5 Potty Training Mistakes to Avoid
Parenting is full of joys, but for most of us, potty training isn’t one of them. It’s stressful, frustrating (because you’re entirely dependent on someone else’s will), and you have no idea how long it might take! Please know that! Days? Weeks? Months? Anything is possible.
Since every child is different, there’s no method that works across the board—no matter what well-intentioned potty training gurus may say. What most people can agree on, however, is that there are some mistakes that can sabotage any potty training venture.
If you’re looking to potty train your child now or in the future, here are some of these missteps that you should go to great lengths to avoid:
- Being unprepared.
Spontaneity works well for fun family outings, but it’s rarely effective when it comes to potty training. That’s because proper preparation can make or break the potty training experience. You can pique your child’s interest by reading some potty training-themed books in advance. Then, make sure that you have the appropriate equipment around. If you plan to offer rewards to your child, make sure that those are purchased and at the ready. Stock up on cleaning supplies for inevitable spills.
You should also invest in underpants and a potty seat. While there are plenty of these potty seats on the market, some are better than others. Our favorites include:
Summer My Size Potty, which is very close to an adult toilet in design. It comes with a splash guard, is easy to clean, and includes a removable soft foam potty seat that can be placed on the adult toilet when you’re ready to make the transition.
You can give your child buy-in if you take them to pick out supplies, including small rewards (if you decide to incentivize with an awards system), underpants, and the potty chair.
- Imposing a time limit.
You know the playgroup mom who brags about her child potty training in just one day? Congratulate her heartily, but don’t expect the same. And you can rest easy knowing that there is no correlation between the speed with which a child potty trains and their long-term success in life. Go into potty training recognizing that it could take a long time, and you might even have to return to it at a later date if your child is not responding. Flexibility is the name of the game here.
- Choosing the wrong time.
Just as you shouldn’t set a rigid deadline for potty training mastery, you shouldn’t endeavor to potty train at an inopportune time. This could include tackling potty training while you’re trying to finish up a major home improvement project or get ready for the holidays. If your stress levels are elevated, potty training could put you over the edge and result in added frustration for you and your child.
You should also avoid potty training your child before they are ready. As nice as it would be to have your child out of disposable diapers, your efforts will fall flat if they are not physically and emotionally prepared to take this step.
How do you know when your child is ready to potty train? Watch for these signs:
- Can stay dry for a couple of hours at a time during waking hours
- Can stay dry during naps
- Dislikes the sensation of a dirty diaper
- Expresses interest in using the potty
- Tells you that he is going potty or about to go potty
These signs often indicate a readiness to ditch the diapers, but remember once again that all children are different. If your child is not showing any of the above signs but you sense that they might be mature enough to tackle potty training, you can always test the waters. Just remember to be patient and willing to table the project if it’s not showing promise.
It is not recommended that you attempt potty training until your child can follow simple instructions, pull her own pants up or down, and is coordinated enough to walk steadily.
- Forgetting the fun.
While potty training is serious business, that doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate a little fun. In fact, you’re much more likely to engage your child if you can make the process enjoyable. Here are a few ideas.
Throw a party… a potty party.
Kick your inaugural day off with balloons and party hats to make the work at hand feel extra special.
Get the app.
There’s an app for everything—including toilet training. Check out this selection of interactive apps to keep your child excited about using the potty.
This can be as simple as a sticker chart that gives your child a visual representation of their progress. When they fill up their chart, they can earn a toy or treat.
- No Punishing.
Positive reinforcement has been shown to work far better than negative reinforcement where potty training is concerned, so avoid punishing your child for lack of progress. Cheer them on and offer some fun incentives, but don’t browbeat or penalize your child. This can quickly turn potty training into a power play. In worst-case scenarios, kids might hold their stools in to maintain control or simply forgo using the toilet as a way to spite you. Physical or verbal punishments rarely work and can present a significant obstacle to potty training mastery.
Be calm and consistent. The tyranny of high-priced diapers and soiled underpants will eventually end. Remember that there’s more to this process than just getting your child to use the toilet. You’re teaching important lessons about responsibility, independence, and self-mastery here. Those things are ultimately worth the wait and inconvenience.