Congratulations for making the decision to potty train! It’s a big step, and I have faith in you and your kiddo!
Just a few things before getting started:
The whole “wait until they’re ready” thing was started in the early 60’s by Dr. Terry Brazleton…who served for a long time on the board of Proctor and Gamble (original producers of disposable diapers). Prior to the invention of disposable diapers, 92% of children in the US were potty trained between 12 and 18 months. The average age world wide for potty independence is ONE YEAR OLD. This is includes places where clothing is optional (or non-existent!) for small children, so there are not as many obstacles for them as children here. But the point is that children ARE capable at much earlier ages than man people now think. Children didn’t change - our environment did.
The one who has to be “ready” is the parent. Our culture has made it desirable to be busy, busy, BUSY, so much so that it is hard to slow down for a few days and take care of certain things. But if we DO take a few days, slow down, and connect with our child, they can be free of diapers much earlier. They will be cleaner, healthier, and more in tune with their body. PLEASE, do NOT put diapers or pants on backwards to get the child to leave them alone and forget about them - this teaches kids to ignore bodily sensations even further, and does NOT help with anything. If the child is taking his or her diaper off, it is time to start potty teaching.
Mammals are born with an instinct not to soil their nest, or caregiver. The problem is that because we immediately diaper them, we don’t have the opportunity to see the actual order of the process - Fuss, then pee. We only THINK it’s pee and then fuss. We train babies TO use diapers by ignoring their signals. We ignore their signals because most of us have never been told it’s possible. If you were to observe a newborn baby with no diaper on, you would see that they actually start to fuss BEFORE they pee, and we all have seen them make the poopy face before pooping!
When you are ready to take on potty training, the top keys to success are as follows:
- Be Consistent - sending mixed signals won’t help anyone
- Do NOT punish - they are learning a new skill, and they need teaching and support to master it, not punishment
- Do NOT go back to diapers. Take them out of the picture, out of the house, throw them away - whatever is necessary to make sure that you don’t go back. It is very confusing for a child if you go back to diapers “don’t pee in your pants anymore….just kidding, it’s ok again…wait, no, don’t do it!”
- Be patient, and calm. If you are anxious, they will feel anxious. Call in reinforcements if you need help staying lighthearted.
And now, on to the process!
The Potty Training Experience:
Choose a time when you have a few days you can commit to this. Every child is different, but if you stick with it, most children complete in 7-10 days. The first day or two you want to commit to STAYING HOME. Turn off the devices. Turn off the TV. Pay attention to your child. If you have multiple children, consider having someone visit to help you, but only if that person is someone who will HELP, and not distract you. It can seem a little daunting, but honestly - most of us would benefit from a couple days tech-free, and you are teaching your child a very important skill.
The first part is pants-free time at home. No diaper, no undies - nothing. Use a long shirt or dress if modesty is a concern. If it’s cold - leg warmers or chaps are a good choice. The reason for this part is that since the child has spent all their life so far in diapers, most kids have not had the opportunity to connect the dots between the need to pee and the result. It’s all happened in their diaper, and they often need that connection of “OH! That’s what this feeling means!”
Do this in a room without carpet, or put down mats, or spend the day outside! Whatever you need to do so you don’t have to worry about the floor in case it were to get peed on.
So no pants, and tell them, “Pee goes in potty now.” For this first part, try not to prompt them to go potty. You want to observe them, see if you notice a pee-pee dance, make note of how often they naturally go, etc. It’s fine to toss out some reminders “Pee goes in the potty now,” but don’t PUT them on the potty unless they are actually going, or they are clearly doing the potty dance/poop dance about to go.
Every single time he begins to pee, you will calmly transport him (lift him up off the ground and onto the potty or into the bathroom) onto the potty and say “pee in potty.” Even if you’ve only gotten one drop in (and a trail of drops behind you), it counts!
It is essential to only put her on the potty DURING a pee or poo. Putting her on the potty at random times throughout the day teaches nothing.
The physical act of getting on the potty only while eliminating is what teaches. Having them “practice sitting” doesn’t teach them what it’s for.
But actually demonstrating it through the body itself? THAT is what teaches this.
So, there’s a line of progress you want to move along. I peed — I’m peeing — I need to pee. ANY progress along this path counts! Once they are showing some progress along it, you can move to step 2, which is to put on a pair of pants or shorts and go for a short walk. Like 5-15 minutes, depending on how long they normally go between peeing. No diaper, no underwear, just pants or shorts. This prevents them from feeling like they’re in a diaper. Take the walk (leave right after a pee), then come home, and pants back off. You can do this several times. This gives the child a chance to successfully go out and stay dry.
Once you’ve had several successful outings, you can move to step 3, which is commando under shorts or pants at home, and then undies and shorts/pants for outings, with the outings getting longer and longer.
There is no set amount of time to spend on each step; just whatever seems right for the child. Use these days to also teach skills like getting ON the potty, wiping, flushing, washing hands, etc. Anything the child CAN do, let them be the one to do it. They will be less resistant when they are given control of the situation. Toddlers want to have control of their own life, same as any of us. By teaching them the skills and letting them do what they can, we are helping them gain an important independence.
Once you’ve gotten past the first few days, it’s fine to put them on the potty at good opportunities, like in/out of the car, in/out of highchair, or other normal transition times when you would normally go, or when you would have older children go. It’s just the first little bit of helping them learn to recognize the need to go that you want to only put them on when they ARE going.
Night-time/naps is a whole different conversation, so we’ll leave it at this for now, with just one thing on sleep - as soon as they wake up, diaper goes away, and sit on potty. Most humans will need to go right after waking up, babies and children included!