In February, Bump Club and Beyond hosted a webinar sponsored by Naturepedic to give parents potty training tips. Since 2007, the guest speaker, Janeen Hayward has offered parenting strategy and support through her company, Swellbeing.
In the recent webinar, she shared potty training tips for how to potty train a girl and how to potty train a boy:
Potty Training Tips: When to Get Started
Look for signs that your child is ready.
Is your child watching or showing curiosity about your bathroom habits? Welcome your child into the bathroom. They are showing a natural curiosity about what is happening, and they just might be ready to start using the toilet independently.
Encourage their questions. Answer without over explaining and praise them for being curious. Explain that one day soon they, too, will be using the toilet!
Around the ages of 2 or 3 children move to be more independent. “I can do it myself,” they demand. This is yet another signal that it may be time to start potty training. Independence is a sign that they are socially and emotionally ready to do “it” themselves. Celebrate this and encourage them to take ownership of their bodies.
It is also important that your child can successfully follow 1-2 step instructions. This can be in the form of a game. Pattycake is a perfect example of following step by step instructions at an early age.
Once you notice your child going for longer stretches between diaper changes or waking up from a nap with a dry diaper it might be another signal that they are physically ready for potty training.
Introduce the potty seat but more importantly be certain that they are comfortable sitting while they are training. If you have a petite child or a tall child, you want to consider what size potty is most comfortable for them to sit on for the training experience. In order to make the experience feel safe, it must be comfortable.
Readiness is not tied to a certain age.
Many potty-training guides try to pin the timing on a certain age. This gives parents an unrealistic expectation and places pressure on the parent to have their child fit into a timeline set by someone who has never met their unique child!
Keep in mind, every child is different. It is more important to give your child the time they need to develop their own curiosity before introducing training. Don’t pressure your child. Your child will feel your stress fill the room. Just remember, it happens naturally so you can relax into the process.
Barriers to Success
Is there a physical reason your child resists using the toilet? The most common barrier to successful potty training is constipation. For those children with a history of constipation, there can be pain and discomfort associated with a bowel movement. This might lead them to avoid it. But the problem here is that children who hold in their bowel movements stretch out their rectum and in time, they can no longer detect the sensation that indicates they need to go.
Never shame or embarrass a child over accidents. These accidents might be out of their control. If there is shame or embarrassment around accidents, they will resist potty training. If this happens with your child, stop the process. Allow for some time to pass, then come back to it. There needs to be a clean slate for your child to begin potty training again, so the associations of shame, embarrassment, or fear are no longer present.
Don’t hover or insist your child go to the bathroom. Coach them how to sense their body is ready for the bathroom. Sometimes kids get into a position that, as a parent, you recognize as their signal they need to use the bathroom. Guide them toward recognizing it for themselves by saying, “it looks like you need to go to the bathroom.” Eventually, they might even tell you they need to use the bathroom or perhaps, that they already have! When your child does this, thank them for letting you know.
Honor their need for privacy. One of the more common reasons for a child to develop constipation is a lack of privacy or calmness around the bathroom experience. Public bathrooms, in particular, are intimidating for children learning to use the toilet. The toilet flushing can be loud and with automated toilets and also unexpected! One thing you can do to help your child’s public bathroom experience go smoothly is to keep a pack of sticky notes available so when you enter the stall, you can place the sticky note over the sensor. But remember, a child might simply be uncomfortable with the number of stalls and people entering and exiting a public restroom. When a child does not feel safe, they would rather wait until they get home, and this can result in an accident.
Be mindful of transitions. Keep in mind what else is going on at home and in your child’s life before you begin potty training. Young children have a difficult time with transitions. Something which might seem normal to you as the parent might be unsettling for the child. Are you planning a move? Did your child recently enroll in preschool? Is a new child on the way? These are things to consider when timing your potty training for your child. In fact, they are good reasons not to begin training. Routines are critical to the well-being of a child.
Where to Begin
Create your own accidents. Try spilling your glass of water in front of your child. Show them accidents happen and they’re part of the learning process. Building an understanding climate around accidents in the home helps eliminate fears and worries about trying something new or having an accident along the way to success.
