How to Teach your Child to Use the Potty?
You should start the potty training only when you feel your child is prepared and you have the necessary time and energy to encourage him every day.
Your the little one is prepared when:
- He is showing you that his diaper is dirty;
- He seems interested in the whole idea of the potty or toilet;
- He will tell you that he wants to go to the toilet;
- He understands and follows all the basic instructions;
- He feels uncomfortable if the diaper is wet;
- He starts to often remain dry for at least 2 hours during the day;
- He wakes up from his nap with a dry diaper;
- He`s able to dress or undress on his own.
You may start to notice these signs when your child is 18 to 24 months old. Still, it`s not unusual for the child to still be using diapers at 2 ½ – 3 years old.
Table of Contents
- 1 How to Prepare your Child for the Potty?
- 2 5 Most Popular Potty Training Methods
- 3 Guidelines to Consider when You Teach your Child to Use the Potty
- 3.1 Have a Healthy Attitude during the Potty Training Process
- 3.2 Potty Training is a Complex Process
- 3.3 Using the Muscles around the Anal and Urethral Opening
- 3.4 The Usual Sequence in Winning the Rectal and Bladder Control
- 3.5 Girls Learn to Use the Potty Faster than Boys
- 3.6 The Parents` Pressure
- 3.7 Be the Positive Example
- 3.8 Establish a Routine
- 3.9 Make Sure the Child`s Clothes Are Adapted to Potty Training
- 3.10 Offer your Child Small Prizes
How to Prepare your Child for the Potty?
- Allow him to be present when you use the toilet and make him feel comfortable with the whole process;
- Allow him to see how “pee” or “poop” looks like;
- Let your child practice the “flushing toilet” process;
- Before starting to teach your child all about the potty, put a small chair with a potty incorporated into it in his bedroom or the playing area next to his toys so that he can familiarize himself with the potty;
- Allow him to touch the potty and tell him it`s his “new toy” from now on;
- Allow him to stay on the potty while dressed just as he would seat on a chair;
- Allow him to get up and walk away from the potty whenever he wants;
- Don`t force him to sit on the potty for long periods of time.
After your child has become familiarized with the potty and you notice he uses it as a chair regularly, you can try convince him to sit on it when using a diaper. Let him feel comfortable when sitting on it without his pants.
The next step would be to show him how the potty is used. You can even place some “poop” from a diaper inside it. Allow him to see when you throw away everything from the potty into the toilet. Let your child flush the toilet and see how everything inside disappears.
The Beginning of Potty Training
The moment you stop using diapers is one of the most difficult for both you and the baby. This is mainly because it involves lots of accidents and failures. Here are a few suggestions for this stage:
- Tell your child as clear as possible that from now on you expect from him to pee or poop in his new potty because he`s already big enough to do things like his mom and dad and it will be easier for him this way. Exercise a few times how to take the pants down and how to sit on the potty. Congratulate him every time he takes the initiative to sit down on his own.
- No matter how he gets to do his needs at the potty for the first time (if you put it on it or he sits on his own), after finishing his “business,” hug him and offer him a reward, showing him how happy he makes you he started using it. Repeat the process every time he`s succeeding to use it again in the following days. You can even share your happiness with the other members of the family or friends and make sure your child is there to hear you. – Read more!
- When the first accidents happen, don`t give them too much importance. If your child seems bothered by them, assure him it`s no problem and that you`re sure he`ll succeed the next time. Is very important to be as calm and warm with him as you can even from the beginning, especially because he`s probably not able to control his sphincter muscles yet.
- If the little one has more failures than successes, don`t lose your hope and return to diapers. If you`ll return to diapers, your baby will get confused and the potty training will become harder.
- Taking in consideration the child`s curiosity for everything at this age, explain to him what happens with the “pee” or “poop” after they reach the potty. Turn it into an interesting and funny game to find it easier to get his attention.
- If you notice that your little one isn`t that interested in using the potty, offer him other rewards so he can receive what he enjoys immediately after he`s using it. This way he`ll stay motivated, despite any difficulties or failures.
Getting Used to the Potty
When your child is using the potty regularly and less and less accidents happen, it means that you entered the formation stage of this ability. This will mean an easier period for you and more satisfying for the child. Here are a few suggestions for a better passage through this stage:
- Continue to use positive appreciations. Even though using the potty isn`t an extraordinary achievement anymore, you still need to react positively and show your child in one way or another that you are satisfied with him using it. In the future, you can reduce the rewards and appreciation gradually.
