Training the tot without traumatizing the parent: Successful potty training tips

Lanette Francis
  • Tip #1: Stay calm. My first mistake was to lose my cool whenever my son had an accident. Displaying negative emotion is detrimental. It leads to power struggles and the child not wanting to comply with this new concept of independence. No matter what the mess, put on a nonchalant face, express your confidence in your child's ability to master this skill, help him clean up and move on.
  • Tip #2: Keep at it. Once you decide to potty train, don't look back. Even though there will be accidents along the way, keep going. Starting and stopping the process shows discouragement and gives the child a card to play when he wants you to give up.
  • Tip #3: Trust the tot. Although it's difficult, trust your child during this time. Once he gets the hang of the process, let him decide when he should go. Aside from times you are leaving the house, simply ask, "Do you need to go?" If he says, "No," let the subject drop. You'll be amazed at how he "steps up to the plate" (or potty) when you put the task into his hands.
  • Step #1: Choose your chair. Avoid potties where moms still have to dump once a child goes. Use a seat that sets right on the big toilet. This saves some cleanup, and also lets you leave the child alone to do his job.
  • Step #2: Start young. The older the child, the more independent he is. Children often need to "go" during or after a meal. Watch for signs in your 1-year-old baby, and set him on just before or during a bowel movement. Don't scare him or make it a power struggle just calmly "catch" his messes in the toilet. Amazingly, you will soon sense when he needs to go, and he will stop dumping in diapers. The few minutes of effort needed to put him on the potty will be well worth the diapers and disasters you save.
  • Step #3: Teach release. Once a child has been messing in the potty for a while, set him on each morning when he wakes up, before and after naps and before baths. Leave for a few minutes, then put his diaper back on and move on with the day. These moments will first be a "catching" series, but eventually he will learn to release on demand - an important step in being independent.
  • Step #4: Take the plunge. When a child is close to 2 years old, take the plunge and put him in underwear. I use cloth training pants, and only buy one package of special underwear (pull-ups) per child. Stay close to home the first few days, and be prepared for some accidents. Use the special underwear only when you need to leave the house. Eventually, your child will learn two things: first, to hold his urges longer and longer (don't fret if at first he goes every few minutes); and second, to feel when he must go and release appropriately.
  • Step #5: Perfect independence. Teach him to pull his pants up and down, get on and off, wipe, flush and wash.
  • Step #6: Done with diapers. During the next month or so, you will notice your child waking up with a dry diaper. This is worth a hug and a compliment, and soon he will be waking up dry every day. Without a big fuss, nonchalantly forget to diaper your child one evening and soon he will wake up dry without thinking twice about it.