Potty Training Tips

You are tired of changing diapers. If your child is two, he has used over 6,000 diapers by now, and you can’t bear to change much more.  You’ve spent over $1,500 (conservatively!).  It’s time to potty train!

Unfortunately, your child does not care one bit about what time it is.  He runs on his own schedule, and monetary concerns or consideration for his diaper-changers is not going to hasten potty training.

But there are some things that parents and care providers can do to encourage children to go to the potty.  How can you help liberate your child from diapers?

The best advice for any parent is to ignore well-meaning family members and friends who say, “Why is that kid still in diapers?  He’s big enough to use the potty!”  Of course, he may be physically big enough, but that does not mean he is emotionally and developmentally ready to go to the bathroom.

You know your child better than anyone – except your child.  He will determine when he’s ready.

How do you know your child is ready to start training?

  • Is he interested?  Does he want to wear underwear?
  • Can he understand and follow directions?
  • Does he know when he’s going to go?  While he may not verbalize, he’ll usually send a cue via facial expression or posture.
  • Can he stay dry for two hours or more throughout the day?
  • Do his dirty or wet diapers bother him?
  • Can he pull up and down his pants by himself?

1. Start giving your child the opportunity to use the potty at around 2. This depends on your child; some are ready to start training at 1 ½ while others are not ready for a year or more after that.  Start slowly by getting your child familiar with a little potty chair and setting it up in the bathroom.  Ask if he wants to use it or encourage him to try between diaper changes. The goal is not to give up diapers but to familiarize him with the process.

2. Go to the potty on a schedule. Every hour, take a bathroom break, even if he says he doesn’t have to go.  Again, this familiarizes your child with the process – and he may go!  Regardless, though, praise him for his efforts.

3. Watch your child for signs that he has to go to the potty or has started to wet or soil his diaper. Then get to the bathroom fast.

4. Sometimes it is knowing when to take a break. Is your child resistant?  Does he appear stressed about potty training? Step back; it’s ok.  In a few weeks, try again.  When he’s ready, he will do it, and you will be amazed how easy potty training is!

5. When he goes to the bathroom consistently, take off his diaper at home or when visiting friends and family.  Keep diapers for car trips, naps, and bedtime. The rest of the time, let him wear big kid underwear.  There are a lot of great designs now, so get some fun Cars or Spiderman ones and pack them into a baby basket to present to him. He'll be so excited to try them out!

6. Start using a pull-up for car trips. If you can convince your child that these are like underwear and are not a “real” diaper, he may know that he has to go to the potty.  But if he can’t hold it, you have some backup.

7. Nighttime potty training takes time, so you can’t stop buying diapers quite yet. It may take months before your child develops the bladder/bowel control to wait till morning or the ability to wake himself up when he has to go. Don’t worry; this will come soon enough.

8. Give him rewards (or bribes). If your child responds to treats, use them.  Give him stickers, a Hershey’s Kiss, baby cookies, or another little treat for using the potty.  You will find that many times, children are motivated to potty train without external rewards, but until then, offer them up anyway.

9. Reinforce to your child that it is not ok to pee or poop in his pants; it is ok to have an accident, though, when he can’t make it to the bathroom in time.

The key to potty training is timing.  There is no way to make a child go if he is not ready – and sometimes starting too early can push him back.  So let your child guide this process; it will get done, he will get out of diapers.

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