How to Start Potty-training
Once you think your child might be ready to begin potty-training, it’s time to get started. Some good things to do or know first off:
Choose your toilet terminology: The American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents to choose a toilet-training vocabulary – words for body parts, urine and bowel movements – that both they and their children will be comfortable with. “It is best to use proper terms that will not offend, confuse, or embarrass your child or others.” Avoid using words with negative connotations, which could lead to feelings of shame and embarrassment. And keep in mind that if you use offbeat or cutesy terms, you may be setting your child up for confused or derisive looks or taunts down the line.
Pick your potty: A small potty chair can help ease your child’s transition to the toilet. Though you certainly don’t have to, you may wish to involve your child in the selection of the potty or choose one in your child’s favorite color, just to give an added sense of ownership. Some parents or children move very quickly through the potty stage on their way to the toilet; others skip it altogether. But many parents find that a potty is a good first step. Because it is small and low to the ground, you child can sit on it and hop off it without assistance, which could add to their sense of independence.
Tune into the telltale signs: Does your child make a face or a noise or assume a particular position when the need to use the potty arises? Does he or she pause in the middle of playing? If you learn to read the signals your child is giving you, you can help your child to understand them, too. That way, instead of telling you after he or she has peed or pooped, your child can tell you beforehand, and you can help your child get to the potty in advance. Next time your child informs you of a dirty diaper, thank him for telling you, and gently suggest that next time, he might try telling you before. Explain to your child how he can learn to read his own signals. But be sure to manage your own expectations: According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it often takes children longer to consistently anticipate the need to pee than the need to poop.
Visit the potty at regular intervals: Even if your child doesn’t think he has to go, he may have a successful trip to the potty if he gives it a try. Go when you think your child needs to go (and try to get there quickly!), but also at regular intervals: first thing in the morning, before leaving the house, before or after meals or naps, and at bedtime.
Talk to your child: Explain to your child what to expect. Help strategize. Give words to what he may be feeling. Ask questions and listen. It’s important to keep the lines of communication open throughout the potty-training process.
Don’t push: If your child resists using the potty or toilet or is having a hard time getting the hang of it, he may not be ready after all. You might make better long-term progress if you take a break for a few weeks – or even a few months – before trying again.
Praise successes and don’t sweat setbacks: Be sure to offer your child lots of encouragement and don’t be upset by “accidents” – they’re a natural part of the learning process. Praise all successes when they occur. They are milestones, and your child should feel proud of the work he or she is doing to reach them.
Give it time: The potty-training process may take weeks or even months. Most children are toilet-trained in the daytime by the time they are 3 or 4 years old, but it could take a little longer for your child to consistently stay dry all night, something most children do around age 5.