It’s a time all parents long for, and also sort of dread: potty training. Learning to use a toilet is an exciting (and somewhat stressful) time for both parents and kids. The ability to use the ‘big kid’ toilet builds confidence and independence in kids, and parents no longer have the expense of diapers and pull-ups.
Each child is ready to potty train at different ages and stages, so it’s important to understand the signs of when your child is ready to potty train and employ methods that work best for your child. Establishing a bathroom routine early in the potty training process builds healthy habits that benefit your child for a lifetime.
Is My Child Ready to Potty Train?
Parents who have potty trained more than one child probably noticed that each child is ready to potty train at different ages and stages, and the process will look different for each child.
For example, younger siblings have older brothers and sisters they look up to and want to imitate and may start showing signs earlier. Potty training can also look different for boys and girls. There are some signs that are universal to all kids, though, so keep an eye out for them to determine when your child is ready for potty training.
Preparing for Potty Training: Most children are excited to potty train, but there are some kids who are more reluctant. Prepare your child for potty training by letting them observe the bathroom habits of you and older siblings. Let them practice flushing the toilet, show them how you wash your hands, and make them part of the process so they get used to what to do. Reading books and/or watching videos with your child about potty training is also helpful.
Look and Listen: When your child is still in diapers/pull-ups begins to tell you they have to go to the bathroom, that’s a sign they are ready to potty train. Other signs include staying dry for two or more hours, wanting to watch you use the bathroom, feeling bothered by wet or dirty diapers, and engaging in patterns when they go to the bathroom, like hiding in a corner when they go, and/or going at regular intervals during the day.
Physical Milestones: Your child needs to have the physical skills to use the toilet, so make sure your child can pull pants down and up (or is at least trying to), can get on and off the potty seat safely, and has the language to tell you when he/she needs to go to the bathroom.
Are You Ready to Potty Train?
Once your child is exhibiting signs they are ready to potty train, there are some things you will need to have one hand to make the process easier.
Clothing: Make sure you have some long shirts on hand that go below your child’s private parts. This is needed because the day you don’t put them in diapers, your child will ‘go commando’. Your child will know they don’t have diapers on and there is nothing to catch their urine or bowel movements. When they have an accident (and there are typically a lot of accidents), they will see that it makes a mess, and this will trigger the desire to use a potty chair or seat instead.
Have Drinks on Hand: Encourage your child to drink more fluids than usual, which will trigger the need to pee more frequently and provide more opportunities for using the toilet. After drinking, if your child doesn’t ask to go to the bathroom, gently prompt them to go into the bathroom and sit on the potty seat or potty chair, even if they don’t end up going. This helps establish the healthy habit of using the bathroom proactively and not waiting until the urge to go is strong.
Prizes: Potty training is a process of encouragement, not discipline. It’s not about punishing accidents, it’s about rewarding successes. Go to your local dollar store and have little prizes on hand, like stickers, coloring books, action figures, or other little toys. Gently remind your child that the prizes are for using the potty seat/chair, not after accidents. Be clear and consistent about rewarding your child’s successes.
Carve out Time: Potty training is an intensive, time-consuming process, especially if you are following the three-day method of potty training. Set aside a weekend or other three-day period of time when you aren’t distracted or have other obligations. You will spend nearly every waking minute with your child during the three-day potty training process.
Build Up to Potty Training: A week before beginning potty training in earnest, tell your child that it’s ‘time to say good-bye’ to diapers and/or pull-ups. You can make this a total good-bye or a partial good-bye, depending on the potty training method you will use. A partial good-bye could mean you will still use diapers for naps and sleeping at night, for example. If you will completely eliminate diapers right away, count the remaining diapers with your child and do a ‘count-down’ each day until the diapers are gone. Keep one diaper aside before bedtime the night before you begin. The most important thing is that once you start full potty training make sure your child wears underwear (or goes ‘commando’) all day, and keep nighttime diapers on hand to use if needed.
Potty Training Charts: There are many helpful potty training charts available, and some are free! You may find a chart useful to track progress, and they are fun for kids to use as well. You can use the chart to track milestones and award prizes for reaching predetermined goals!
The 3-Day Potty Training Method
- When the day arrives that you and your child are ready to potty train, the first thing to do after your child wakes up is remove their dirty diaper and say ‘good-bye’ to it, with your child, when you dispose of the diaper.
- Do not put underwear on your child, but rather have them wear a full-sized t-shirt with nothing underneath, and explain there is nothing to catch their pee and poop and that they will use the “big kid’ toilet (or potty seat) today. Make it sound like an exciting thing to do, but don’t make it too overwhelming.
