Potty Training Basics 101

By Sharon Rose
       I remember, so well, what it was like to potty train my children.  There is no denying that it is challenging.  The most challenging part of potty training is being consistent, it is time consuming, and requires patience, and more patience.  If you have already had the experience of potty training a child I’m sure you can remember long periods of sitting there waiting for them to __ do something.  As an experienced parent I know that the other challenges are, keeping the bathroom tissue on the roll, keeping hands, toys and even pets out of the toilet bowl.  Yes, the potty training parent will see that potty training often turns into fun and games for your little one.  You may regret that potty training takes time away from household chores, preparing dinner, and even your favorite TV show, but it is a sure sign that your little one is ready to grow up.  So, before you start the potty training process, be sure that your child is not too young, despite Grandma’s urging, and is showing a level of readiness.
Potty Training Readiness:
 
1.       Your child is walking.
2.       Your child stays dry, at least, 2 hours at a time during the day, or during nap-time.
3.       Your child shows an interest in being more independent.
4.       Your child sometimes removes diaper; showing discomfort with soiled diaper.
5.       Your child is cooperative.
6.       Your child is able to sit on the pot for a reasonable period of time.
7.       Your child takes pride in their accomplishments.
     If your child has these readiness skills in place you are ready to start and should be successful.  Start by setting up a routine.
Potty Training Routine:
 
1.       Take child to pot immediately upon their awaking each morning.
2.       Take child to pot after each meal, snack, before and after a nap, and before an outing.
3.        If time passes and child has not gone to the pot, just say, “Time to go to the pot.”
4.        Take child to pot at bedtime.
5.        At bedtime, after last bathroom trip, diaper child with nighttime diaper.
        Being consistent and patient cannot be stressed enough.  These two strategies are your best tools for success when potty training.  Praise is another helpful tool.  Use the phrase, “You did it!”  A toddler will paraphrase, “I did it!”  This is better understood than a phrase like, “I’m proud of you,” which is something an older child would relate to.  Recently, one “Parents Want to Know 101” parent shared with me that she claps for her toddler when she, successfully, uses the pot.  This is a good and simple way to express to a child of this age that they did something right.  Clapping to show happiness is something your child has, likely, already learned from you.  This is a positive response and works well for a toddler- age child.  Another helpful tool, books.  Make picture books available as an incentive for your child to sit longer when necessary.  Keep the picture books near the pot.  No toys should be in the area, which will only encourage your child to get up from the pot and play.  It is important to remember that this is not a time to be “fussy” with your little one. You don’t want to give them a message that they are doing something wrong if they don’t use the pot.  If their bladder muscles are well developed and strong enough, they will learn in time.
       A frequently asked question by mothers who are preparing to potty train is, “How will I know when my child needs to go to the pot?”  Get to know your child’s body language.  Watch your child to specifically notice how they behave when they feel the sensation that signals they need to go to the pot.  Some give cues by grabbing themselves, swaying, or stopping play, getting very still and quiet.  The cues are there, just pay attention.  When you see a cue, take your child to the pot immediately.
Teaching Hygiene While Potty Training
 
