Potty Training. It must be the most dreaded undertaking in parenting. I once read that the reason why it sucks so bad is because we don’t remember our own experience being toilet trained so we don’t know where to start. For all my frugal moms out there, I have also read more money is spent on marketing potty training than any other hurdle parents go through while raising kids. Think about all the books, training pants, underpants, practice pottys, toddler toilet paper, small toilet seats, potty prizes and the list goes on and on. So, by design, parents spend A LOT of money on training their kids. Unfortunately, I do not remember the sources of these because I read them in grad school, so bear with me. When did potty training become so complicated and expensive?!
I have successfully potty trained only two children, so I am no expert. I am sure my 3rd babe will provide me with more learning experiences. I have, however, observed and participated in dozens of children going through training. These are the major problems I’ve encountered:
- Toilet training is starting too late
My personal soap box here…obviously every child is different and is living in different circumstances. Moms, we all know that most annoying stage where children have opinions about everything and will resist mommy’s suggestions given any opportunity (usually about 2-3 years old). I feel that is the hardest stage to potty train. Why not choose an age when your child is eager to please and wants to learn new things?
I trained my son the instant he showed interest at 20 months. I put underwear on him and he was so excited every time I asked him to sit down. He was eager to try to learn. He was trained in a few days both day and night.
My daughter showed interest around the same time (20 months) and again at a little over 2 years old. I put it off because I was overwhelmed with my 3rd pregnancy. I finally committed to training her at almost 3 years old. I could not even get her to sit on the toilet when I asked. She would stomp her feet, yell “No!” and only would try to sit on the toilet if I hadn’t suggested it for several hours. Let me tell you, it was a true battle of wills. I experienced the same kind of behaviors when I worked in a preschool during college. The older kids just had a harder time adjusting.
- Kids being trained on a child size potty will only use the toilet they have been trained on and won’t relieve themselves anywhere else.
Other toilets are too big, too loud, flush at random (automatic). These are all the excuses I’ve heard children say about why they need their own toilet. I have seen parents caring around a training potty in the mall and bring them to preschool. The child becomes accustomed to the Minnie Mouse potty that will sing her song when she pees. Again, when did potty training become so complicated! Just sit them down on a regular toilet. Try using a simple child size toilet seat so it is more comfortable for your child to sit and he/she won’t have to hold on to keep from falling in.
- The use of training diapers (pull-ups)
I can’t not express enough my disdain for pull-ups. Pointless. I didn’t use them for my first because I knew from experience it made the process longer. I was having trouble training my almost 3-year-old (remember the battle of wills?) so someone talked me into using them, huge mistake. To a child, pull-ups are a diaper they can pull up and down. Pull-ups don’t feel different from diapers so it takes longer to train when they don’t feel a change. I tried putting the pull-ups on only at night but my little princess would just ‘hold it’ all day and when the pull-up went on at night, she unloaded. My friend’s daughter would drop a #2 in her pull-up and then peel the diaper down and fling it across the room. Pull-ups just make it easier for children to make a big poopy mess.
Of course, all the above points are just my observations. I would guess there are exceptional circumstances when a child would need to train later or use pull-ups at night.
Here are some tips if you don’t know where to start.
- For starters, remember to always use positive reinforcement. Yelling, negative talk, and punishment might turn your child off to the idea of training.
- Reward your child with something small, like a sticker or a single chocolate chip. If the reward is big, your child might expect something big every time and that just gets expensive.
- Use a reward that your child will WANT to work for. My son LOVED cars at the time so I found a bag of them at a yard sale for a couple of dollars. For the first day, he got to choose a Hot Wheels car every time he went to the restroom. He also LOVES sugar. On day two, he got to choose a single marshmallow or a chocolate chip.
- Try using a Potty Training Chart once your child gets the idea. It gives them something to work for and be proud of. After the first couple days, my son and daughter would only get a “potty prize” for every five times they went to the bathroom. The chart in the link allows you to customize it. Try coloring every 3rd star yellow. When your child uses the restroom, have him/her color the first star, then the second, and so on. When your child reaches a yellow star, a “potty prize” can be awarded.
- If there is an accident (and there will be), stay calm and be positive. Be mindful that you don’t sound like you’re rewarding your child with positive praise. Try using an indifferent tone and simply ask, “Where does pee and poop go?” After your child answers, say, “Now, we need to clean up your mess.”
- Children do not like their bodily fluids in their pants and running down their legs. This gives them more of an incentive to use the toilet. When there is an accident, have your child take off their own pants and underpants then ask them to put them in the laundry. He/she won’t like this one bit, but it’s a natural consequence for them.
- Items I bought that were TRULY HELPFUL:
- A potty seat– It’s helpful for small children so they don’t fall into the big toilet. Keep it simple and buy one that is plastic. It will be easy to clean. Avoid buying one with cartoon characters or gender specific so you can use it for another child later.
- 1 or 2 books about using the toilet: My kids really liked It’s Time To Pee. It is a fast and easy book to read and my kiddos liked the illustrations with the mice holding signs.
- Training pants: Thicker underwear that doesn’t feel like a diaper but will absorb more of the accidents that might happen (less clean up!)
- You know your child best! However you decide to toilet train your child, just BE CONSISTENT. Chose a plan and stick to it. When I finally got rid of the training diapers and chose a strict plan, my daughter realized I wasn’t going to budge. She was completely trained in one day. She hasn’t had an accident since, nether day or night.
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