Oh the joys of getting rid of diapers and the dreaded “potty training”. There is so much information out there now about how and when to potty train. You could train an infant if you wanted but this is clearly “adult-led” training because there are 3 key components that must be in place in order for a child to learn to go on the potty. I really enjoyed reading Janet Lansbury’s post on the “3 Reasons Kids Don’t Need Toilet Training” because simply put, they will let you know when they are ready and if they have these 3 key components in place, it should be easy.
First of all, they need to physically be able to control their bladder and bowel capacity and have good muscle control. Is your child waking up dry after naps? Do you find that their diaper is dry after several hours and then all of a sudden soaking wet? This is a good sign that they have good bladder control.
Second, they must have the cognitive function to know when they need to eliminate urine and feces and are fully aware of what they are supposed to do. Daniel Tiger has a catchy tune, “If you have to go potty, STOP and go right away”. If your child is able to recognize that their bladder is full and that they need to stop what they are doing and go to the bathroom and go then this is a great sign. You may notice a potty dance, or they stop dead in their tracks to urinate. We also see this with our toddlers hiding behind furniture to have a bowel movement. If you can catch them before they start to hide then you could encourage them to try on the potty.
Lastly, and most important, they must have the emotional awareness that they are ready to get rid of diapers and wear underwear. It can be very comforting for some children to continue to urinate and release their feces into a diaper whenever they feel like it and if they aren’t ready to let go of this aspect, it can be a power struggle. Keep comments positive and light and don’t over prompt with trying on the potty. I would also recommend using statements like “Let’s go try on the potty!” vs. “Do you want to try?” Because it’ll be “No” every time. And if they refuse to go, you can make a game of it and bring some toys, books etc. into the potty to entertain while they sit. I would not recommend giving a reward each time they use the potty because this is a biological need and that would require a LOT of rewards! You can use positive reinforcement with each time they try and if you want to start a sticker chart then I would recommend rewarding them with a fun outing to the park or children’s museum instead of food or toys.
Once you are confident they are ready to get rid of diapers, GO FOR IT! Pick a long weekend, clear your social calendar, throw away the diapers together, push the fluids and watch your child for signs of needing to use the bathroom. Yes there will be accidents but urine is sterile enough to drink! (Not that I would recommend this…) But the best thing you can do is let them run around naked and help them go from “clueless to confident” with potty training. Just make sure you are keeping it positive and your expectations low. Jamie Glowacki has a great book called “Oh Crap! Potty Training: Everything Modern Parents Need to Know to Do It Once and Do it Right” that I have really enjoyed reading and would recommend to anyone who wants some guidance on how to do it. I definitely agree with her philosophy of throwing away the diaper. And if you buy pull ups, it will only take longer because these are still diapers, people!
One last tip I want to leave you with…make sure that your child is not constipated before you start toilet training. Fiber is your friend and so please make sure your child’s stools are soft so that they don’t associate pain with defecation. Here are a list of fiber rich foods and how much fiber we need on a daily basis.