After six years and three kids, our household is officially diaper-free! I still need to pinch myself, because after years and years of diapers, usually diapering two kiddos at a time; it’s hard to believe we are down to just one child, using one diaper for over nights. It’s so surreal. And we didn’t get here quickly, or easily.
I’ve read all the books and tried all the methods, and I can assure you that not one technique will work across the board. Always be wary of a method that promises perfect results in a set period of time (especially if that period of time is a day or two!). Kids are unique, their bodies are all different, and each child matures at their own pace. Instead, I’d like to share some guidelines and general ideas surrounding potty training, in hopes of making your potty training journey a smoother ride.
Is my child ready to be potty trained? Here are a few signs that they may be:
• Does he tell you when he’s going pee or poop?
If a child starts to tell you they’re going, they have the interest and awareness needed to potty train. Some kids just don’t care if they’re in a dirty diaper, and that tends to mean they’re not concerned enough to potty train.
• Does she communicate verbally?
This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but potty training is infinitely easier when your child is verbal. For our first child, who was a late talker, we waited until she was verbal before potty training, even though it meant she was almost three. Our second child was verbal sooner, so we potty trained sooner (maybe too soon, more on that in a minute!), and our third child wasn’t verbal when she was potty trained but she showed such interest we went for it anyway. It’s totally possible to potty train a non-verbal child, but it’s easier if they can at least say the basic vocabulary of potty training: Go! Pee! Poo!
• Can he easily remove pants and underwear?
If your child can’t easily take off their bottoms, they’re going to have a hard time rushing to the potty. One tip would be to make sure they have elastic wasted bottoms that are easy to remove, or just to let them go around in underwear while you’re potty training. During this season, overalls are your enemy and leggings, your best friend.
• Is she over age two?
We’ve all heard those stories (usually from women a generation older than us…) about how their child was potty trained before they were two. I’m not sure why people think this is helpful information to share, and I’m also not sure that I believe them! It’s not a competition, and if you potty train too early you may find yourself frustrated and inconsistent as your child just isn’t ready yet. This happened with our son. I was one month away from delivering our third child and didn’t want to deal with potty training when I had a newborn to care for, so I rushed potty training, before he was ready. He showed some signs of being ready, but not all of them, and we pushed ahead anyway. He went days and days with little to no success, and then I’d take a few days off from exhaustion (or running out of bottoms), and we’d start up again. This went on for months and every day I wished I’d simply waited until he was a bit older. An almost-three-year-old is light-years ahead of a not-yet-two-year-old developmentally, and potty training them will be so much easier.
If your child meets these markers, they may be ready to give potty training a go.
If you’re ready to take the plunge, here are a few tips when you’re starting to potty train:
• Get a potty, or two.
If you have a two-story home, it’s easier to have one potty on each level. We used the BabyBjorn potty and loved it for its high back and simple design.
• Let them pick out new underwear to get them excited about potty training!
Our kids loved this! I’d say a child needs around eight pairs of underwear if you do laundry every-other day (accounting for accidents).
• Clear your schedule
Potty training requires all of your attention and if you’re not consistent, your child won’t grasp it. If your child is truly ready to potty train, you should be alright to get back to your normal routines within a week or so, but for the week that you’re really investing in potty training you’ve got to hunker down. No play dates, no grocery runs, no park visits.
• Get them REALLY hydrated
They need to learn to go to the potty when they feel the urge, so you’ve got to create that urge frequently. This is the time to go nuts and give your kids all the watered-down juice they could ever want!
• Ask them if they have to go to the potty ALL THE TIME.
You will feel like a broken record but you need to give them the opportunity to assess their needs and go to the bathroom, and kids are easily distracted! I asked my kids every 5-10 minutes. If they say no, leave them be, but if it’s been 20 minutes, it’s not optional. Tell them, “Ok, now we’re going to give it a try – even if nothing comes out, its good to try. You never know what will happen!”
• Celebrate with them when they’re successful, stay neutral when they fail
There is no space for shaming or disciplining when a child is learning a new and very difficult task. We celebrate when they go in the potty and make sure they know how proud we are of them, but when they fail, we simply clean up the mess and remind them, “next time, you’ll go in the potty, right?” If they start wetting themselves and they’re away from the potty, rush them over to the potty to finish up there. Even if nothing gets in the potty, it’s connecting the dots for them that pee and poop belong in the potty, not in their pants.
With these tips, I hope potty training isn’t too traumatic at your house. As I reminded myself day in and day out when I was potty training, they will get this! Accidents will happen, and overnight dryness may take much longer, but they won’t be wetting themselves when they’re eighteen. And one day we’ll long for the season when our parenting challenges could be so easily cleaned up with paper towel and a smile. Try to stay positive, as your child is looking to you to model how he should feel about this – his successes, failures, and struggles. And keep the end goal in mind – soon you will be diaper and wipes free!
Emily is a Montreal-based writer and blogger, but most importantly, a mom of three littles (age five and under). She geeks out over cloth diapers, lattes, and will do just about anything to travel. You can find her on Instagram @emmorrice where she profusely overgrams pictures of her meals, kids and city.