Top 5 Tips for Potty Training Your Toddler or Preschooler

1. Camp out in the bathroom naked with a loop of Dora on your iPad for 5-7 days.

2. Can you say, “dog crate”?

3. Wait until Kindergarten — the embarrassment of wearing diapers all day at 5 will be enough for them to train themselves!

4. Rent a hotel room for the duration of the training. The mess will be theirs, not yours.

5. If nothing else works, contract the job out. I hear potty training is going for pennies in China.

Ok. Kidding. I do have some more, uh, implementable tips for all you parents getting ready to potty train or already wrestling with your nonstop-pissing dragon child. These are gleaned from experience, of course. If you have any sure-fire advice of your own, we at Punkernoodle would love to hear it!

1. Start early. By this, I don’t mean trying to potty-learn your child at 5 months (although lots of parents report great success with elimination communication, a technique we’ll explore in a later post). What I mean is start early to make it normal. By the time your child is standing, you should have a small potty in every bathroom in your home (I don’t mean the child’s seat that attaches to the toilet; small kids need their own accessible, self-contained potty sized just for them). Put their potty on the floor next to the toilet. Encourage them to sit on the potty with their clothes on or off. Help them foster a relationship with their potty. Name it. Put stickers on it, whatever. Don’t badger them about “getting dirty” when they inevitably rub their hands all over the potty (teach them about germs, and always wash hands, but don’t paint the potty as a negative, icky thing).

2. Model. You pee, I know you do. You even – gasp – poop. We all do, we all know it. Kids can’t learn without having the behavior modeled. From babyhood, let your child see you use the toilet. Act like it’s normal (it is). Teach them the proper names for the parts and functions of their body. The more they see you do it, the faster they will want to copy you.

3. Rewards are good! Somewhere along the line, reward became a bad word in the modern parenting dialect. But rewards are actually great motivators for toddlers who are potty training (and for help with a million other toddler and preschooler behavior). Tailor your reward system to the age of your child. Figure out what your individual child’s CURRENCY is: Do they love Dora? Do they like stickers, Hot Wheels, sandbox time, cookies? I have heard of parents using a reward chart (you can give them stickers each time they use the potty), stamps, M & Ms or other small treat, shells, screen time, crayons, etc. etc. to motivate their children to use the potty. The key is to make it positive (no harsh punishments) and to make the rewards a clear result of a specific action that is accomplished (you might reward for a pee, for a poop, even for a sitting session for a reluctant child): Just know ahead of time what your system is, when you will reward and when you won’t.

Related: Don’t punish for accidents, but emphasize consequences (especially as the child gets older): If they pee in their pants, use an even or slightly sympathetic voice (“Uh oh! It looks like your pants have pee pee in them. So messy – what do we need to do now?”) Have them take their clothes off and help you put them in the hamper and get fresh ones. Show them that accidents are a hassle — using the potty is cleaner, faster and gets them back to the fun of being a toddler sooner. If your child is really resistant, do not force or fight (anxiety and hang-ups will delay potty learning in a major way). Take a break, keep it light, stay calm.

4. Get the right products. Some children train fast, but often it’s a months-long process (or longer if you’re talking about nights). My top recommendations:

  • A good cloth trainer/training pants. These will have some degree of waterproofness to it but still be trim-fitting enough to hold only 1 or 2 pees before it leaks. That way kids can feel wet, recognize discomfort and learn that peeing in their clothes is more hassle than it’s worth. I like trainers that kids can pull on and off easily to foster independence and self-care. The Gro-Via My Choice Trainer is a new favorite and Imse Vimse is fantastic as well, especially for children 24 months and above. Get a stack of trainers so that you can allow your child to wear them full-time (it’s a good investment; even after daytime training is done you will likely use your stash for nights). Once your child shows signs of readiness, do not go back and forth between diapers and trainers, it’s confusing.
  • A wool pad for the bed. Night training can take a loooong time: Some kids just are not physically ready before 3, 4, 5 years of age. Wool (unlike those synthetic/plastic mattress pads) is naturally waterproof, antibacterial, doesn’t pick up smells and can be used (after being peed on) many nights in a row before you have to wash. This will, literally, save your sanity.
  • A booster for your trainer at night, or a side-snapping AIO cloth diaper that will hold a lot more for nights but can still be pulled up and down by your toddler.

5. Be patient. Yeah, yeah, I know! Easier said than done. But kids are like dogs — they sense your fear (and annoyance, and impatience). Try to remember that no matter what, your child will one day use the potty. Hopefully that day is soon. A positive attitude, the right tools, a clear reward system and good modeling will encourage your toddler or preschooler to take that huge big-girl/big-boy step.

One response to “Top 5 Tips for Potty Training Your Toddler or Preschooler

  1. Thank you so much for posting this. You’re very inspiring. What do your recommend to line the car seat with?

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