For the last two or so years, diapers have been part of the daily grind, just as that extra cup of coffee probably has. One of the most distinct memories I have from the early years of mothering my three children is the sheer amount of diapers! For a brief moment in history, we even had all three in diapers at one time. Whether you use cloth diapers or disposable, diapers are no mom’s favourite element of child rearing, of that I’m sure. Given that nobody enjoys diapering, the idea of potty training should have us leaping for joy, right? Maybe, but likely no. Potty training is a whole new world and can be intimidating for any parent, whether you’re a first time mom, or having your third go at it. When are they ready? How on earth to go about it? And is there really a difference between boys, girls, and age? Here are my thoughts.
When is your child ready for potty training?
There’s no perfect age, but there is a window
This is a varying season and is unique for every child, so don’t worry too much if you have friend’s whose children are already trained, or in the process, before your child is there. Generally, children potty train between age two and three and a half, and typically girls potty train more quickly. That said, even in my own family each of my three were unique, so don’t stress if your child isn’t ready yet, or push it if you’re not personally ready to commit to training him.
Awareness of their body
For potty training to work, your child needs to be aware of her body and what’s happening. This often happens with children as young as 12-18 months, but alone it doesn’t mean they’re ready. You can teach your children this when you believe they’re going in their diaper, and telling them what’s happening. This is especially easy when toddlers are going number two, as their bodies tend to react more and they usually pause from playing for that brief moment. If they’re vocal otherwise, but aren’t saying they’re going, you can tell them casually, “Looks like you’re ready to go poop!” or ask, “are you going poo-poo?”. Help your child connect what’s happening with the words (whichever words your family chooses to use for these bathroom activities!). It’s a good sign that your child is beginning to care when you hear them announce that they’re going in their diaper. Listen for “pee pee!” and “poo poo!” – it’s a great marker of readiness, even if it’s not the most polite conversation!
Mobility and ability
This is a main reason why toddlers before age two don’t tend to potty train successfully – potty training requires mobility! Is your child able to quickly get to a potty, even if it’s in the other room, before having an accident? Is your child able to pull up and down their own underwear and pants? Speech isn’t absolutely necessary for successful potty training, but as I mentioned above, it helps a great deal. I found that my children were stronger in their physical abilities and speech closer to age three, which made potty training them then, a lot easier.
Get them on board
Once you’ve determined your child is ready to potty train, you need to get them on board. Talk to them about wearing diapers and ask them if they’d rather use the potty just like mom and dad use the toilet. Most kids get really excited about the idea of underwear and being “grown up”, but if your child resists, don’t push it. Revisit in a week or two, and try to keep it a light conversation.
How to potty train your child
Clear your schedule
Potty training usually takes a couple of days, minimum, so it’s important to clear your schedule. I didn’t venture out with my potty training kids until I’d seen a degree of success at home first. Of course, accidents happen, but they discourage your child (and you!), so planning a grocery shopping trip the day after you begin probably isn’t a good idea.
Practice makes perfect, so you need a lot of opportunities for your child to learn, which means a lot of liquids. My kids weren’t ferocious drinkers beyond water at each meal, so I had to ease up on my no-juice rule when potty training. A bit of fruit juice in their water bottle had them guzzling away, which lead to a lot of practice! Just be extra diligent about tooth brushing on those days. Once they’ve drank a lot, they’ll soon be peeing every ten minutes or so. The first several times, your child will probably wet themselves wherever they are, but as soon as you see it happening, rush them to their potty and have them finish there. If they’re already finished, still carry them to their potty and gently remind them “this is where we go pee!”. Keep the liquids coming and they’ll continue the learning process.
Consistency and Calm
The key is to be as consistent as possible, and never lose your cool. This is why it’s so important to clear your schedule, because that first day is a continuous loop of your child drinking, going pee, and you taking them to their potty. I think my first child had over fifteen accidents before she made it to the potty to finish a pee that she began on the floor, but it was sweet progress when it happened! Every time they have an accident and don’t make it to the potty, be consistent with your reminder, “this is where we go pee!” or “we go pee on the potty”.
Set them up to succeed
There are a few things you can do to help your child have the very best shot at potty training. Always have the potty nearby at the beginning. If they switch rooms, bring the potty to them and keep it close. We used the Baby Bjorn Potty Chair and loved it. If your home is on two stories, consider one for upstairs and another for the main floor. Also, I found having them in pants tended to complicate things, so we potty trained them in just underwear, or their birthday suit. Definitely avoid complicated bottoms with buttons and zippers at first. We also helped our kids with wiping for the first while, and focused on them learning to use the potty without over-complicating the process for them. In time, definitely teach them to clean up after themselves, but for the start, keep it simple. Lastly, tackle potty training in a potty first and don’t worry just yet about the toilet (which is higher, larger, and more difficult).
When your child has their first successful trip to the potty, it’s a big deal! Celebrate accordingly with praise, hugs, encouraging words, and some sort of treat (stickers, chocolate chips, etc). After that, plan some sort of reward for their first full day without any accidents. Never punish them for having an accident, but instead celebrate and reward when they’re dry.
Potty training is a messy endeavour, and it can mean a few very long days, but the results are huge! Giving your child that independence and watching them grow up pulls at your heart strings, but it’s also so rewarding. Good luck!
Emily is a Montreal-based writer and blogger, but most importantly, a mom of three littles (age five and under). She geeks out over cloth diapers, lattes, and will do just about anything to travel. You can find her on Instagram @emmorrice where she profusely overgrams pictures of her meals, kids and city.
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