All caught up? Great! Let’s keep going.
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There’s not much I can teach you about potty training which is better than the book which I recommended in Part 1 of this series. It’s that good. If you need help getting started or making progress with your child, this is where to go.
However, I did learn a few things along the way and came up with some helpful nuggets of wisdom which may make things easier for you – hopefully reducing some of the stress this can cause!
Helpful Tip #1: Invest in tools to make this as barrier free for your child as possible!
What do I mean by that? Don’t be cheap. If you want your child to succeed (and succeed quickly), give them every possible advantage and tool they might need in order to be successful.
Since I hate clutter, and I hate wasting money on excessive “stuff”, I was trying to be cheap the first couple of days with potty training Matthew. I only bought him a potty insert to use on the regular toilet. I rationalized this initially thinking it would be good to get him acclimated to the big potty right away so we wouldn’t have to get him used to it later. But after the first couple of days, I realized that I needed to lower the barriers to using the toilet – and since the regular toilet was too large for him to use comfortably (even with the insert), I made a Target run and picked up other supplies. In my opinion, it’s best to have a potty insert (because they will need to acclimate to the large toilet eventually, and Matthew got to the point where he wanted to pick which toilet he’d use which gave him a little control over the situation), a small potty (it’s quick and easy to use, especially when you don’t have a lot of time to get them set up on the regular toilet, plus you can move it around or use it in the car if necessary), and a step stool (to help them get up to the regular toilet and to use for hand washing afterwards).
One thing I bought that I don’t think you need to waste your money on is flushable wipes. I bought a package of these in the beginning, found we didn’t use them often, and by the time we did need them, they had dried out. If it’s messy enough that you need a wet wipe, just use your regular baby wipes and be sure to dispose of them in the trash (not the toilet) to keep your septic from clogging. Save your money here, and use it to buy a little potty instead!
Helpful Tip #2: Set up some special “treats” by the toilet to encourage your child to sit for longer when trying to go.
If your child is anything like mine, taking time out from playing to sit on the potty and try to go when they are just learning was not acceptable! Matthew just wanted to sit for a second, say “nope, nothing there!”, hop off, run out the door and then pee on the floor two minutes later. You need to keep them on the potty a bit longer than they want to in order for them to feel the need to go and get familiar with controlling that part of their bodies. Some special toys, books, or games that can be used only when they are sitting on the toilet can be a great way to get them to sit there for a couple extra minutes. You may even need to pull out some entertainment of your own – I made up a silly song and dance that I sang to Matthew, but I would only sing it when he was trying to use the bathroom. So if he wanted to hear the song, he had to try the bathroom.
Now this is different than a reward system after doing a good job on the toilet. You want to encourage them to go and to make it fun for them to try, but for things like this which are mandatory to learn, I didn’t want to train him to expect a treat each time he did a good job. He’s not going to get a treat at daycare when he goes there, and he won’t be getting treats each time he goes as he gets older and more proficient at using the toilet. I didn’t want the lack of treat in those situations to discourage all the progress we made at home! We praised loudly and often when he did good, but there was no reward for doing it right outside of that.
Helpful Tip #3: Have lots of throw blankets and diaper changing pads at the ready!
In the very beginning stages of potty training, it’s recommended to have your child spend some time naked so that you can help see when they have to go to the bathroom and talk them through what’s happening and what needs to happen next. However, this inevitably leads to a lot of accidents and messes in places in your house where you don’t normally have these types of messes!
My home is 90% wood or tile flooring, and we generally spend a lot of time down on the floor with the kids playing. Messes on those floor surfaces didn’t bother me too much since they were easy to clean and disinfect. However, couches and carpet are a bit trickier to deal with!
Since I’m one of those ladies that’s always cold, I own a ton of throw blankets. As I was thinking through the prep for potty training, I decided since throw blankets are so easy to pop in the wash, I would just cover all my furniture and carpeting with throw blankets until Matthew got better control of himself. Matthew asked why there were blankets everywhere, and since I didn’t want him to know that I was expecting him to make a mess (accidents are going to happen in the beginning, but I didn’t want to show him a lack of faith), I simply said that I was redecorating for a little while, to see what it would look like to have a blue couch instead of a white one, or a purple carpet instead of a grey one. Matthew thought that was great, and we entertained ourselves by switching up the colored blankets on the furniture to try out different color schemes – all the while keeping things as easy to clean up as possible for when the guaranteed accident occurred.
