1. Start after 28 months and your 80% more likely to successfully toilet train your child. There are toilet training “fads” out there. People touting the idea that you can toilet train an infant. The one that’s toilet trained, if a child that can’t walk, is the parents. If children can dress themselves and get to the toilet on their own the child is potty trained.
2. Toilet training a child should NEVER be a negative experience. If going to the bathroom is a negative experience, it’s developmentally normal for kids to not want to do it.
3. Toilet training a child should ALWAYS be a positive experience. Children don’t mind practicing something when everyone is positive. A little treat at the end of the practice never hurts helping to make it fun!
4. No skin off my back! The more a parent is pushing or invested in getting a child toilet trained in a certain timeframe, the more likely kids will push back and not toilet train. Pick a weekend, or longer if possible, and plan on staying home and cleaning up messes. If it’s nice outside, go outside. If you have an area of the house with hard surface flooring, confine everyone to it and make it fun. Bake, watch movies, read, color, do another messy activity that you wouldn’t normally do like, finger painting.
5. Plan toilet sits or “potty practice” times. Our bodies naturally go to the bathroom after we wake up and after we eat. Those times should always be “potty practice” times. Add in planned times if you notice a pattern in when your child tends to have accidents or needs to go to the bathroom. The goal is to practice sitting on the toilet, NOT to toilet train them in one weekend.
6. Reward compliance for “potty practice” not being toilet trained. Offer small motivators like small candies, reading time, or game time after each successful practice. Always making each practice positive. Yes, some kids will work this like crazy. Who cares? They are still complying and they are still practicing. Some people have a real problem with rewarding children. Adults work for motivation; its called a paycheck.
7. Increase fluids. The human body can get too much of anything and have problems. Moderately increasing fluids, (they could be one of the motivators for the weekend if it is a liquid they don’t get much of or they never have!) will make it more likely that they will have to go to the bathroom when you are doing “potty practice.” A word of caution. Milk constipates and citrus beverages can make some children urinate more frequently, so stay clear of both.
8. When, not if, an accident occurs, have kids help clean themselves up. Clean-up should depend on their developmental level. A 28-month-old is going to be less help than a 3-year-old. They won’t do a great job with clean-up no matter how old they are. The idea is to drag out how long it takes if they go in their pants versus the toilet. Parents should be very neutral and matter-of-fact during clean-up. Never scold or punish a child who has an accident. That’s why they are called accidents, it wasn’t on purpose. Toilet training should always be positive. Clean-up should always be neutral. Many kids throw temper tantrums when first asked to help clean themselves up. Patiently wait until they are calm and ask again. Repeat as necessary until they finally give up and help out in any way possible. It may be taking their underpants to the laundry. Fine. Let that clean-up be over, and gradually increase how much they are asked to help.
9. Celebrate success! The more excitement following, the even accidental ,“going in the toilet,” the better, then quickly get over it and move on with the day. Celebrate the next success with as much excitement. Again, move on with your day. This approach helps the “no skin off my back” approach to toilet training.
9. No Pony at the end. Parents don’t usually give a prize for walking, talking, sitting up, being born, or many other milestones. Graduation from high school, yes. Being potty trained, no.
It is not uncommon for kids to be bladder (pee) trained before they are bowel (poop) trained. Continue to be patient and practice. Tell your child they need to teach their body to go poop in the toilet (or whatever else you want to call poop). If the child has a history of constipation, check with your pediatrician for guidance before continuing with bowel training. Enriching the child’s diet with fiber rich foods during bowel training, will make it hard to hold and easy to go, which will help speed the process along. Back off on the fiber if stools become too loose, otherwise, you will have a big mess and it is never alright for a child to be getting so much fiber in their diet that they have diarrhea.
Another common question is, “Should I train with a pull up diaper on or put my child in underwear?” I prefer the cold turkey, “We ran out of pull up diapers,” approach. Some prefer to use underwear with a pull up diaper over the top. That way, the discomfort of being wet is still there, but you can take the child places or not have urine all over. They sell special toilet training diapers, but it’s cheaper just to use any remaining diapers. I recommend taking the child with you to buy underwear that they pick out. Kids often don’t like to get their special underwear dirty or wet, so the underwear themselves can be a motivator. Other kids could care less and you have to find other positive ways to motivate them.
Some parents wonder if they should use a plastic toilet that can be used outside of the bathroom. I recommend doing what the child seems most interested in trying. Some kids love decorating and using their own “special” potty chair. A snap-on seat with two kid sized step stools on each side of the toilet for both feet also works well. Kids like to have the step stools so their feet touch the ground as they are going to the bathroom.
I have found a funny difference in how people think boys should urinate. I always assumed that all boys were taught to raise the seat (good luck with that one!) and stand to urinate. Some moms teach their sons to “tuck” their parts between their legs to go so the urine doesn’t get all over. To each his/her own, I try not to judge anyone who wants to do it “their way.” Culturally, especially in a high school locker room, teaching them to stand to urinate is just easier because it is more socially accepted. Throwing a few pieces of cereal in the toilet bowel and letting them aim for them is fun and easy!