There are plenty of potty training horror stories out there—you may have heard some yourself. But as much as you may be dreading this all-important process, every parent has to confront it at some time. So what’s the best way to approach it? We asked seasoned parents and child therapists to weigh in with tried-and-true tips. Here’s what they had to say:
Celeste Cruz is a mom of five, including twins. She worked at a tropical food farm before leaving to have a family. Now she shares art, plants, and family life on instagram at instagram.com/celestiteart
Pick it, then stick to it. The biggest secret is being consistent. Really get yourself mentally prepared that you are going to focus on this one thing for the next 3 weeks to a month (the average time it takes to establish a new habit). Then get yourselves prepared, set alarms, tell other caregivers, and buy the things you plan to use. I use a tube of mini M&Ms and tablet time, but whatever you choose, stick to it. The first three days are especially critical, so pick a weekend to start if you work.
With the candy, you are going to scam them a little bit, which is why I like the minis. At first, give them a lot, like say 10 or 12. After those critical first 3 days, give them 1 to 2 less, so 8 to 11 each time. Again, pick a number and stick to it. Then, slowly wean them down. Since they usually don't know how to count that high yet, they won't notice until it's too late.
Melanie Musson is a writer for ExpertInsuranceReviews.com. She has four fantastic children and is currently working on potty training with number three.
Your child will be so much easier to potty train if you wait until they’re ready. There is no magic age. If your friends have their 18-month-olds potty trained and your two-and-a-half-year-old isn’t, that’s OK.
I always knew my children were ready when they woke up dry in the morning. This is not a hard and fast rule, though, because for many children, staying dry at night is a skill they acquire much later. If your child is waking up dry, though, it’s a pretty good sign they have good control over their urination.
Also, it’s alright to “break the rules” to accomplish a goal. My daughter was scared to death of going potty on the toilet. I knew she was ready, just scared. She usually doesn’t get screen time, but I let her play with the tablet on the toilet until she finally went a full two hours later. Do what it takes to break past whatever is keeping them from going. I don’t normally advocate for screen time, but one day of it to accomplish a goal is worth it. The next time I put her on the toilet, it only took 30 minutes of screen time. Then it was 10 minutes, and after that, she was trained. Totally worth it.
Rory Chapman is an insurance specialist at ExpertInsuranceReviews.com. After the trauma of potty training his daughter, he is scared-to-death of the prospect of potty training his son.
We’ve successfully potty-trained our daughter (who is now 4) for a little over a year now. For her, it was pretty difficult. We didn’t have some of the horror stories of couch or carpet messes or anything like that, and there wasn’t much of an issue getting her to go #1 on her potty. The sticker system seemed to work a bit, and she really expressed some pride in herself.
But going #2 was a different story. Any time she needed to do that, she would only do it in a pull-up. This was from the time she started in pull-ups (around 2 years old) until she was just over 3. For literally an entire year, she would pee in the potty, but only poop in a pull-up. It got to the point where she would literally demand a pull-up, hide in her room, and do her business there.
It caused us so much anxiety since we knew she wasn’t actually having a productive BM because of this issue. We tried literally everything. We threw away the pull-ups, we told her we’d get ice cream, we tried the sticker system again—nothing was working. We started sitting her on the potty when she said she needed to go #2, and just letting her watch her tablet for as long as she needed. Sometimes, she would sit there for literally half an hour and nothing would happen. Then one day, she finally did it, and everything just sort of clicked for her.
We’d spoken with other parents about this and found out there were other kids with the same issue, and every single one of them gave us the same advice: “You’re just going to have to wait until she’s ready.” I hated hearing that, but they were right. It doesn’t help your anxiety or the fear that they’ll go into kindergarten still pooping in their pants, but they were right.
My secret, after dealing with that issue, is basically to skip pull-ups entirely. Just go straight to underwear and be prepared to do extra laundry. Pull-ups are basically no different than diapers anyway except for the higher cost. And also, let your kids watch a video on the potty. It might seem like a bad habit to start, but let’s be honest, we all know adults are doing it, too!
Dr. Fran Walfish
Dr. Fran Walfish, Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist, author of “The Self-Aware Parent,” regular expert child psychologist on The Doctors, CBS TV, and co-star on WE tv. - drfranwalfish.com
Never push or force a boy or girl to potty train. Toilet training is one of four (eating, sleeping, talking, and elimination) crucial developmental milestones where parents and children can get stuck in a power-struggle/battle.
When power-struggles occur, boys get stuck in the area of potty training at a significantly higher rate than girls, and girls get stuck in the area of talking at a significantly higher rate than boys. The issue begins with anxiety in the child. The parent’s response is expectation and force. It quickly becomes a battle of the wills. These four battles are ones that the parent will never win! The child must be in control of his own body, and toddlerhood is the time to warmly and supportively teach him mastery.
Some boys fear dropping feces into the toilet because of an unconscious worry of losing their penis at the same time. The flushing raises anxiety for fear of permanent loss. It is unconscious (without awareness) castration anxiety. This is the reason that many toddlers prefer to poop in a diaper or pull up (behind a couch for privacy) as a first step before using a toilet.
After age 3 years, involve both girl and boy children to be engaged in their self clean-up and self-reliance. Perhaps, Mommy does the first wipe and then hands a moistened wipe to him so that he learns to clean his own bottom. Everything about the toilet training learning process needs to be warmly supportive and lighthearted. The moment your child feels this is too important to you, you are handing him ammunition to dig his heels into the grounds and use the ammunition against you when you place a demand upon him.
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