Get Ready, Get Set: preparing for toilet training by Laura Kett

Are you eager to get rid of the inconvenience and expense of diapers?  Who isn’t?!  Let’s get you on the path to success by getting ready and setting the right expectations.  Extra helpings of patience are key throughout the process!  So, if you are thinking about potty training or if you are feeling “stuck,” your patience and success will blossom if you first consider your child’s developmental stage in these areas:  social emotional, physical and communication.  Here are some questions to assess those areas:

-Is your child showing interest in using the potty? Have they asked to sit on the potty or are they in the stage of “I do it myself” with other activities?  Are they expressing discomfort with wet or soiled diapers?  These are all great indicators of social emotional readiness.

-Is your child staying dry during the day for a couple of hours? Babies start by voiding little bits all the time so they do not even have the feeling of urgency. As they get older, they will get that look on their face and pause in their play to pee.  That is a good sign they can start potty training.  When you notice this change, do frequent diaper checks to see when and how often they are voiding.  This will help you plan how often to put them on the potty.

-Is your child hiding when they are going to poop?  Or, if you have started with training pants, are they asking for a diaper?  Does their elimination have a pattern?  For example, do they poop right when they get up from nap or about 15 minutes after supper?   These readiness signs will help you with developing a timing plan for “potty time.”

-Is your child struggling with anything else? Other issues such as picky eating or dressing may have to be put on hold if you are beginning toilet "training." 

-What else is going on in your family right now? Any big transitions? Do you have the time to devote to this or are you due for a new baby in the next month?  Are you moving or in the middle of other transitions?  You need patience and time for this big transition!  Your child is moving from using a diaper for all voiding, moving from voiding any time they please with no need to plan or be alert to what is happening.  And now they will be asked to sense a need, stop what they are doing, and get to the potty in time to remove clothes, climb up to the potty and situate themselves and let it go!  No wonder this is hard!!

Tips on getting ready:

1. Read all of the above to check for readiness developmental, desire, social emotional, and family life. 

2.  Check out a few books from the library such as Everyone Poops by Taro Gomi or I Want My Potty by Tony Ross.  The Ross book is a totally delightful tale of a child learning to love her potty and becoming successful in using it. 

3.  Communicate consistent words for voiding - poop and pee are pretty common or you could use urinate and BM but it is so much easier for your little one to yell "poooooooop" or "peeeeee" when running to the potty. :)

4. If you have not already done so, move your diaper changes to the bathroom or right outside the bathroom so your child associates the bathroom with voiding.  You can start showing them where poop goes by dumping out the diaper into the toilet and then having them flush.

5. Model going to the bathroom for them.  You probably do, but for those who do not, this is no time to be modest!

6. For some children the bathroom is a place of sensory overload: the echoes of voices and flushing, and the brightness. You might be able to do something about the brightness by dimming lights, but the flushing can be quite an issue!  One idea is to let them be in charge of the flushing:  they can flush or they can leave the room first. It is best to acknowledge that "yes it bothers you, I get that - so I will flush after you leave the bathroom.” Eventually they will come to tolerate it and want to "flush it myself."

7.  Equipment is important, too.  Prepare with a stool and seat insert so they can be secure on the toilet.  Can you imagine trying to sit on a giant toilet and attempting to do a new skill with your legs dangling and your body precariously balanced above a toilet which might flush on you any minute??  Alternatively, you can use a child seat on the floor but then you have to later deal with the transition to the toilet.  ** It is recommended that you use a seat insert that has room for the pee to get away from the body and not splash right back onto them in order to prevent UTIs.

8.  There are a myriad of methods in books and on the internet – and I mean EVERY “mommy blog.”  What works for one person may not work for another.  For example, there is the weekend method where you roll up your carpets and your child wears no pants or diaper. Or you may just start by putting them on the potty every 30 minutes - adjusting if you are not catching them dry. Here are some common practices for success:

-Practice sitting on the potty with no expectations so it gets to be a comfortable place.

-Save special books for reading only while you are in the bathroom.

-Sing a song!  If they are resisting sitting on the potty, tell them they can get off as soon as you sing the ABC song, for example.

-Timers are essential so you are consistent with frequent, regular potty sitting!

9. Are you out in public?  It may help to have them sit sideways on the toilet for stability.  They can hold onto the side of the stall or a bar if available. If there is no bar, they may prefer a portable seat insert.  If using an auto flush toilet, place a post-it note on the motion sensor to prevent auto flushing while they are on the potty

10. Clothing should be easy to pull off.  Some children need to have undies and pants off totally to balance and aim right while seated. Dresses may or may not work as the skirts can get in the way.  No fasteners – those are an added frustration! 

AS HARD AS IT MAY BE, try to stay positive, remembering that this is a big transition! Start when you have time to be consistent.  Praise them when they go, but do not chide them for accidents, because we all know “accidents happen!”. Do not push it before they are ready and accept that for many it just takes a while to make the switch.