I started writing this blog post a while back while I was researching to potty train our almost three year old. After a few drafts I realized that, since we hadn’t been successful at it yet maybe I should wait to write about potty training till we actually went through it.
During all these months I’ve been talking to different parents about potty training and I haven’t been able to figure out the one thing that works. My conclusion is that each child is different, and most importantly, that they will be ready when they are ready.
Last weekend we finally ditched the diaper. Yay! So I’m finally ready to share our potty training secrets 😀
They will be ready when they are ready
This is probably the most important piece of advice that I’m going to be able to share. Some kids are ready as soon as 18 months old and for others it takes a bit longer. Two to three is what everyone recommends, but I’ve talked with parents who didn’t get rid of the diaper until after their children turned three. But no matter how early you start potty training you’ll get there at the same time: when your child is ready.
In our experience, the best thing to do is to start testing if they are ready whenever you feel like doing so, but don’t force it till you think they actually are ready. That will certainly make potty training easier on both you and your child and will prevent frustration and endless hours of just sitting in the toilet.
Ok, good. Now, how do I know if my child is ready for potty training?
Below I’ve listed some of the most common signs to know when your child is ready for potty training and how our daughter started showing them:
- Can follow simple instructions and can walk or even run: These are the two first pieces of advice we received from our pediatrician when we first asked about potty training.
- Can tell you when they need to pee or poop: This is one of the first signs she showed, but during a long time she didn’t want to use the potty.
- Shows interest in using the potty: Ours started doing so when she saw others do it at her preschool.
- Stays dry for at least two hours during naps: Or sporadically starts waking up in the morning with a completely dry diaper.
- Can sit still for 2 to 5 minutes: She’s been able to do that since we discovered “Peppa Pig” to her…
- Can pull pants up and down: Or kind of.
- Dislikes the feeling of dirty diapers: Our daughter would claim she had poop so we’d change her diaper and she could do it in a clean one. Smart move!
- Recognizes success: She clearly was able to recognize success as one day she started asking me if I peed or pooped and if I said yes, she would not only announce it to everyone in the house, but also say ‘good job, mommy!’.
Parents need to be ready too
That’s right. Your kid may be ready for potty training but you need to be ready too. And patience is going to be your best friend here.
For starters, you’ll get false positives, meaning your child will ask to go to the potty even when they don’t have to. It’s better to go too many times than too few. If you ignore them because you just went and know it’s unlikely they may not have to go again, maybe they won’t ask next time. Just go every time and eventually they’ll figure it out.
Another thing that we ran into is that she would pee a little bit and say she’s done, but she really wasn’t. Giving her a book would distract her and help her finish.
Finally, if your child is giving you signs that they are ready, you’ve started potty training, but you think it’s not going well, don’t give up just yet. Don’t put back the diaper (unless it’s for a nap or at night) otherwise your child may think they don’t always have to go to the potty because they still get to wear diapers sometimes.
What works and what doesn’t
I can’t really answer that question for you but I can share what worked for us.
- Seeing other kids her age going to the potty, either at the school or at home (older siblings). I’d say in our case this is the number one thing that caught her interest in going to the potty. She even started talking about potty accidents before we even took her diaper off.
- Talking with her about how we all go to the potty and inviting her to come with us.
- Reading books, specially books about potty training, while sitting in the toilet. Potty and Big girl panties are her absolute favorites.
- Letting her be independent. She often asks to go to the potty by herself and to close the door (she’s already able to open and close doors). Instead of saying ‘no’ (because she can’t really do everything by herself yet) we let her go and wait till she realizes she needs help and asks for one of us to go and help her.
- Cool undies. She loves wearing undies so that’s an extra motivation for her to try and go to the potty.
- Letting them get wet a few times. We tried the going naked thing (no pants, no diaper, no undies) but she refused to not wear pants or undies (she was ok with not wearing a diaper). In the end, we got her to wear a dress without undies (sometimes pants even) but soon after she started demanding undies. After a few potty accidents, she realized getting all wet was not comfortable and I feel like that was the inflection point when she understood and started asking to go to the potty for real.
What equipment do you need
Apart from you and your child being ready, you may or may not need the following items:
- Infant potty. Just make sure you have the right size for your child to be comfortable. To be honest, it doesn’t have to be an expensive one. Some children may also skip the infant potty and go straight to the toilet.
- Toilet potty training seat. We did get one of these when we couldn’t get her to use the infant potty. The truth is it didn’t matter where we put her, she just wasn’t ready yet. She now uses this and the potty but she can also seat in the toilet – or “mommy and daddy’s potty”, as she calls it – without the special seat. We also use it when we go out (for cleanliness). I’ve heard of children that have a hard time transitioning from the infant potty to the regular toilet, in which cases I guess the seat could be helpful too.
- Pull-ups. We tried them for a while but they didn’t seem to help her go to the potty – after all, it was just another type of diaper and she didn’t seem to notice the difference – and changing pooped pull-up diapers is not something to look forward to. So we stopped using them. Now that she’s actually asking to go to the potty we are no longer in need of these.
- Step stool. To help them reach the toilet and sit by themselves.
- Entertainment. Books, screen time, etc. In our case, reading books and simple games like rolling the ball to each other are what worked best.
- Reward. Rewards can be anything your child likes and doesn’t get that often: stamps, stickers, tattoos, candy, etc. In our case, candy were the definitive “bribe”. Probably because she already usually plays with stickers, tattoos, and stamps.