- If by now the potty was used only when the child needed it, now it`s best if you`ll initiate a routine for using it – in the evening before going to sleep, in the morning and after the important meals. When you initiate this routine, let your little one know using a calm attitude that it`s time to use it, without asking him if he wants to use it and avoid the risk to refuse it. Even though at the beginning your child will only sit on the potty for a few seconds, it`s important for him to learn that he needs to sit on it at regular intervals.
- If the child refuses vehemently to use it, don`t force him. Let him stand and leave! At this age, children are always moving around and cannot sit still more than 1 minute. To determine him to stay on it longer (but not more than 5 minutes), bring him his toys, books that he enjoys watching, etc. This way he`ll able to enjoy the process by seeing the fun side.
- Encourage him to do the other additional activities related to using the potty: putting back his pants on his own, cleaning by himself or washing his hands.
The Final Stage
Normally using the potty will be continued with using the toilet and it will become a habit. In this stage there might be 2 problems: regression and sudden refusal to use the potty. Here`s what you can do if these 2 issues might appear:
- One of the most confusing things for parents is when the little one still has accidents although has gotten used to the potty. These moments usually appear when something changes in the child`s life (the birth of a brother or a sister, he starts to go to the nursery, etc). By regressing, the child only wants to grab the attention of his parents again or he wants to get them closer to him, of course, without him even knowing about it. In these situations is better to ensure that you have a close relationship, ignore any accidents and show him clearly that you are happy when he`s using the potty again.
- A lot of times it happens for children to be so focused on an activity that they`ll pee on themselves without noticing. In this case you can ask your child if he wants to remind him when he needs to use the potty. It`s important to ask him this to know that he`s still in control of the situation and he`ll manage it as he wants to.
- One of the causes for which children may still have accidents is an urinary infection, which you can acknowledge if the child has fever, his urine starts to smell bad and he needs to pee a lot more often.
- His refusal to use the potty may come from more than one reason: a fear may have been installed lately, he may want to provoke you or he may be afraid that this new independency will bring distance between him and his parents. At first you need to become aware which is the cause for him refusing to use it, and then to act in one way or the other – you either comfort him, rebuild your relationship or get closer to him.
By learning to use the potty, your child will become proud that he knows how to control himself and that he makes his parents happy. This way, he`ll enjoy the fact that he`s growing and he`ll become curious in making the next steps in his development.
5 Most Popular Potty Training Methods
There are many ways that you can try in your potty training process, but not all of them can offer you the safe and fast results. We picked 5 methods that we think are best – use any of them that you think will best suit you.
Using the “Doll” Method
This method has been created by Dr. Phil McGraw, a licensed psychologist who made a name for himself in baby care in the last few years. His program is based especially on using a special doll which after it drinks water, it wets itself. Parents use the doll correctly from an anatomic point of view to show the child the proper usage of the potty. This method includes 6 steps to follow:
- Show the child a doll that wets itself – The child can learn by showing him through the doll how to use the potty. He`ll give a name to it and will also give the doll water to drink. You`ll then take both the doll and child to use the potty and will also put him dress the doll with underwear.
- Throw a quick party for both the child and the doll after using the potty – When the child makes it to the potty without wetting himself, throw him a party to celebrate. Let your child understand that using the potty is something good and he`ll be able to enjoy a party every time he uses it.
- Lose the diaper – At the beginning of the process, you dressed the doll in underwear. Now it`s time to put the child`s diaper away and dress it with underwear just like you did with the doll.
- The child should drink a lot of liquids – The more he needs to pee, the quicker is to teach him how to use it.
- 10 trips to the potty with each happening accident – Ask your child if he needs to pee or poop. He may say no. If he might pee on himself, don`t argue with him because you want this to be a positive experience. Take your child and go with him to the potty and put him on it. Do this 10 times in a row. This way you`ll increase the chances for his muscular memory to develop and he may soon start to use it on his own.
- Celebrate the Event – When your child has managed to do his needs using the potty, make from this something special and positive. He may be able to call his favorite superhero and tell him about his success. Ask a relative or friend to help you by interpreting the superhero`s role.
The 2-Steps Method
Two specialists in child development, Berry Brazelton and Joshua Sparrow, suggest to start teaching the child the whole potty thing in just a few sessions of practice. Put your child on the potty while is dressed and stay with him. While he`s standing on the potty, talk to him about it, how it should be used, why is similar to the toilet, tell him that everyone else go through this, make jokes about it to make him laugh. You can even read him a funny book about using the potty.
After you shown him the potty a few times, it`s recommended to let the child walk free around the house and often remember that anytime he needs to go, he can try the potty. Watch your child and help him to use the potty when he`s showing signs he can`t wait to do his needs. – Click here!
