Easier said than done right? If this is true, then why is potty training considered amongst the most dreaded of all child rearing milestones, right up there with teething and driving. When I was approaching this phase with my oldest I had the same anxieties as most parents do over the thought of potty training. I have boys…oh joy! For those of you who don’t know, boys are generally considered harder to potty train than girls (I have no idea why), and I had the added challenge of the fact that mine could not hear well, or speak well (due to a later corrected problem from fluid in his ears). He was on the youngish side at 2.5, but I was pregnant with my second, and I had to check three major things off of my to-do list before #2 arrived: 1.) Breaking up with binky; 2.) Crib eviction; and 3.) Potty training!
Being logical and studious, I resorted to a variety of books for the most surefire method to accomplish this task. My type-A and impatient side led me to choose one that said it could be done in 3 days. Perfect I thought, I can handle anything for 3 days. After reading, highlighting and making notations throughout this guide I was prepared to tackle the challenge head-on, with only mild apprehension (or delusion).
When I told my husband that we were tethered to the house for three full days where we would do nothing but focus our attention on potty training he seemed doubtful and somewhat terrified, but he also trusted that if I believed it could be done, that it would be. Being somewhat more experienced in this area my mother laughed, and sarcastically wished me luck. She did not believe for a solitary second that my child, who had never voluntarily used a toilet, had even the slightest chance of being potty trained in three short days.
I buckled down, stuck with it, and guess what….HE WAS! It took a few more weeks to get through the nights dry, but after two days he didn’t have a single accident during the day. Now I know what you are thinking, this was a fluke. Maybe, but using the same method my best friend potty trained my God son in a weekend, and similarly I potty trained my youngest over the course of just under a week. Here are the basics that I believe can help with even the most stubborn of children, regardless of age.
- Readiness (this is really key)- I know this seems like it should go without saying, but trying to potty train a child when they refuse to use the potty, or are too young to understand what is going on is pointless. If they are showing some interest in underwear or using the toilet, and are able to stay dry for long stretches of time, then they are likely ready.
- Planning- Take them to pick our underwear, talk to them about what is happening, talk about how great life is without diapers, then settle in for a 3 day stretch devoted to figuring this out together. For at least the first two days don’t plan to leave the house. This is important because there will be many accidents, and they MUST be near a toilet at all times for this to work.
- Focus- Trying to potty train when they are engulfed in other major life changes is not the right time. Additionally, trying to do this passively while going about your normal daily activities will be more difficult because you need to help your child identify their need to go.
- Self direction- This is about them learning when they have to go, not about mom or dad constantly putting them on the toilet to see what happens. If they are wet, take them to the bathroom and see if they have to go more, then clean them up and remind them that they need to make it to the potty before, not during or after.
- Toss the safety net- The diapers and pull-ups have to go, this is non-negotiable. I know the thought of accidents is intimidating, but they need to know what it feels like to be wet and uncomfortable. They also need to know that you have faith in their ability to do this.
- Consistency- You are trying to teach your child a new skill, and like any other, repetition and consistency are key. Accidents will happen, but continue to encourage them, clean up the mess and move on.
- Rewards- This needs to be something they are excited about, and rewards are important, as is praise. It can be small treats, or the promise of one big thing at the end when they accomplish their goal, but avoid letting them see you get discouraged or feeling like they will be punished if they have an accident.
- No backsliding- Don’t resort back to pull ups or diapers for car trips, grocery shopping, rest time etc., and know that accidents will happen. I drove around for 6 months with the potty chair in the back of my car just in case he had to “go” on the go. It worked great!
I won’t pretend that every kid can be potty trained day and night within 3 days, but with the above tips your likelihood of successfully knocking this off of your milestone bucket list will be much higher. It’s helpful to remember that eventually they will all figure it out, so don’t beat yourself up if after a few days it just doesn’t seem to be sinking in, they may just need a bit longer, or you may need to give them a few more months then try again when they are exhibiting the readiness discussed in point 1. I hope this helps alleviate some of the anxiety some of you may feel about this topic, because after all…its just potty training!