- Show them where to go, whether you are using a stand-alone potty seat or a seat that sits on top of the toilet. Which method you use depends on what works best for your family; some people prefer to use only the bathroom for toilet-related things, and in this case you can put a stand-alone potty in the bathroom. An alternative is to have a stand-alone potty easily accessible to your child no matter which room they are in at any given time. Keep in mind that the habits you establish early on will be what your child prefers to do, so make sure you choose a method you can use for a while.
- Give your child extra drinks with breakfast, and right after the meal encourage them to use the potty. Even if they don’t go, the idea is to establish a pattern/habit of using the potty after meals. Whether or not your child goes to the bathroom, talk through washing hands to establish that healthy habit early on. Take your child to the bathroom after every meal.
- Continue with your day, but remember you will not be leaving the house for three days while using this method of potty training, especially on the first day. Find fun activities to do like games, coloring, or other interactive activities so you can watch your child for signs they need to go to the bathroom.
- Keep a sippy cup with healthy drinks on hand, so your child needs to use the bathroom more frequently. Take your child to the bathroom at regular intervals to “try” to use the bathroom, whether that is every 15 or 30 minutes, but it is not recommended to wait longer than 30 minutes.
- Continue this pattern all day, but stop providing liquids immediately following dinner.
- Use the potty immediately before bed.
- Set an alarm for mid-way through the evening to wake up your child and encourage them to use the bathroom.
- Repeat this process for the next two days. On days two and/or three you can venture outside for short periods of time, but stay close to home or go places your child can use the potty seat anytime. Be sure to bring the potty seat with you on these outings. The idea is that you want as predictable a routine as possible during this three-day stretch, so your child becomes accustomed to the patterns and healthy habits you are establishing.
What to Do at Night When Using the 3-Day Potty Training Method
Whether or not you use diapers at night and/or during naps is a personal decision, and it also depends on the physical development of your child. Some children – boys in particular – are not physically ready to hold their urine all night, and if your child has frequent nap time or nighttime accidents it is likely because they physically cannot hold their urine that long.
If there are frequent nighttime accidents you can go back to using diapers at night, but explain to your child that diapers are still okay at night but they will be using the ‘big-kid’ potty during the day. Make your child be involved in this process and talk to them about it as you go along, at a level they can understand.
When your child’s diaper/pull-up is regularly dry in the morning, you can begin using underwear at night, but it still may be a good idea to set an alarm and encourage your child to use the bathroom once during the night.
Which Potty Training Chair is Right for You?
You would think getting a potty training chair would be a straightforward process but there are a few things to consider before buying:
Free Standing Chair vs. Potty Seat: A free standing potty chair has many advantages. It’s portable, so you can take it anywhere you go, and it’s easy for kids to get on and off by themselves. It’s enough like a real toilet that they get the hang of the motions and actions involved. Free standing chairs are good for smaller children and children who potty train at an earlier age than most. One disadvantage is that you have to be able to clean out the chair after each use, which typically involves dumping the contents into a real toilet, so it helps to be near a bathroom even if you use a free standing chair. Some kids are intimidated by the toilet, and a free standing chair is a great option for them.
A potty seat that rests on top of the toilet takes up less space, and makes for a simpler transition to the regular toilet when the time is right. It makes the toilet higher, though, so you will need a stepping stool or other safe method to help your child position themselves correctly on the potty seat. You also need to find a convenient place to store the seat when your child isn’t using it, to make it easy for others to use the toilet, but it needs to be in a clean, convenient place your child can access.
Safety: For potty seats, be sure to get one with a non-slip undercoating, so the chair doesn’t slide around. There are seats with handle grips on the side that many kids (and parents) prefer as well.
Potty Seats for Boys vs. Girls: There are unisex potty chairs available, but it’s important to take into consideration the different needs boys and girls have when going to the bathroom. A potty seat with a splash guard may be needed for boys. There are also unisex chairs with a built-in splash guard for boys but that also work well for girls. For both boys and girls, finding a chair or seat with some padding makes it easier for them to sit comfortably (because they may be there a while).
Cleaning: For any seat you choose, think about the ease of cleaning. Some seats have a lot of parts that come off and on, and while the design may look and feel fancy, bear in mind each piece will need to be thoroughly cleaned after each use.
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The material contained is for reference purposes only. Alliance Labs, LLC and Summit Pharmaceuticals do not assume responsibility for patient care. Consult a physician prior to use. Copyright 2020 Summit Pharmaceuticals and Alliance Labs, LLC.