Potty Training 101
The information in this issue is a summary of the information given at the Potty-Training Workshop given at CLA on October 26th, 2020.
Every parent is faced with the decision of when to start potty training. We are going to look at the simple question of is my child ready? The parent’s role, the teacher’s role, what will potty training look like in school, the emotional part and some practical tips to help you through the process. Potty training is a journey, you will get through it!
The science behind potty training suggests that by 12 months a child is briefly able to control their bodily functions. Children’s bodies and muscular systems are developed enough to be trained by 24 months. Potty behaviors are habitual behaviors; therefore, children need to form the habit of using the bathroom. In other parts of the world parents start potty training during infancy. Typically, in the United States we start later than most other countries. So, how do you know if your child is ready? They are ready if they can walk to the potty by themselves and can sit unassisted. Communication is preferred but not necessary to start training. If you are waiting for your child to show interest before you start you could be waiting forever. Some children never show interest in using the bathroom, but still are ready to begin potty training.
Potty training must start with parents. Parent’s need to decide if they are ready to start the potty-training journey. It takes commitment, follow through, and time. Life is busy, but the more time and commitment you give the more it will pay off in the long run. Once you make the decision, keep moving forward and don’t regress. Potty training is the first real act of personal responsibility we place on our children. They need you to help them be ready for this new adventure. This is a natural part of life, so introduce it and follow through. Your end result will be a potty-trained child. Try not to make excuses for our child. Make your expectations clear, they can do it! Again, fully commit and once you start don’t stop!
The teacher’s part is to support the process. The expectation is the same for home and school. In the classroom potty training is only positive. The teacher will create a potty schedule and group training will begin. Sometimes peer pressure to use the potty will help motivate those who are hesitant to try. Teachers will communicate to parents any new behaviors surrounding the potty.
Let’s look at practical things to do to get started on the journey. The first goal is to get your child to make that first pee in the potty. Some children will be quicker to do this, but others will need the timer method. Have your child sit on the potty until the timer goes off. Then each time set it for a bit longer. Once your child makes the first pee on the potty, celebrate! Use an effective reward for your child. M&M’s, skittles, or stickers work well. Reward positive behavior but don’t bribe, this can lead to problems later. Use the timer method until they can use the potty on demand and then, back off the timer and use rewards. Eventually, the rewards stop too. Don’t forget to give lots of praise for all potty attempts. Once your child is using the toilet regularly then it is a good idea to say goodbye to diapers altogether.
One effective method is the “pants off method”. This is the method when you remove both the diaper and pants. If you choose to use this method, it works best if you stay home and cancel your plans. This can be difficult to do because of our busy schedules but it is the easiest and fastest method to get your child trained. Taking away the option to use a diaper motivates children to use the bathroom. It is also helpful to use real body terms just like the teachers will do at school.
Some parents worry that potty training can leave lasting emotional trauma. While this is unlikely, you will find whatever emotions your child shows during potty training are quick to pass once potty training is over. Don’t let fear control what you do or keep you from moving forward. You may experience some power struggle over using the bathroom. One thing you can do is use the “first, then” statements. “First potty, then______________. It is understandable that it is difficult to see your child upset or struggling but know that they will get through it. If your child is typically developing then resistance is likely not cognitive, but more behavioral. Remember, the longer you wait the harder it can get because children get use to not using the potty and stop paying attention to their body signals. That can be an extremely hard habit to break. Children that are trained later can have more resistance, accidents or tantrums surrounding the process. If your child is having frequent accidents, try increasing the frequency they are sitting on the potty. The main thing is to stand your ground and not give in. Once you have started the process just keep moving forward. You and your child will get through it!