“Mommy, I went pee and poo in the potty!” Lily’s voice is high with excitement as I come around the corner to check on her activity in the bathroom. In the last couple of days, she’s started telling me she can go by herself—and going when she needs to go, instead of just when I tell her to go. It’s a huge, rewarding step in what feels like a long potty training journey.
I have two girls in underwear now (and one more still in diapers!), and while I’m not an expert on potty training, I have noticed a few things that helped both of my girls learn.
1. They were ready.
Before I started potty training, I scoffed at the idea that children had to be ready to do it. It was more about the parents, I thought, and when they were ready to work with their children on this. Sunshine changed my mind on that. With both of my daughters, I’ve had potty and underwear ready for them… before they were ready for it. I made suggestions and encouraged, but didn’t have much success.
Then there was one day when each of them woke up and said, “I want to wear underwear” and that was the beginning of their potty training. After that, they didn’t want diapers. They wanted to be “big girls” and, even though they still had accidents, they generally kept trying to go potty on the toilet and to be motivated themselves to do it.
2. Don’t scold or punish.
Accidents are frustrating. Very frustrating. Especially when they happen at the perfect times (like when you are getting ready to go somewhere) or in the perfect places (like on the couch or the bed). I’ve gotten really upset at a few accidents and noticed that doesn’t help either of them—or me. Instead, I’ve learned to take a deep breath and to talk calmly to them about what they could have done instead. They could have come inside instead of playing outside. They could have gone potty before getting in the truck. They could have told Mommy. And if they told Mommy, we’d be ready to play again already instead of still cleaning up the mess.
Since Lily was also old enough to get dressed herself, I had her change her wet clothes if she had an accident and put the dirty clothes in the laundry. Sometimes I also got her to mop up the puddle with paper towels. These natural consequences helped her learn about her mistakes without either of us getting upset.
3. Let them feel wet.
Sunshine was potty trained around the time that she was two years old (just before Lily was born) and it only took a few months. She wore cloth diapers and knew when she was wet and asked for a diaper change immediately. By the time Lily started potty training, our cloth diapers had worn out so she was wearing disposables. She was much less motivated to start training and is now almost three and finally (I hope!) trained. I strongly believe that the sensation of being wet helps children learn to go potty. Whether that means cloth diapers, potty training pants, or simply going cold turkey and putting them in underwear (and putting up with the accidents for a while), let your child experience his bodily signals. Disposable diapers and pull-ups don’t let children feel the wet to the same extent and so they don’t learn the signals that precede feeling wet.
Finally, remember that potty training is a stage. It may seem like it takes a while (and some children may take longer than others, like Lily!) but eventually, they all figure out how to do it… so buy more paper towels and keep smiling.
Bonnie Way is a freelance writer, editor and blogger. She has three daughters (ages 5, 3, and newborn) who enjoy reading books, building with their blocks, and playing in parks. When she’s not on her computer, Bonnie can be found baking cookies, rock climbing, or trying to take pictures of her girls. She and her husband have been married for six years and live in Victoria, BC. Bonnie blogs three times a week about motherhood or what’s she reading and also hangs out on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.
Thanks so much for sharing with us Bonnie!! I would love to have YOU share your Potty Training story and tips, email me at Lindsey@Happyhouseof5.com today.