Here are some tactics we have collected over the years from toilet-training our own eight children and from our pediatric practice.
1. Start a boy sitting to minimize sprays and dribbles on the walls and floor.
2. Try target practice. We let our boys “write” in the snow or dirt. Also, play criss-cross with dad or older brothers, or sink bits of toilet paper.
3. Try a pee-pee tree. For a resistant boy who refuses to go anywhere but his diapers, as part of the outside bare-bottom drill, paint a target on a tree and show him how to water it.
4. Point out how nice it feels to be dry rather than wet so the child is motivated to keep clean.
5. Plan ahead. Take your child to the toilet before you leave the house, before a movie, or before anytime in which a sudden announcement of a full diaper would be inconvenient. Simply announce to the child, “Do you have to go?” before you leave.
6. Don’t be too quick to announce “no more diapers,” since some children protest the sudden change so vehemently that they hold onto their bowel movements, become constipated, and you end up with a problem worse than a child in diapers.
7. Set a timer to go off every two to three hours throughout the day as a reminder for your child to go potty. This way the timer becomes the cue instead of the parent.
8. For the child who insists on depositing his productions only in his diaper, put the diaper in the receptacle of his potty-chair and let him go in that. This also saves you from having to clean it up. Eventually, replace the diapers with foil or some other paper.
9. For a child who seems to fear having a bowel movement in the adult toilet, let her watch her little productions “swim.”
10. Some children go more easily with their feet planted firmly on the floor in a sort of semi-squat position, as if they need some “pushing power” from their legs.
11. Some children need privacy and will not go if anyone is looking or is in the bathroom with them. Respect this.
12. To entice the busy toddler to sit still and become one with the toilet or potty chair, put his favorite toys in the bathroom and encourage him to sit and “read” awhile.
13. Think of weaning from diaper dependency like weaning from the breast: timely and gradually.
14. Praise productions. “Yeah! You did it!” Some children temporarily need a cheerleader.
15. When a child is old enough to understand what’s going on in his body, he’s old enough to do it.
16. To avoid getting caught in the “big girl” trap, reserve these terms for a phase your child is going through when he or she wants to be big. Some children are ambivalent about becoming “big” because they see little ones get more attention.
17. In training twins, don’t compare their progress. Train the more ready and willing twin first as a role model. Splurge on two potty-chairs, if you wish.
18. If using an adult potty, some children do better sitting backwards on the toilet and straddling it (teach little boys to point their penis downward) with their hands on the tank of the toilet, where they can rest a book or play with a toy. Playing and reading help take the pressure off the other end.
19. For boys, be sure the seat is completely up, so it doesn’t fall down and strike his penis.
20. If your child is in daycare, ask the caregivers about your child’s toileting experiences. Perhaps there are some tricks they use that you could copy at home.
21. To avoid bottom burn, share with the caregivers the about-to-go signs and the just-went signs that you have noticed in your child at home.