I’m about to start potty training my youngest child. And I’d be lying if I said I was excited about it. All I remember from last time was the amount of stress involved. And cleaning up accidents.
So many accidents.
Before I started the process this time, I decided it would be wise to go back over my notes. (Yes, I kept notes. Nerd alert.)
I realized even though this isn’t my first rodeo, I can’t just jump in blindly. So I took some time to think about what worked, and of course, what didn’t. I narrowed it down to the five biggest “mistakes” and “musts.”
And what’s a lesson learned if it’s not shared, am I right?
So without further ado…
#1 Starting Before They’re Ready
There’s no trophy for having the youngest potty trained child. The Guinness Book of World Records won’t come calling, I promise. The biggest lesson I learned from my first attempt at potty training, is that timing is EVERYTHING.
Don’t feel pressured just because every other kid in his class has already started. Trust me, you will have a MUCH easier time if you wait until your child starts showing signs of readiness such as:
- Has dry periods for 2 hours or more, or during naps
- Can pull pants up and down
- Shows interest in others using the bathroom
- Tells you or gives a visual sign when having a bowel movement
- Tells you when he needs to go
#2 Not Being Prepared
Like everything else in parenting, having the right tools is half the battle.
Make sure you’ve looked into all the best potty training gear. Like Pull-Ups® Training Pants as well as wet/dry bags for keeping an extra change of clothes and storing wet clothes when you’re out and about. (We’ll talk about this more in the “Must-Haves” below.)
#3 Sky High Expectations
Potty training is a messy process. Literally. Know that going in. Know that things may not happen on your time schedule. Know that there will be ups and downs.
The parents that have the hardest time with potty training, are the ones who are convinced it will happen in one day.
Just don’t be defeated if it takes some time. Rome wasn’t built in a day either.
#4 Making It A Chore
Don’t get started on the wrong foot. Kids are smart. And the second they pick up that this is something they HAVE to do, the more they won’t want to do it.
Make it fun. Do potty dances. Have rewards. Cheer them on with gusto!
Celebrate that with them! Make sure they know how proud of them you are!
#5 Giving Up Too Early
Okay, I may change my number one. Looking back…attitude is everything. Because I had sky high expectations (see #2), when things weren’t going my way…my attitude started to waver.
Which is a polite way of saying: it stunk.
I was beyond frustrated. I had cleaned up more than my fair share of accidents, and my mood reflected it. Remarkably, the worse my attitude got…the worse my son did with the training. At one point I locked myself in my room and started to cry.
And after I let it all out, I went back into his room and hugged him. I encouraged him, and told him we were in this thing TOGETHER. I told him that I KNEW he could do it. And you know what? He did.
You’ve heard it before. Just when you think you can’t take it anymore, it clicks. It’s so easy to get frustrated by setbacks or regression, especially when you don’t know how to handle it. But keep at it.
I’ve known more Moms who quit potty training, only to find that the second attempt was even harder. When I was in the thick of it, I thought I might scream if one more person told me “not to quit.” He just isn’t getting it, I thought. I was about to throw in the towel, and the next morning?
He got it–and never looked back.
#1 Know The Signs of Readiness
Like I said, the #1 mistake is attempting to train before your child is ready. Your child may be asking to use the potty, but that doesn’t always mean they are ready.
If you have any questions about your child’s signs of readiness, look for key things, like those we listed above, as well as making sure their listening skills are well-developed.
#2 Have the Right Tools
- This is oh-so-important. Do your research. Know what you need and get it all BEFORE training begins. Here are a few “Must-Haves”:
- Lots of Liquid: Whatever drink your child likes most, have lots of that on hand. The more they drink? The more “learning opportunities” they have.
- A Potty Chair: Be sure to vet one out before you start. Make sure it’s the right height, is comfortable for your child, etc.
- Back-Up Material for Your Child: We’ll talk more about back-up material for Mommy in #5. But I would highly recommend you have some reinforcement material for your child, like books, videos, or even puppets. Anything that might encourage them along the way. This may seem like small potatoes, but it can really do wonders for everyone’s attitude when you’re in a pinch.
#3 Make the First Moment Count
Make the first time they put their Pull-Ups on SPECIAL. Squeal with delight. Give them high-fives. Sing a happy song. Moving on from diapers is a big moment! Make sure they feel your support and love. It’s important they know how proud you are!
#4 Know What Motivates Your Child
For me? This one was a “mistake” turned “must” last time.
I thought, for sure, my first-born would be motivated by candy. He loves candy. And we don’t often eat candy at our house. So I thought it would be quite the motivation. But nope. He wanted none of it.
I was at a loss. Until I finally found what excited him. Wait for it… STICKERS. Who knew, right? He had never shown any interest in stickers before, but they did the trick with potty training. Just remember that stickers are most effective when used as an immediate positive reinforcement rather than as a goal to save up for later – that’s because toddlers don’t have a solid sense of time quite yet.
For him, I think it was all about seeing his progress. Not eating it. Every child is different. Find out what motivates yours.
#5 Keep a Checklist of Potty Training Tips
If you’re like me, you’ve read a few books or blogs on potty training. Make sure you keep your resources handy. And branch out. There might be some resources outside of your books that could make all the difference.
One last word of advice. Potty Training isn’t for the faint of heart. But still, take a minute to savor it. You might think I am crazy, but hear me out…
You are guiding your child through one of life’s most important lessons. Just like learning to walk, your child is learning to be independent and confident. Enjoy your part in his success. It’s what being a Mommy is all about.
If I could go back and train my first child again, this is what I would change. I was so focused on him “getting it” that I failed to relish his transition. I lost sight of the significance for the sake of the details. And that’s a mistake you can bet I won’t be making this time around.
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