Your child is finally old enough to potty train. Hip hop hooray! Now you can ditch those pricey diapers for good ... or so you thought.
If potty training is not going as smoothly as you’d planned, you’re not alone. Plenty of parents struggle with this milestone in toddler development. After all, teaching a youngster how to use the potty sounds a lot easier than it actually is. The job requires plenty of patience, and stick-to-it-ness. And since throwing in the towel is not an option, you have to tweak your methods until you figure out what works.
If you’ve tried everything to get your child potty trained, and haven’t had any success, here are a few techniques to help you get the job done.
1. Assess Readiness
All kids are unique, and they develop at their own pace. Some kids are ready to potty train as early as eighteen months, while others take significantly longer. “The key to successful potty training is to start when your child is developmentally prepared,” says early childhood teacher Amanda Harris. Some signs that kids may be ready to potty train include:
- wanting to wear underwear
- wanting soiled diapers changed immediately
- able to follow simple directions
- shows an interested in the potty
- stays dry for at least two hours at a time
- can verbalize his need to use the potty
Toilet training before your child is ready can be counterproductive. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics' Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5, “Studies indicate that many children who begin training before eighteen months are not completely trained until after age four. By contrast, most of those who start around age two are completely trained before their third birthday.” If your toddler seems frustrated, or has not shown any signs of toilet training readiness, put the task on hold, and try again in a few weeks.
2. Banish Toilet Fears
The monstrous appearance of the toilet, coupled with the loud roaring sound it makes when it flushes can be frightening to a small child. So if your child is afraid of the toilet, don’t force her to sit on it. Instead, allow her to use a potty chair until she becomes comfortable with the toilet. Place the potty chair in a “safe zone” such as beside the changing table in your child’s bedroom. Start familiarizing your toddler with the toilet by allowing her to accompany you to the bathroom when you empty the potty chair. You can even and let her have the honor of flushing (only if she wants too). While your toddler in the bathroom with you, explain what the big white contraption is used for.
Once your toddler feels comfortable being around the toilet, move her potty chair into the bathroom area. Let her use her potty chair in the bathroom for a few days, and then she can graduate to sitting on the toilet. Provide a non-slip step-stool so your child can get up and down without your help. Also, use a toilet seat adapter so your child won’t accidentally fall in the toilet.
3. Develop a Routine
In the beginning, your toddler probably won’t tell you when she has to potty. So schedule regular bathroom breaks throughout the day. Put your child on the potty every hour, and shortly after she has something to drink. Also, watch for signs that your child has to potty such as squatting, suddenly stopping during play, or grunting to have a bowel movement. To help your toddler relax while she’s sitting on the potty, read a story, sing a tune, or talk to her. And don’t flip out when she has accidents in her clothes – toilet training takes time, and accidents are all part of the learning process.
4. Use Motivators
Rewards can serve as huge motivators for youngsters. Weekly sticker charts will get your child excited about using the restroom. Sticker charts can be easily made at home, printed from various websites, or purchased from discount and school supply stores. Every time your child uses the potty, praise her, and let her put a sticker on the chart. Once the chart is filled with stickers, reward your toddler with an inexpensive treat such as a coloring book, a trip to the park, or an ice cream cone.
5. Be Consistent
Potty training a toddler requires a tremendous amount of consistency. And distractions in the home such as a new addition to the family, a pending divorce, or a death of a loved one can interfere with your ability to be consistent with potty training. So if there is something going on in your life that will prevent you from providing a regular toilet training rhythm for your toddler, put the task on hold until things settle down.
If you’ve been trying consistently for three to four months to potty train your child and haven’t had any luck, or if she isn’t showing signs of readiness by the time she’s 3, talk to your pediatrician.