In addition, when Matthew started doing well enough with his potty training at home that we started to take him out from the house with no diaper protection, I wrapped one of the diaper changing pads (I talked about these in this post: Diaper Changing Essentials – The Only 5 Things You Really Need) around the car seat insert. They were thin enough to not risk the tight fit needed for the car seat to be safe, but absorbent and disposable enough that I wouldn’t have to take the time to wash to car seat insert all the time.
Helpful Tip #4: When you do start to leave the home with a freshly potty-trained child, plan your trips carefully.
This is not the time to do a 3-hour marathon car trip. Think instead 1-3 stops as you are running errands per day, and then back to the house. This may mean more wasted time, more trips back and forth, and less efficiency for you, but you don’t want to overly stress out your child and risk a public accident (which would be embarrassing for both you and your child). It’s a temporary loss of time for you – you will get past this and be able to do longer stretches out and about again!
We also planned our errands around which public bathrooms were readily available and clean, making sure that the majority of places we were visiting had options in case we needed them.
Helpful Tip #5: If you are away from home with your child, bring an oversized bag which allows you to carry the potty insert for use wherever you are.
Unless you are going to a child specific play area, it’s unlikely that a smaller toilet or potty insert will be available for your use when you are out and about. And the large toilets can be tricky for your child to use. Even if you are helping to hold them in place over the opening, they may not feel secure enough to do what they need to do. I routinely took the potty insert with me, tucked away inside of a plastic grocery bag, tucked out of sight in an oversize bag I used as a purse during this time. It made Matthew much more comfortable and allowed him to rely on me less and himself more.
The few times I did forget to pack the insert and we needed him to use the bathroom, we found that sitting him on the toilet backwards was more successful and comfortable for him. Instead of sitting like we use the toilet, have them straddle the opening facing the back of the toilet. This worked like a charm! First off, Matthew was able to use the narrow part of the toilet seat as a small seat which he felt more secure with. Secondly, it was so different to use the potty this way that he was more than excited to go when asked! Luckily, as he’s gotten bigger and can sit normally without the insert now, he’s forgotten all about sitting backwards. It was never an issue to break him out of that.
Helpful Tip #6: Find out your daycare/school regulations ahead of time so you can speed train to underwear if necessary.
In order for this to make sense, you need to read the book I recommended in Part 1. She talks about working your child through various stages – the naked stage, partial clothes, adding underwear, etc. Since underwear is tight on the body, it can mimic the feeling of a diaper and some children can regress when you move to adding underwear into the clothing mix.
Unfortunately, many daycares have a rule that a child has to either be wearing underwear or a diaper while at the facility. They don’t allow them to go commando underneath their clothing. This was the case with the daycare we were using. So we had to speed train Matthew to using underwear. I do suspect we had a little more regression, but it worked itself out. But make sure you know the regulations ahead of time so you can adequately prepare your child (and yourself!) for a little extra learning, laundry and patience.
And if your child does come home from daycare with a diaper on (as Matthew did a few times), take it off immediately. Tell your child that they are big now, no longer need diapers, and will do a great job on the potty. Don’t allow them to think there is any other option besides doing it right!
Helpful Tip #7: Above all, trust your child, and let them know that you believe they can do this!
Having faith in your child and truly believing that they can succeed at this is one of the biggest parts – and this takes more work on your part that your child’s. If your child picks up on doubt and frustration on your end, it’s likely they will think they cannot succeed, and they won’t try as hard for you. But if you show them you believe in them and really cheer them on, you’ll be amazed at what this small person is capable of.
And as your child starts to prove their ability with the toilet, give them more trust, and don’t second guess them. It’s hard, and I had a very difficult time with this, but eventually I just had to trust that Matthew got it. If I asked him if he had to use the bathroom, and he said no, I had to trust he was learning his body and telling me the truth – and then I had to let it go! And 90% of the time he was correct. Accidents will still happen (they are still children after all, and learning a big new skill), but if you demonstrate patience and faith in their ability, those accidents will become few and far between.
I distinctly remember reading this line from the book – “There will come a time when you no longer think about poop all day long.” I laughed as I read the line before potty training started. As I was in the early training phases, I realized that it wasn’t as funny as it seemed – I really did think about poop (and pee) constantly! But as with everything we teach our children – eating, getting dressed, picking up their toys, etc. – it does get better, and eventually you can go back to life without the constant underlying thought of poop!
It happened for us, and I know it can for you as well!
All the best,
P.S. Part 3 of this series won’t be released for a while – Emma is currently only 7 months old, and I plan to potty train her somewhere around 2 or 2.5 years of age. At that time we will see how well this works with her personality!
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