Seven Potty Training Tips
There are toddlers who refuse to announce their productions, hold onto what they have, and resist any attempt to potty train them. If you are frustrated because you are still buying diapers and the potty-chair remains unused, read on for potty training tips.
Later toilet-training, like late walking, may be your child’s normal developmental pattern and one shared by mom or dad when they were in training. The nerves and muscles involved in potty training may not be mature yet. Suspect this cause if your child has been on the late end of normal in other developmental milestones. Most children are well on their way to daytime bowel and bladder training by three years. If by that time you and your child have made no progress, in addition to consulting your baby’s doctor, consider these potty training tips and tools:
1. Most Important Potty Training Tip: Consider Medical Reasons
- A child won’t perform any bodily function that hurts. Constipation is painful, often causing tiny tears in the rectum while the child is straining, which further makes the child hold onto his bowel movements and a painful cycle continues. Suspect this if your child squats, grunts, and painfully grimaces but produces nothing. Starting the day with a stool-softener breakfast (fresh fruits, whole grain fiber-rich cereal, and lots of fluids throughout the day) can open resistant little bottoms.
- Bottom burning from food allergies could be another culprit. Look for the telltale allergic ring and raw area around the anus. High-acid foods, such as citrus fruits, and lactic-acid-producing foods, (such as dairy products) are the usual offenders. Diarrhea stools during the flu or after taking antibiotics may also temporarily hinder bowel control. (See treating diaper rash)
2. Don’t Push Too Hard, Too Fast
Potty training may have begun too early, during a negative stage, or teacher and pupil may be clashing. Ask yourself what could be happening, or not happening, in your baby’s life that makes him reluctant. Consider backing off awhile and taking inventory of the following emotional slumps that may slow training:
- Is baby going through a negative phase in which he is not receptive to anything new?
- Could there be disturbing situations in the family: a new baby, a major move, family stress, long working hours, a return to work, or an illness?
- Is your child angry? Anger shuts down proper functioning of all physiologic systems, especially toileting.
3. Rewards That Work
This is the most popular potty training tip: make potty training a fun game. Put a sticker chart next to the toilet. Every time he goes potty on his own, he gets a sticker. After several stickers, he gets a social treat. Other potty training tips for positive rewards include small treats to eat, working toward new toys, or putting two coin jars in the bathroom. Every time he goes on his own (even with help and prompting) let him take a coin out of the full jar and put it into his own jar. Sure, he may make frequent trips to the potty to get more coins, but it’s cheaper than diapers.
4. Dump the Diapers
Potty training tips from our family: It’s okay to fib a bit. Some babies will not be toilet trained until they give up their diapers. One day simply announce, “The store doesn’t have anymore diapers” or “The diapers are all gone.” Let him run around outside (if it’s warm enough) bare-bottomed with only a long shirt on. Or, chance going bare-bottomed in the house. (What you spend on carpet cleaning, you’ll probably save on diapers.) Going bare-bottomed encourages him to take more responsibility for his bodily functions.
5. Set a Toileting Routine
The best time for a bowel movement is around twenty minutes after a meal. Let your son sit on the potty after a meal- preferably after breakfast-so he gets into a daily toileting routine.
6. Potty Training Tip to Stop the Soiling
If your three-year-old is still having “accidents” that you feel are caused by laziness, inattentiveness, or just wanting to be a baby again, let him share the responsibility of cleaning up after himself-not in a punitive way, but in a responsible way. Show him how to wash out his pants and then put them in the hamper to be washed. Expect older children to regress during a negative stage, during a family upset, or shortly after the arrival of a new sibling.
If you feel that he is old enough to take responsibility for his bodily functions, temporarily ignore the pant soiling, giving him the message that if he wants to be uncomfortable walking around in poopy pants, that’s his choice. You want him to get the message that this is his responsibility, not yours. If you feel he’s soiling his pants to get extra attention from you (a bottom clean-up is certainly a lot of hands-on attention), increase the positive attention you give him in ways other than attending to his clean-ups. Give him special jobs to do around the house and special one-on-one outings with one parent. You want to give him the message that positive behavior gets better attention from you than negative behavior.
7. Realize it May Be a Control Issue
This may be your child’s way of maintaining control over one area of his life that you can’t control. If you hold the reins tightly in other areas (choice of clothing, tidiness, choice of pastimes, and so on) don’t be surprised if he becomes a hold-out in this area. It may also be the only way he knows to stay little longer. This may be the time to close the lid on the potty for a few weeks or months, tune into your child, have some fun, and strengthen the bond.
If your child is already emotionally upset and has shaky self-esteem, be careful not to give the message that your child’s value depends upon performance. This number one no-no in parenting is a sure strikeout, whether in toilet-training or in Little League. A caregiver’s role in toilet- training is that of a facilitator. Set the conditions that make it easier for the toddler to go. The rest is up to the child.
Dr. Sears, or Dr. Bill as his “little patients” call him, has been advising busy parents on how to raise healthier families for over 40 years. He received his medical training at Harvard Medical School’s Children’s Hospital in Boston and The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, the world’s largest children’s hospital, where he was associate ward chief of the newborn intensive care unit before serving as the chief of pediatrics at Toronto Western Hospital, a teaching hospital of the University of Toronto. He has served as a professor of pediatrics at the University of Toronto, University of South Carolina, University of Southern California School of Medicine, and University of California: Irvine. As a father of 8 children, he coached Little League sports for 20 years, and together with his wife Martha has written more than 40 best-selling books and countless articles on nutrition, parenting, and healthy aging. He serves as a health consultant for magazines, TV, radio and other media, and his AskDrSears.com website is one of the most popular health and parenting sites. Dr. Sears has appeared on over 100 television programs, including 20/20, Good Morning America, Oprah, Today, The View, and Dr. Phil, and was featured on the cover of TIME Magazine in May 2012. He is noted for his science-made-simple-and-fun approach to family health.