Question: Can you please help me with potty training? Sometimes I think my son is ready and at other times, definitely not. He shows signs that he knows and understands “the feeling to go” but won’t stop playing or often does the potty dance and then pees in his pants. Should I force the issue and put him in underpants or wait? What is the best way to potty train?
Answer: This is a great question that every parent faces with a young child. So, let’s get to it. Here’s what is tough about potty training – you can’t ever force a child “to go” it if they’re not physically or emotionally ready. Yes, there are tricks and suggestions I can give you but if your child really isn’t “wanting” to do the “pee or poo in the potty”, it’s hard to force the issue. Smart children know that they can control this and they CAN use it to their advantage. As a side note, It’s VERY common with children when there has been a recent addition to the family or another big “life change”, for potty issues to become more difficult, so please keep that in mind as well.
Here are some tips to make potty training easier:
- Place a potty in every bathroom that your child will be using. Encourage its’ use as both a toy and a real potty.
- Allow child to play with dolls and stuffed animals on or near the potty. They can read to them on it, help them go to the bathroom on it and wipe them.
- Read potty books to your child and let them read those same books to their dolls and stuffed animals.
- Talk to them about the people that they love who already use the potty -mommy, daddy, big brothers/sisters, cousins, friends, etc.
- Let them watch you go to the bathroom. You may have to get over being shy for just a moment but remember, you’re modeling for your child.
- Remind them that they will get to pick out and wear new underpants when they’ve mastered this new skill.
After doing this for approximately 2-4 weeks and when you sense that your child really understands, it’s time to start the actual potty training.
Pick a date – one or two weeks out on the calendar – and circle it to visually show your child that this is the date when they will start wearing underpants and “go in the potty”. It’s best to tie that date to something that your child understands. Developmentally, children understand schedules and timing based upon events in their life. This is called “event time”. So, tie the date when you’ll begin potty training to an event that your child knows is headed their way, such as the last day of school, first day of summer vacation, a birthday, or other special occasion.
As the day draws near, continue to talk about this exciting new change together. Speak about it positively but allow your child the space to be conflicted. It’s okay to ask them if they have questions, are feeling scared or anxious. Any and all feelings should be validated and discussed without judgement. Take your child to pick out new underpants and stickers. Together, you can create a chart that shows 21 days (or 3-4 weeks) from the day you are going to start the training. Tell your child that they will get a “potty party” once they are in underpants for 3-5 days without accidents.
When potty training day arrives, put up the chart, put them in underpants and GO! Once your child is in underpants, they’re in underpants. Don’t go back and forth and don’t allow your child to “make the rules”. Ask them frequently if they need to use the potty and keep reminding them that they’re in underpants. Remind them that this means they have to stop whatever they’re doing to actually GO TO THE BATHROOM. If they have to stop their activity to go, and they remember to do this (with your help or on their own), make sure you praise their specific efforts (i.e.. “listening to their body”). Encourage this consistently and remind them that whatever they’re playing with or doing will be there, waiting for them, when they return. Your child can put stickers on the days of their chart where they go the entire day without accident.
When your child is able to go 3 days with no accidents, it’s time for a “potty party”. Do the potty dance, sing the potty song – you get to make these up. And go for a special family walk to celebrate your child’s major milestone. You’re proud, right? Tell your child!
Parenting: Get Into It!
About Marissa Gold: Marissa Gold is an expert in Brain-Based Parenting. Her unique perspective is geared to meet your parenting needs by reflecting upon age-appropriate and developmentally-relevant information which focuses on reinforcing positive and respectful parenting. By understanding the developmental needs of your child, and how to apply scientifically-reinforced information to parenting decisions, Marissa has become a respected teacher, private consultant and speaker. As the Founder of IntuitParenting, Marissa is dedicated to serving parents through private consultations; parenting groups (both Mommy and Me and Parent Education seminars without children) and school and community presentations and workshops.
Marissa received her BA at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and completed her Early Childhood work at UCLA. She is the mother of two girls, ages 9 and 6. She is “in the trenches” with you and understands your daily struggles and triumphs