Alex started potty training a couple of months before he turned two – right after Tyler was born. We didn’t do anything to suggest that he start, having read that a time of major upheaval – like the arrival of a sibling – is a bad time to start potty training. But Alex expressed interest and we weren’t going to stop him. Or more precisely, Marc wasn’t going to stop him. For Tyler’s first months in this world, Alex spent the vast majority of his time at home with Marc, while I took care of Tyler. I carved out an hour here and there to spend alone with Alex but with Tyler nursing every two to three hours, my time with Alex was scarce.
A friend whose daughter is now 20 months recently asked me for some potty training help and I was a little dumbfounded. After all, Marc and Alex’s daycare teachers did most of the work. However, after thinking about it for a while, I’ve come up with some tips:
- For boys, Daddy’s participation can really speed things along. From our own experience as well as speaking with my friends who have boys, it seems that having Daddy’s example really makes a huge difference. The boys whose dads consider bathroom time their “private time” seem to lag the most when it comes to potty training. (Not that Daddy’s participation is absolutely necessary. I’m just saying that it seems to speed things along.)
- When a child shows an interest in using the potty, make potty training a priority. There seems to be a period around a child’s second birthday when the child gets interested in the potty. But with your first child, this period can catch you off-guard. By the time you figure out a good potty training routine, the child’s interest has waned, making potty training that much harder. It’s easier the second time around, since you already have the potty training equipment and are more prepared to rush to the bathroom. The best way to prepare for the first child’s interest period is to talk to parents who have already been through potty training and find out what worked for them.
- Utilize peer pressure. If your child goes to daycare or has exposure to older kids, seeing others use the potty can spark her interest in potty training. If that happens, take advantage of it. Ask the daycare teachers to take your child to the bathroom with the other kids, even he or she is younger than the others.
- Don’t treat potty training differently from other activities. There is a natural fear of traumatizing a child by forcing him to use the potty. But once it’s clear that the child is capable of using the bathroom regularly, treat the child’s refusal to go like any other disobedience. It took us a while to realize that Alex was fully potty trained and simply refusing to go to the bathroom before leaving the house because, well, he’s a headstrong toddler. We have since had success in treating bathroom time like any other activity, such as taking a toy away (or threatening to do so) when he refuses to cooperate.
- Use rewards. We used a sticker chart with Alex, although I think he might have been too young to fully understand it. I’m not a big fan of using food as a reward, but one of my friends had great success using yellow and brown M&Ms. Her son got a yellow M&M when he peed in the potty, and a brown M&M when he pooped.
- Let your child read on the potty. This can be a little tricky, since a child who loves to read might not tell you that he is done simply because he’d rather keep reading. But giving your child an activity to do while on the potty will help him be patient, particularly when he’s learning to poop on the potty.
- Be matter of fact. Like many people, I have a strong aversion to public bathrooms. But I’ve had to quash my distaste to facilitate Alex’s potty training so that he doesn’t pick up on it and become reluctant to use the bathroom in public places.
- Have the right equipment. Your child may prefer sitting on the big toilet, but most kids I know seem to prefer a child-size potty that allows them to keep their feet on the floor. (These also have a handy shield in front for boys to keep the urine in the potty.) I’ve found that the flushable wipes, which I thought were silly before Alex started potty training, are actually fabulous. It’s surprisingly hard to wipe a little kid’s butt when he’s standing, and the flushable wipes make it easier to get in there. Plus I don’t worry about stretching skin the way I do with toilet paper.
- Finally, I liked this tip over at Parent Hacks: Line the potty with toilet paper for easy cleanup.
So those are my tips. What are your best potty training tips?