Just shy of two years ago, I published a post offering my tips for toilet training a child. Since then, I have toilet trained my second child, and have learned a few new things in the process. This post is a modified version of my original guide.
The title of this post should be clear enough, but just in case, let me begin by stating that I am in no way, shape or form an expert on child elimination strategy . I am just a mom sharing her experiences with potty training her own kid, in the hopes that it may help other parents. If you need a professional opinion, please consult a pediatrician, therapist or other appropriate person.
If you read enough of my posts, you know I have a difficult time getting my oldest son to do most things. Sleep in particular remains a challenge, he is still as picky as ever and we are still working on our listening skills. Given all of these challenges, you may be surprised to learn potty-training was surprisingly easy. Though there were many accidents, and a lot of patience on my part, I can look back and feel good about the whole experience.
My other child, who is a bit easier in the sleep department and eats like champ, proved harder to toilet train. His different personality meant adjusting some of my original techniques, and respecting he might not be as easy as his brother.
When I potty trained my oldest at two years old, I knew this went against conventional wisdom. However, he showed signs of readiness early on, so I followed his lead. My youngest, on the other hand, just turned three and is still working on using the toilet. Different personalities and temperaments meant adjusting my strategy for each child. In general, I believe there are some tips which can work for most kids.
1. Give lots of diaper-free time
When I became pregnant for the first time, I immersed myself in research on the latest parenting trends, and one of those was “elimination communication.” For the unfamiliar, elimination communication is a method of potty training, which essentially calls for the removal of all diapers, pretty much from day one, and is based on the premise that caregivers can become in tune with their child’s elimination cues and respond accordingly. No diapers? Sign me up! Of course, practice proved otherwise, and my carpet suffered the brunt of my experimentation. I waited until my son was around six months, and for every successful trip to the toilet, there was a fresh puddle by the coffee table. By the time my son was one, and had no interest in being held over the toilet, I knew I had to abandon this method.
Though I am not an E.C. success story, the experience did allow my son to get familiar with the idea of going to the bathroom without a diaper. He slowly began to associate the toilet with pooping and peeing, and while it took some time for it to all click, the knowledge was there.
I realize letting a baby roam bare-ass in your home may be your idea of hell. Perhaps just give him or her 15 minutes of supervised diaper-free time first thing in the morning or right after bath time? Maybe you just have time for a few minutes a week. I believe those moments will pay off once your child is ready.
When my child turned two, I mostly saved the diapers for trips out of the house. We still had a few accidents, but eventually he became aware of his body and was able to make it to the toilet in time.
Update: I wasn’t as diligent with elimination communication when it came to my youngest, mostly because I didn’t have the patience as a mother of two. As he approached the toddler years, I started leaving the diaper off, as much as I could. When we started toilet training in earnest, I skipped diapers at home. Unlike my oldest, the transition to no diapers out of the house did take a bit longer, and is still a work in progress, but he is getting there.
2. Skip the “potty” stage
The thought of cleaning out a dirty potty appeals to me as much as sitting through a lecture on the creation of wall paper paste. I didn’t want any part of it. I also didn’t want to have to retrain my son to use the toilet. So, with the occasional help of a special seat to ensure he didn’t fall in the bowl, my son learned to use the bathroom on an actual toilet.
The skipping of the potty stage applied to outside bathroom use as well. Once I felt confident enough to skip the diapers when we ventured outside, I didn’t want to bother with another thing to schlep in my diaper bag. I also wanted to get myself and my son accustomed to the idea of using a public restroom. I made sure to plan our outings accordingly. I had an expert knowledge of toilet locations within a 20-block radius of our apartment. I knew the cleanest one was at our local supermarket, and that playground bathrooms aren’t always as gross as you might expect.
Update: While, I skipped the potty with my youngest, and still believe it is easier just to train them on an actual toilet, I acknowledge that park bathrooms aren’t always open, and sometimes other options are necessary.
3. Ditch the bribes
If you read enough about potty-training, you would be hard pressed to find any advice that doesn’t involve some sort of reward system. They can range from stickers to candy to toys. There’s no denying the success of these systems, as they have worked for so many parents. I decided I would rather not engage that method. Instead, I made using the toilet successfully its own reward. I cheered enthusiastically every time my son managed to get to the bathroom in time.
I think the reason this worked was because my son was truly ready to be potty-trained. He didn’t need any extra incentive. Again, I realize this may be unique to my child. He was an eager participant because he hated being in a dirty diaper (he hates being messy, in general). However, I do believe that most young kids are excited by the littlest things, and that can include using the toilet.
Update: I skipped the standard bribes with my youngest, but I was not afraid to go to the well of YouTube for some motivation in the form of Moana, Trolls and more. Hey, if a little “You’re Welcome” will get my guy to sit for a minute, I’ll take it.
4. Be consistent
Once you have your kid out of diapers, keep them off. I made the mistake of using diapers again (worry about accidents on long trips), and I was back to square one. I had to get accept the fact that accidents are inevitable. So, before I went anywhere, I had my son use the bathroom and made sure to pack extra clothes. Eventually, the mishaps became less frequent, and I could confidently say my son was potty trained by two-and-a-half.
Update: I was much worse about consistency with my youngest. Every supermarket trip, I would buy a package of diapers and tell myself, that would be the last time. Yet, I kept buying more, losing confidence in myself and my child. Finally, when my son was really making progress, I stopped.
5. Don’t rush it
I know people swear by those programs that claim to have your kid potty-trained in just three days. I am sure they are at least somewhat effective, otherwise they wouldn’t be so popular. Personally, I think every milestone with a child is a journey that begins the moment he or she is born. I didn’t wake up one morning and say, “I think I am going to start toilet training my son.” Instead, I followed his cues and gradually worked with him to achieve our goal.
Potty training is one of the many things everyone seems to have an opinion on. I know my methods were suited for my children, but they might be wrong for your child. The important thing to note is most kids will get there, we just need to be patient.
Update: Daytime training has proven harder for my youngest. His interest in using the toilet took a while to nurture. However, he is doing great a staying dry at night, so it is one less thing to worry about.