child up on fluids This is a time for juice or another one of your child’s favorite drinks, in order to create many opportunities for success. Set a timer for every 15 minutes to put your child on the potty. Make this an exciting opportunity, and have fun with it! Parents can even get on the potty, too. Show them that this is what you do every time the alarm goes off, and eventually they will go (because they’re sitting there and loaded up with fluids!) On those successful occasions, give your kids some mild praise and maybe even a little reward, like an M&M. Leave them in pull-ups or underwear, it’s up to you! Accidents are no big deal during this time. We really want to highlight the triumphs.
Repeat this process every-fifteen-minutes for one or two days, just to get your child used to the potty. After a day or two, ask them how they’re feeling! Do they want to keep going on the potty? If they respond with a “No,” respect their wishes. You may have to move on and try again in a few weeks or months, especially if they did not do well during the trial period. You may be able to gently nudge them into it, if the process went well– you’ll know if your kid is just being stubborn in the moment. If they give you and easy “Yes,” then congratulations! You can keep moving forward.
Kids will take to going on the potty at different ages. You can force it and let it be a struggle, but it will be hurtful for everyone. Usually, if you keep testing the every-fifteen-minute trick every couple of weeks, your child will eventually catch on.
Pooping but not Peeing, Peeing but not Pooping.
This is super common. Most kids don’t learn to pee and poop on the potty at the same time. Since pooping is less common, children don’t have as many chances at success on the potty. We keep our kids in pull-ups to avoid any mess until pooping has been mastered — can you tell we don’t like messes?
Look for a pattern in your child’s bathroom habits. Most kids will poop at the same time every day (if they’re not too constipated). For example, if your kid usually poops in their pull-ups after lunch, try putting them on the potty after they eat. You may have to give them a book or tablet to keep them sitting there, but like with peeing your goal is to give their body a chance at success. This is your chance, if you’re looking for an excuse to give your kid some screen time.
If they are able to poop, make sure to give them some mild praise and a reward. This one can be a little bit bigger than before. Repeat this routine at the same time of day for a while, and eventually your kid should be comfortable going number two on the potty.
If your child isn’t able to poop, make sure they are not constipated. You really want to get this under control with the help of pediatrician, not only for the comfort and health of your child, but also because it will exacerbate their fear of the potty itself. If you catch your kid running away or hiding to go poop, they may be constipated.
The one universal tip I have for parents is to refrain from comparing your child to others. It doesn’t matter how long it takes or when you begin, all kids are potty trained by Kindergarten. Don’t beat yourself up if it seems like your child is taking longer to potty train than everyone else. Let them go at their own pace and let them be in control; things will run smoother for everyone.