Sooner or later our babies grow up and become toddlers. One of the developmental milestones we are faced with is potty training, transitioning from nappies to pants, and learning to use a potty and ultimately a toilet.
We have some tips on coping with potty training your toddler and recommended equipment that you may need.
In this post I discuss the following topics:
Before you even attempt potty training, make sure your child can easily pull down their pants. It’s no use expecting them to be able to get to a toilet in time and be able to use it if they can’t yet remove their clothing independently.
When it comes to using the toilet, many toddlers prefer to start small. Potty chairs are great for most kids, but a potty seat for the big toilet can work with a little assistance and a step stool.
TIP: Give your child some ownership of the ‘new potty’. Wrap it up as a present, personalise it, or decorate it with stickers!
Rewards and praise can work wonders. Find what motivates your child – a favourite treat, small prizes, a fun reward chart, a phone call to a grandparent, and of course lots of cheering, high-fives and hugs.
TIP: Different levels of rewards are appropriate for different levels of success. If a reward no longer motivates your child, try a new one to help keep interest high.
Toilet training books and videos are a great way to introduce your child to toilet training and help him or her to stay interested.
TIP: Personalise your very own toilet training storybook right now! There are many online options to choose from. Search and pick one that you like.
During the potty training phase for either boys or girls, some things stay the same. You will have to…
At the start of potty training there will be very little time between your child recognising that they need to go to the toilet and actually going.
Holding on’, even for a few seconds, is something they will have to learn.
Remember that every attempt, successful or not, should be praised. Showing disapproval of accidents or punishing your child for them will not help them get there faster; instead, you’ll only make it harder for your child to relax and feel confident. Patience is the key.
No-one can wee or poo on demand. Let your toddler take their time and relax, but don’t forget that making them sit on the potty or toilet for too long could feel like a punishment. It’s very important that this is a positive experience for your child.
Some parents find that “dressing” the flush handle with a puppet or toy helps. Others keep special books that are only for looking at when on the potty. You can also try buying some special soap that only your son or daughter is allowed to use, or give them their own brightly coloured hand towel, or one with their favourite character on it (or you could buy special paper towels for the same purpose).
Potty training comes with its fair share of accidents. Have a tub with clothes or wipes to clean up any accidents. Have a mop handy that you can easily take out to mop away spills, just remember that you’ll need to rinse them thoroughly after each cleanup.
A ready spray bottle of anti-bacterial solution will help you keep any accident sites sanitised and prevent you from having to make up the solution with each cleanup.
You could include the following items in your potty training clean up tub:
A bucket near your washing machine can serve as a receptacle for soiled cloths. Simply pop them in a wash together at the end of the day ready for tomorrow. If you are dealing with faeces, I recommend rinsing them immediately and popping them into the machine as soon as possible for washing. This will help prevent staining and is a more hygienic way to deal with this sort of potty training accident.
Keep a tub or basket of spare underwear and trousers or leggings near the potty or toilet. That way you can quickly change your child into clean dry clothing after each accident without having to leave them bare-bottomed and waiting for your return.
There are many reasons children struggle with potty training. They are too immature, not physically able to undress efficiently enough, are scared of the hole in the toilet basin, afraid of the flushing sound, or scared of the unfamiliar sensation of going into something other than a nappy.
Sometimes they seem to be doing really well and then go through a stage of having lots of accidents. It’s all part and parcel of this learning curve. Changes in their routines, family circumstances, and even diet can cause your previously successful potty-trained toddler to need support again. Some mothers have written to me on social media or via email asking for advice.
Q: My battle now is that she doesn’t like wearing panties. She will happily just wear leggings or trousers with nothing underneath. Has anyone found pants that may be a bit more comfortable? Thought about getting boys ones because they have no pretty frilly elastic which I think annoys her or should I just buy bigger ones?
A: Take her shopping with you and have her choose pants in her favourite colours or with characters she likes printed on them. Explain that if she wants to wear these she must try not to have accidents in them as the character doesn’t like to get wet from wee. Avoid any that have lace around the waist or leg holes and make sure they are loose-fitting. Tight elastic cutting into the tops of your legs can be very uncomfortable. There are also boxer-style pants for girls which she may feel more comfortable wearing.
Q: My potty trained three year old has suddenly started weeing in her pants again. She is totally dry at night and for day sleeps and this weeing has coincided with increased jealousy of her baby brother since our return from a long holiday overseas! I know she is doing it on purpose for attention as she doesn’t even try to go to the toilet or potty and is making me see red. Any tips on how to react? At the moment I am getting cross and making her clean up but its the third day in a row… this is almost more accidents than we had the entire training!!
A: Take a moment to breathe and know that you are only human. When children regress like this is only natural to feel frustrated and angry. When the accidents happen, remove your attention. Simply clean her and the mess up and go about your day. Don’t get emotional (I know it’s hard). Your goal is to take away the attention (even if it’s negative attention) that she is trying to get by soiling herself. Soon enough she will seek other ways to get your attention.
The root problem is possibly jealousy. Address that. Give her more time with just you. Go out to the park with just the two of you and have dad look after the baby. Reassure her constantly. Make her feel more involved. Maybe try a reward chart? Works wonders getting them to do (or not do!) various things, and it’s giving her a special type of attention that little brother isn’t getting.
I am a preschool and primary school teacher and mum to 3 children. I have been involved in education since 1997 and have trained in a variety of educational specialist areas. It is with this expertise that I write articles to help parents and educators provide quality learning experiences for the children in their care.