Having three kids means having to potty train three times! I have a history of saying that potty training is one of the worst parts of parenting. It can be messy and frustrating, and emotionally draining for both the kiddo and the mom. Luckily, after successfully potty training two kids, I’ve learned a few tips that will hopefully make this next go around as painless as possible. I’m partnering with Munchkin today to share my top Five Potty Training Tips:
1. Don’t Rush It
Although kids can be potty trained as early as you want (with lots of patience and commitment on the parent’s part) I am of the camp that says waiting until your child is ready allows for a much easier, faster process. The idea of “ready” can be ambiguous, however. For me, “ready” looks like old enough to talk about the potty, only needing a diaper change 2-3 times a day instead of 15, and able to maneuver clothing easily on his/her own. Having a kid who randomly takes his/her diaper off during nap time or bedtime doesn’t necessarily mean readiness for potty training.
For weeks and months before actually Potty Training seriously, it is important to teach children all of the skills they will need for going potty independently. These include pulling pants off and on, telling you when they need to go (even with a diaper on), talking about pee pee and pooh pooh so they understand which is which and when they’re happening, sitting down on the potty seat, wiping, flushing, and washing hands to complete the process.
I have trained with boys with a kid-sized potty seat, because I want them to be as independent as possible from the beginning. A couple weeks ago I ordered Plum’s potty seat, because even though we’re not jumping straight in, yet, we’re in the pre-training process and I want her to be familiar. I love the new 3-in-1 potty seat by Munchkin that converts from a kid seat, to a trainer seat on the big potty, to a step stool for reaching the potty and the sink. The Arm & Hammer™ disk keeps the potty smelling fresh (ours hasn’t been actually used yet…) and the pieces all come apart easily for super simple cleaning and sanitizing.
3. Start Strong
When you’re ready to really dive in, start with a blitz. The idea of 3-day potty training is popular, but when I tried to use it with Milo, my expectation was that after three days he’d be all trained, one and done! Needless to say, that isn’t how it went and it caused both of us some unnecessary stress. I do love using the 3-day method to kickstart the real potty training, being fully aware that potty training is a process that can and should take weeks and months to be totally mastered.
The 3-day kick-off looks like this: staying close to or at home, preferably mostly on a hard surface like wood or tile flooring, lots of drinks and treats, and a naked from the waist down child. Kids who have always been in diapers may not even realize what is happening when they go potty, because they’ve never experienced it coming out away from their skin, so these first couple days are really a learning experience about how it feels for potty to come out and away from the body. I set a timer for 15-20 minutes, and every time it goes off, kiddo sits on the potty seat and we read a couple books, sing a song, and maybe pop some bubbles from the penguin bubble blower. The more entertainment the better to keep spirits up and kid on potty so the chance of actually going IN THE POTTY is high. Then, when there is a success, we all do a fun potty dance and cheer! When there is an accident (and there can be many many these first couple days) we simply say “uh, oh. It’s okay, accidents happen!” and clean it up.
The less shame and guilt surrounding potty training, the easier it will be for the child to feel confident making this big developmental jump. If you have run errands, or during nap time, feel free to put a diaper back on, but encourage your child to tell you if he/she needs to go. Be sure to pack some special potty treats along, for added incentive. After a couple days, the connection between how it feels to need to go, using the potty, and feeling successful has started to form, and you are ready to settle in to undies full-time.
4. Plan for Accidents
Here’s the thing, accidents happen!! After that first blitz, you may feel ready to say bye-bye to diapers and get some fun undies, but the process isn’t over. For the next few weeks you’ll want to dress your child in easy-off bottoms for really quick access to the potty (elastic waists, and dresses work great). Make sure you have some fun treats or stickers to reward every success for a while. Also, pack an extra couple changes of clothes, some plastic bags, several pairs of undies, and potty treats with you wherever you go! I feel okay tucking wet undies into a ziplock to wash at home, but always put dirty undies straight in the garbage to save my sanity and help stay positive. Prepare with lots of extra undies in case you need to toss several along the way.
You might not need them, but being prepared for the worst helps maintain your expectation and perspective. This part of the process can be the hardest, when you feel like you’re doing so well and then BAM! POOP EXPLOSION without even a mention of needing to go! It can be easy to feel frustrated and even angry at your child for not telling you, or for making a mess, but all of that can be avoided with the perspective that accidents are part of the process and you’re still making progress. 5. Stay Positive
Like I mentioned, I have been known to call potty training the worst possible part of parenting. But it doesn’t have to be. If you don’t rush it, pre-train, start strong, and plan for accidents you will head into the process with eyes wide open. That perspective will allow you to stay smiling and remember that this is an important developmental step, and the more positive energy you bring to the bathroom, the better the experience for everyone. Make it fun, play your favorite tunes, read some great books, bring an iPad in and let your kiddo play her/his favorite game, get lots of fun treats, buy silly undies, get yourself a 44oz diet coke with coconut and lime and enjoy the ride!
And, if you have a hard day and need a break, go for it! Putting diapers/pull-ups back on for a day or two (or until you feel like your child is more “ready”) can actually help keep perspective about the fluidity of the learning process. You want your child to realize that it’s okay for them to have trouble learning, and feel motivated to stick to the process, even if that process ebbs and flows. With Milo we did undies, then back in diapers, then back to undies, then pull-ups at night, then back in diapers, before we were all the way ready for undies forever. And you know what? He’s potty trained and happy, and we learned a lot about making mistakes and overcoming challenges, and working together towards a common goal. So, keep it positive. Learn together. You’ll come out stronger in the end!Good luck! To me and to you!!
Thank you to Munchkin for sponsoring this post. All ideas and opinions are my own, as always.