So your child is about to begin this huge stage of independent self-care and you have a million questions. Are they ready? Is it going to be a complete disaster? Will they cry? Will you?
On the flip side, there’s the glory of no more diapers. Ever. Think of all the saved money you can stash away in that college fund. Not to mention, you really need a break. Plus, most preschools won’t let you drop off a kid who isn’t fully potty trained.
Clearly, this has to happen. You survey your friends about what they did and then read a couple of potty training books you don’t have time to read. And yet, it still seems confusing and like a huge drag you’d rather put off till another day, month, year...perhaps forever.
But what about preschool? This has to happen.
When getting ready to potty train my own son, I had a crazy thought: Was there any way to make this fun? Not only for myself, but because I still vividly remembered a graduate psychology course in which we learned about Erikson’s second stage of development: Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt. Usually completed between 18 months and three years old, it’s the period when children first encounter shame — the message of “You are bad” instead of “You made a bad choice.” Without even realizing it, parents and caregivers often use shame in potty training, not understanding how it can affect their littles.
Knowing this, I was determined to make potty training a shame-free and fun experience. Pictured is the exact behavior chart I used. The result? A fully potty trained kid in no time. Quick note: I also had a second chart just for potty training when out and about. Because children have different things they struggle with — one might fear pooping in general, while another won’t go to the bathroom at school — feel free to get creative and make a chart that fits your child’s needs.
1. Get out all of your craft supplies and involve your child in the process.
2. Draw a fun shape like a circle or star and section it off into however many days you choose.
3. Write a reward in each box. I tried to create as many non-food rewards as possible and added special “bigger” rewards along the way; for example, making slime was a big hit, as was “phone” time.
4. This is the most important step: Buy or gather all of the rewards and place them in one spot in your home. Make sure your child can see everything. The idea behind this is that they will not have to wait to get their reward. When my son saw everything lined up on top of the hutch, he immediately bought into the program and said, “I’m going to get everything on my chart.”
A few things to keep in mind:
No time like the present
Summer is a great season to start this adventure because your kiddos can be naked without freezing. Less clothing to fuss with in and out of the bathroom is a win for everyone. If you can, take a couple of days off or a long weekend to potty train. Stay close to home, play board games, go to the park, and enjoy time with your little one outdoors. (Added bonus if you’ve got a boy: they can always pee on a tree in a pinch.) That said, always consider...
The best potty training advice ever given to me came from my pediatrician, who said to wait for the child to show interest. I took my son shopping for undies and then asked him every day for almost a month if he wanted to wear a diaper or undies. After Day 26, he finally said “undies” and I had them on him so fast he never had time to look back.
Patience This is not always a quick process. Try not to get discouraged or frustrated. I quickly learned that if I got upset so would my son. Children feed off of our feelings. I began to act like it was no big deal and with the pressure off, there was room for fun. Phrases to have ready “I would never ask you to do something I didn’t think you could do.” “We all make mistakes; it’s part of learning.” “You’ve got this potty training thing down.”
Humor Dance parties were the biggest part of our success. Every time he went to the bathroom, we would celebrate. He even had his own potty touchdown move. Take your time with the process so you can appreciate the joy of watching your little one accomplish this huge milestone.