      Although your child is young, teaching hygiene goes along with potty training.  For a girl, explain the use of bathroom tissue.  Teach a girl that she should wipe from front to back.  The front to back process is important to avoid risk of infection.  Parents should wipe their girl-child until the child is old enough to do it on her own.  Once your boy-child is cooperatively going to the pot, boys should be taught to stand and use the pot.  Many of them may have already noticed that Daddy stands and want to mirror him.  Also, try the strategy of placing doughnut shaped Cheerios cereal in the shallow water of the pot and tell the child to aim for them.  This is one I heard of a long time ago and I think it works.  Make a fun game of it.  Eliminate the Cheerios once the child has “good aim.”  Express, without nagging, keeping the floor around the pot, clean and dry.  This is a great time for Daddy to get bonding time in with his son.  From the start, teach washing hands after use of the pot.  Most children like this and it is expected that they will want to play in the water.  Keeping wet wipes in the family bathroom for your child to clean hands is a good option to using running water.  Provide supervision, at all times, and water play and your child’s safety will not be a problem.  In talking about hygiene, let’s talk about switching from diapers to potty training pants, also.  This introduces your child to keeping their bodies clean.  Once your child is being guided through a routine, successfully, switch from diapers to potty training pants, fairly early in the process.  Some experts feel you should not use the feeling of wetness to “coerce” the child to use the pot.  I differ with this opinion, based on my experience with potty training my own children.  Most children dislike the discomfort of the wetness and, therefore, are more motivated to go to the pot.  Early in the process, along with the diaper or training pants, allow periods of “no bottoms.”  This allows your child the freedom to better feel the sensation that you want them to connect to using the pot.  There is also no need to take off a diaper or pull down pants when rushing to the pot.  A bonus in this helpful strategy is that it also cuts down on diapers or training pants that are minimally soiled and wasted at the beginning of the potty training process. Your child will better understand the purpose and worth in staying dry that they would not understand while still wearing a safety net like diapers.  Fairly early in the potty training process, switching to the potty training pant, during the daytime, can serve to move potty training along.  Staying clean and dry should be expressed to your child, without nagging.  Continue to use wet wipes to clean your child if they wet themselves during the potty training process.
       Your child will need to stay in a nighttime diaper or pull-up for awhile, usually, up to age 4 or 5.  Each of my children had stopped using a  nighttime diaper by age 3 ½.  For each child the age will vary.  It is best not to offer or accept requests for liquids close to bedtime once potty training has started.  Establish a cut-off time for liquids that your child is aware of, just as you have established a bedtime.  There may be some complaints and begging, but stand firm on this.  With this rule in place, when your child has been staying dry overnight for, at least 30 days, the overnight diaper or pull-up can be switched to training pants.
       Be cautious not to switch too soon and run into bed-wetting.  Bed-wetting is embarrassing to children and causes low self-esteem.  Once your child is in training pants overnight use a night-light in the room and leave the bathroom light on so your child is encouraged to get up in the middle of the night if they should need to go to the pot.  Darkness could be a deterrent.  Another option for younger children is to place the pot beside their bed at night-time.  There is nothing wrong with moving the pot to another area, especially if it helps to prevent or stop bed-wetting.  One example: If a child’s bedroom is on the second level of the family home and the only bathroom is on the first level, moving the pot at bedtime to the child’s bedroom is the safest option.  No one would want a sleepy child going down a flight of stairs during the night to the bathroom.  If there are signs that they are not ready it’s better to keep them in a nighttime diaper or pull-up until they are physically and emotionally ready.  If bed-wetting is a problem after age 5, consult your pediatrician.
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     Potty training is a major milestone that is very important to your child’s independence and self-esteem.  Due to its’ importance in the process, it’s worth repeating, that it is not a time to be fussy, pressure, or punish your little one.  Patience is required.  Don’t become “stressed” if a set-back occurs due to illness, a family move, or a new baby in the family.  This is to be expected, but will quickly pass as long as you stay with the routine.   You and your little one will get through the potty training process and come out on the other side with a smile, full of pride, and yes, dry.
Copyright, Sharon Rose, Parents Want to Know 101, October 12, 2012.  All rights reserved.
                                                         ______________________________
Sharon Rose is a writer, speaker, teacher, and parent of three adult children. A long-time parenting advocate, her education, career path, and real-life journey raising her own three children has strengthened her ability and her passion to support other parents. Varied and interesting, her career path has included the following: Language Arts/ English teacher in public, private, and Christian school settings; school social worker; counselor of juvenile offenders and their families; and entrepreneur in the areas of educational and marketing consulting. With certifications in Parent Education and Reality Therapy, she has counseled both youths and adults in a therapeutic setting. It was Sharon Rose’s passion for empowering other parents that led her to create Parents Want to Know 101. On the right track to support other parents, in less than a year, Parents Want to Know 101 is gaining popularity with those interested in parenting issues. Parents Want to Know 101 is shared across Facebook, Digg, Twitter, and is a Motherhood contributor for Jane.TV. Sharon Rose is preparing a poetry book and a book on parenting for publication. To contact her, see more articles and blog posts, leave comments, and “Like” her fan page go here:
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