Embrace play. It’s how kids make sense of the world so use it as a way to motivate your child to become interested in potty training. Play with your child using their dolls or stuffed animals to showcase how to use the toilet. Take them from the moment they realize they need to go, through each step, until they have finished. If you do this before the child does it themselves, it will give them confidence in the process and motivate their interest in learning.
Children live in the moment. This can mean they lack a sense of urgency and are easily distracted. If a child senses a bowel movement coming on while they’re playing, they might choose to keep playing with their toys instead of going to the bathroom. If you can make the bathroom experience appealing to your child by adding a basket of toys or activities that are only accessed during potty training, this will help motivate your child. Also, if you see that your child needs to use the bathroom, encourage them to recognize it too. Say things like, “it looks like you need to use the bathroom. Let’s bring your toys with you.”
How to Potty Train a Girl
Let the countdown begin! When your child is ready for potty training, make a plan that helps your child feel like they’re in the driver’s seat. If the child is using diapers, invite them to count the diapers they have left. Ask them how many they want to use before they’re ready to say goodbye to diapers. As you near the end of the supply, start counting down with your child. Let them know it’s almost time to say goodbye to the diapers. If your child is scared, let them express that. Give them space for any and all feelings. Hear them out and tell them you are confident in them and will be there the whole time during their transition. You’ll want to move your child from diapers to pull-ups and introduce the floor potty to them.
As your kids are transitioning, keep their diaper as clean and dry as you can. Make sure a dry diaper is more familiar than a wet diaper to them. When they’ve had a bowel movement in their diaper, show them where it goes. Take them to the bathroom and put their bowel movement into the toilet and flush. This helps them identify where it belongs and forecasts that one day, they will do it for themselves!
Schedule time in the day to sit with your child on the toilet. This can be easier with children who have a predictable bowel movement. With other children, schedule time in the morning and at night to begin to set a rhythm. If they don’t need to use the bathroom at that time, say, “it looks like your body isn’t ready, let’s try again later.” It’s about practicing the act of sitting on the toilet, getting comfortable in the bathroom, and learning to sense when it’s time to use the toilet.
How to Potty Train a Boy
No need to stand. For the most part, boys and girls can be trained the same. When it comes to boys, though, there’s lots of advice for how to potty train a boy standing up. From cheerios to food coloring, parents are advised to give boys targets to practice their aim. But this may actually set your child up for failure in unintended ways and deter them from trying again. So, potty train your boy by having him sit to pee. Whether your child is in the bathroom with mom or with dad, both parents must model the same way the child will learn, which means peeing while seated. Remember, it’s hard for kids to stand, relax, and aim at the same time. Rather than make it challenging, have them sit. Once they’re comfortable peeing while sitting, then introduce the “aim game” using cheerios, food coloring, or whatever is fun!
Checklist for Success
Make the bathroom a safe, comfortable place for your child during potty training. Here are some of the ways you can do that:
- Use a floor potty. Children’s hips sit lower than their knees. This helps relax the muscles used to make a bowel movement. The floor potty allows the child to sit comfortably with their feet on the ground. There’s no water splashing or unexpected surprises using a floor potty. It’s portable so you can keep it close to your child at all times and set them up for success. Children can use a floor potty all by themselves, which grants them independence and ownership over their potty training! They can graduate to a seated potty once they’ve mastered the floor potty.
- Assemble an activity basket. Fill it with books, bubbles, art supplies, card games - activities that are exciting for the child and only take place in the bathroom. Bubbles are especially recommended because they require kids to take a deep breath, which helps with relaxation necessary for potty training success.
- Choose the right books. Have a variety of books they can flip through that teach them how to use the bathroom. Make sure they are relatable to your child so they can see themselves in the characters. Everyone Poops shows that this is normal. It identifies that people use the toilet, dogs go outside, cats use a litter box, and everyone does it! What is Poop? is a flat book that takes the child through the process.
- Make it cozy. Keep leg warmers or fuzzy socks nearby so when kids have to take their bottoms off to use the toilet, they are still comfortable and warm. This helps with security.
- Keep a relaxed attitude and lots of patience! Remember, it’s a process that takes time. If you come into it relaxed and with patience, your kid will feel that energy. It will move the process along naturally.
And for parents? Remember to model, motivate, practice, and play, and your child will be potty trained in no time.
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