The Conditioning Method
Dr. William Sears offers similar advices with the ones above, although he considers that parents should condition their children to use the potty. He suggests that you should watch him and intervene immediately after you notice any new signs of him needing to do his necessities and put him on the potty. Eventually, the doctor considers he`ll learn the connection between the pee or poop and potty.
The Connection Method
Dr. Penelope Leach, a known specialist in child development for her authoritarian and loving style, claims that parents should be clear and explicit with their children when it comes to teaching them how to use the potty. However, they shouldn`t remind and force children all the time on this matter. The key to success is to understand that a child will never be ready for this activity if he doesn`t understand the connection between the feeling of defecation or urination and the actual result that comes from peeing or pooping. You shouldn`t start this lesson until you feel your child is mentally mature enough.
The Method through which Parents Take the Lead
Dr. Rosemond suggests that parents should try and take the lead; the doctor is even suggesting that they need to be tougher at times. Parents should tell their children when they need to start using the potty and that it`s expected from them to start using it all the time from that moment. Then the diaper will slowly disappear.
Guidelines to Consider when You Teach your Child to Use the Potty
There are various approaches that you can use in your potty training, some of which are simpler and more effective. If you manage to keep a few guidelines into mind, teaching your child how to use the potty will go smoothly.
Have a Healthy Attitude during the Potty Training Process
You should approach this subject as an interesting interaction, not as an imposed requirement. You should consider this event as an initiation in your role as an instructor. From the child`s point of view, using the potty is an initiation in the world of adults, a rite of passing from infancy to the next stage.
Potty Training is a Complex Process
Before rushing your child to use the potty, think for a second what this new activity involves. First he needs to pay attention to the sensations of pressure coming from his bladder or intestines. Then he should make the connection between these sensations and what`s happening in his body. He`ll need to learn to respond to these emergencies by running to the potty where he needs to know how to undress quickly, how to sit down comfortably on this new type of “chair” and how to refrain himself until he`s ready to do his “needs.”
Using the Muscles around the Anal and Urethral Opening
Knowing how to use the rectal muscles usually happens before knowing how to use the ones around the bladder because the rectal muscles aren`t so sensitive. When the child feels the need to poop, he has more time until he`ll do it on himself. A solid substance is easier to control than a liquid one. When the bladder seems full, the sensation of urination is sudden and sometimes hard to manage for a small child. – Read this!
The Usual Sequence in Winning the Rectal and Bladder Control
This is as it follows: first it`ll gain the rectal control during the night, then the rectal control during the day, then the bladder control during the day, and in the end, the bladder control during the night.
Girls Learn to Use the Potty Faster than Boys
This observation reflects more the gender of the person who teaches the child than the child`s gender. Culturally speaking, potty training was left in the care of the mother. Typically, women feel more comfortable to teach girls, and girls will be more interested in imitating mothers. Through imitation, children learn that girls need to sit, while boys can stand while peeing. But at first, boys can also sit to avoid spraying all around. When the son will realize that he`s able to stand just as his day is able, he`ll do it on his own.
The Parents` Pressure
The idea that a smart baby will use the potty earlier, eat 3 times a day and is also independent has no logic.
Be the Positive Example
Show your child how you sit on the toilet and explain to him what you are doing (the child learns by watching you.) You can also ask an older brother to sit on the toilet and let the child watch.
Establish a Routine
For example, you can start to teach him how to use the potty after he walked around the house with his diaper dry or after 1 hour of drinking liquids. You can watch him carefully and grab him just before he`s urinating on himself. Or you can just put the child on the potty for a few minutes a few times a day and let him stand up when he wants.
Put your child on the potty for 30 minutes after every meal to take advantage of the body`s natural tendency to have a stool after a meal – gastrocolic reflex. You can even take the child`s poop from the diaper and put it in the potty and explain to the child that`s where it belongs.
Make Sure the Child`s Clothes Are Adapted to Potty Training
Avoid pants with suspenders, buttons or zippers. Simple clothes are more suitable for this age and children will find it easier to dress or undress on their own when learning how to use the potty.
There are some parents who let their child stay without a diaper a few hours a day. If he`ll be urinating without a diaper, he may feel ashamed and eventually realize that this is wrong.
Offer your Child Small Prizes
Each time your child is using the potty, give him something you know he likes: coloring books, colored pencils or 1 extra hour of reading fairy tales before going to sleep. Keep track of his successes. Once he`ll be able to control his needs and use the potty every time, let him choose his own “big baby” underwear.
Be careful as those who take care of your child to use the same routine and same names for body parts and potty actions. Ask your babysitter and nursery staff to try and use the same approaches as you do around your child so he doesn`t get confused.