I’m finishing my third straight summer of potty training. WooHoo!? (At least that’s what I remember . . . I seem to have blocked out all recollections of potty training my eldest 2ish years ago.) Of all the parenting hurdles I’ve been through, potty training was one of the more daunting the first time around. I had no idea where to start, and three kids and two years later I still don’t have all the answers. But I do have some suggestions that will help you navigate this momentous occasion.
There’s still plenty of warm weather left–you can do it!
(Much of this material is based on knowledge gained from Jamie Glowackie’s excellent book, Oh Crap! Potty Training: Everything Modern Parents Need to Know to Do it Once, and Do it Right. And of course, lots and lots of practice and experience on my part.)
#1: YOU have to be committed.
You have to teach your child to use the bathroom. Bathroom functions themselves are primal and don’t need to be taught, but learning where it’s appropriate to put the pee and poo is a social skill that must be learned. Most kids will not wake up one day and decide that they want to put their pee and poo in the potty. But that’s ok since they have you to teach them! Think about potty training as a gift you give your child.
You need to know that potty training takes a lot of attention on your part. If feasible, have a friend or grandparent keep your other kids on the first or second day of potty training so you can pay full attention to the trainee. It’s hard work for both the child and the parent! It sounds intense, but if all goes well (it did 2 out of 3 times in our house), it only takes this level of commitment for a few days.
As a side note, I’m firmly convinced that potty training is easiest in the warmer months during the second year of life. If the weather’s warm, you can spend all your time outside without clothes on your child so accidents don’t matter. The earlier side of the second year may be better depending on your circumstances and your child.
#2: Learn your child’s “potty dance.”
I was convinced one of my children didn’t have a “potty dance.” I was wrong. And some things got better after I learned it.
A potty dance is something kids do right before they pee. It could be as obvious as grabbing themselves or as innocuous as turning their feet in. Nobody likes using the potty three million times a day, so learn your child’s potty dance so you actually know when they have to go.
#3: “Easy Catches”
Soon after your youngster starts using the potty he/she may resent your suggestions (read, demands) to use the potty. However, reminding your child to potty is still crucial since he is probably not skilled enough to always remember to go.
You can work around this by establishing specific times that your child MUST use the potty. For example, your child should use the potty before going anywhere/immediately after coming home, before starting a new activity, and after sitting for a while. The goal is to make going potty routine so YOU are not the bad guy interrupting play.
And I have a couple bonus tips on potty training if you’re still with me…
#4: Don’t ditch the crib!
If your child is still in the crib, the crib is your friend. Do not eliminate the crib just because you are potty training. For the first little bit, your child needs help getting to the potty so the crib is not a barrier. I’ve taught my toddlers to call me (or one just cries) when they need to potty.
Potty training is a huge developmental milestone. Don’t make it harder by adding another milestone of a “big kid” bed. One bonus of leaving your child in the crib during early potty training is that you’ll always know where the accident happened.
There will come a time when your child can get to the potty himself. He may be frustrated to be stuck in the crib when he knows he’s gotta go. This is your time to get rid of the crib.
#5: Take your little potty EVERYWHERE.
Trust me. It’s easier to have your little kid potty in the car than to run into an emergency situation. I keep a mason jar next to it to keep the pee in until we get home. Also, most parks in Albuquerque do not have bathroom facilities.