Toilet training is a major milestone, and since two kids are alike, you can’t expect a hard and fast rule on when a toddler should be potty trained, and how. So you do have to rely on your own mother’s instincts to find out when to start and what kind of reward or motivation will work. However, there are some toilet training strategies that do seem to work on most kids. Try these, even just to get you started.
1. Don’t ask, tell.
Many moms will ask, ‘Do you need to go potty?’ but most kids won’t be able to identify the urge—until they’ve realized there’s a puddle on the floor. Instead, make the potty a predictable part of the routine. For the first two weeks of potty training, bring your toddler to the potty every hour and then after meals, snacks, after waking up and before sleeping.
2. Make your child proud of the potty!
Toddlers are exploring and reasserting their independence, so you’ll get less battles if you make your child feel that a potty is a sign of being a ‘big kid.’ You can show him how, once he’s potty trained, he can ‘graduate’ to underwear with his favorite cartoon characters, or go to the bathroom ‘just like Dad.’
3. Give rewards.
Make a potty chart and every time your child uses the potty, he gets a gold star. You may also use a chart to keep track of your child’s schedule of when she uses the potty. That way, you can anticipate when she needs to go to the toilet.
4. Praise success.
Remember to keep the focus on the act and not the child by saying ‘Good job!’ instead of simply ‘Good boy!’ Try to convey the message that learning to use the potty is for your child’s benefit, not yours.
5. Don’t create potty phobia.
Don’t use negative comments, such as referring to feces as ‘disgusting’ or ‘stinky’ so that your child associates using the potty as something bad. He should not associate going to the bathroom (or any accidents) with shame or dread. Remember that your child will most likely absorb the attitudes of adults around him.
And don’t create any ‘performance anxiety’ either. The more you nag or hover over your child, the more he will refuse to use the potty or have an accident.
6. Use easy-to-remove clothes.
Dress your child in pants with elastic waistbands or short dresses that he can just lift up. Avoid anything with zippers, buttons and belts; or one-piece outfits, overalls, and long dresses.
7. Don’t worry.
No one ever went to college in diapers. Your child will eventually learn how to use the potty, and this will all be behind you. The most important thing is to be patient, and keep your sense of humor. Years from now you’ll actually miss the days of seeing your baby run around in a diaper—or at least, be able to laugh at the little ‘potty mishaps’ which are part of the crazy, messy, but undeniably amazing years of toddlerhood.