An Insider’s guide to potty training: Installment #5- Let’s Do This
You can do the weekend blitz and if a child is ready, that’s your fastest path to success, but I play the long game to reinforce habits that go along with toileting and to try to avoid accidents.
It makes more sense for me as a daycare provider to use scheduling.
Not everyone can stomach the weekend warrior approach, so here is a viable alternative.
I potty train by scheduling.
Once a child is ready to train and shows the signs, I will introduce them to the potty.
I use a scheduling method where I put them on the toilet at scheduled intervals throughout the day. Sometimes they go, and sometimes they don’t, but just repeatedly doing this serves two purposes.
1. The child forms habits that become automatic over time around everything associated with the act.
They don’t just learn to use the toilet, they practice working with their clothing, getting onto and off of the toilet, they learn to wash their hands with soap every time and how to dry them properly. They learn and practice everything involved as well as the act itself. As they internalize the lessons, they do them without thinking, and without me having to remind them.
It is full package learning that sinks in and prepares them to properly take care of themselves in school when there won’t be anyone watching their every move.
Do not underestimate the learning curve around this simple act. A toddler is contending with so much more than just getting fluids into that toilet, and repetition is key.
2. Cuts down on accidents.
Sometimes the children get so involved in their playtime that they don’t notice when they have to go to the bathroom. If they’ve already peed, this reduces the likelihood of that happening. When they’re focussed on what they’re doing, sometimes the pee and poop sneak out before they even realize.
In my home, I need to keep things sanitary, cutting down on accidents helps me do this.
I marry potty training to my daily routine to make it automatic for myself and for the children. By doing this, I take the guesswork out of it and remove the need to think about it excessively.
It goes like this:
Morning potty 8–9 am
When a toddler gets dropped off, the first thing I get them to do before they even enter the playroom is to visit the bathroom. After they go, they wash their hands with soap and start their day.
After a snack at 10:30 am
In keeping with my routine, the next time I send the children to the potty is after snack.
Snack is around 10 am, right in the middle of the morning. It’s the perfect time to insert this activity.
After a snack, everyone who uses the toilet is required to do so before we get dressed for outside time. Nothing kills the fun like a child peeing in a snowsuit.
This further cuts down on accidents and gives everyone a chance to try again. Even if they aren’t going every time, they must try. This gives them another opportunity to reiterate the routine and to engrain the act of washing their hands. It’s a part of the practice as they master their toilet training.
If a child realizes that they need the potty outside the scheduled times, they go as required. As a child masters themselves, they can often go at will during the scheduled times and will eventually become self-directed.
When a child is potty trained, I offer the toilet to them but don’t make them use it if I know they’ve gone recently.
The next scheduled times are:
After lunch/before nap 12:30–1:00
After nap 4:00
Before dinner 5:30
Before bath 7:00
Before Bed 8:00
You can use my scheduling routine or make one that works for you.
If sending your child to the toilet as many times a day as I’m suggesting is not practical for you, start with trying one or two times. Marry it to another activity you’re doing anyway, so you remember and consider that a good start. That will be enough to start a habit and get you in the swing of making it automatic.
If you don’t have strong routines in your home, set an alarm and try that. Or do it when they get up and before bed. Find one or two times that you can be consistent.
The key to working with toddlers is consistency.
Try to have the routine around how they use the bathroom consistent as well. I have the children use the potty the same way, flush the toilet, wash their hands with soap and dry their hands on a towel in a certain way every time. The crucial part of that last sentence is the “every time” part.
Once you master your own routine, you can add on if need be. Just having two times consistently might be enough to get the lesson across if your child is motivated.
There are many ways to do this, find a way that works for you, and build from there.
This is important because if it doesn’t work for you, you won’t be consistent, and then it won’t work for your child.
The idea is to get them used to going to the toilet as part of their daily activities, so they keep it in their mind until the lesson is internalized.
In my daycare, I have a bathroom right off of the main room. I make it user-friendly for the children, and they have constant access. The goal is to have them able to do everything independently — except wipe after a poop, I am not a miracle worker.
If I am outside in the backyard, I keep a potty handy so that if one of the newbies needs it, it is right there.
In the summer, I will put the ones in underwear that I think can handle it. Even if some smaller children just want to sit for the fun of it, I let them use the potty whenever the urge arises. If I had a big house, with lots of rooms, then I would make sure to have potties as handy.
In the beginning, they often don’t know they’re going to go until it happens. If there is a potty handy, the child has a better chance of success through sheer proximity.
Some kids learn to poop first, and some learn to pee first.
For some children, poop feels more apparent. They can tell when it’s coming. Some resist pooping on the potty because it makes them nervous, or they like pooping in their diaper. Some hate the grossness of sitting in their poop, and that’s what motivates them. Some kids like watching the pee come out and love going on the potty.
Every kid is different. Get to know your kid and work with the angle they are presenting.
If they hate pooping, then make sure you get them on the pot to pee and just let them keep pooping in their diaper. You don’t have to force it or rush it unless you are doing a weekend blitz, once they start doing what they are comfortable with, the rest will follow over time.
You may get to the point where you have to force the issue of losing the diaper. If they are ready, you can take away the diaper when you think it should go. You might have to live through a few accidents when this happens. Be prepared to be on guard for a while while they adjust. If the child is having accidents to act out when you do this, that is a discipline issue and not a potty training issue.
Don’t give up on a child who seems to have challenges.
Children who have other delays often they can potty train just the same as the rest. You just have to make sure you are not projecting failure onto them and not even trying because you assume they won’t be able to handle it.
I’ve had more than one child that has significant delays in language and behavior issues potty train easier than their peers. These children often excel in surprising ways.
Yes, some children are lazy. My daughter was a lazy trainer. She had it easy, and she knew it. She was my only and had nobody competing for my attention. I was an excellent personal assistant for her, so there was really no reason for her to want to rush.
I tried many times to get her on the toilet, but she just wasn’t ready until she was just over three.
I’ve noticed that lots of children are late trainers these days. It’s probably a combination of comfortable diapers and the absence of the pressing needs that generations of mothers past had.
My own mother had the old school cloth diapers with rubber pants to contend with. The kind held together with safety pins. The kind you had to clean in the toilet every time a kid pooed. Of course, that generation of mothers potty trained hard. These days kids aren’t pushed as hard because there isn’t the pressing need.
I knew my daughter would potty train when she was ready, and she did. I didn’t worry about it, and I didn’t care if anyone else did.
If your kid is a late trainer, just know that there will come a day that they will look around and realize that they are in diapers and their friends are not. One thing I know about toddlers is that they care very much about keeping up with their peers.
So there you have it, that is everything I can think of to tell you about potty training.
I have been successfully potty training children for 8 years and counting, the truth is, nobody walks down the aisle in diapers.