I always find humour in the contradictions and ironies of parenthood, and a constant theme seems to be believing that something is going to be a big, huge, life-altering deal(!) — only to find out that it’s really not a big deal.
I can honestly say that potty learning was one of my easiest tasks as a parent, and has consistently been one of the easiest things that I have done as a caregiver. There are so many other things about parenthood that can throw you through a loop, potty learning does not have to be one of them.
I shared about our Montessori Potty Learning here, but the key things that I want to share with you are:
- Watch for readiness signs and embrace them; do not set an agenda to toilet train on your own schedule. The readiness signs are pretty obvious and don’t need to be searched for. They include asking lots of questions, wanting to watch and help you use the bathroom, and starting to let you know when they need to (or already have) filled their diapers. Some children are even more obvious and will start refusing diapers — but make sure this is an interest in pottying and not just an interest in being nude!I encourage parents and caregivers to get rid of the agenda because all it does is put pressure on yourself and your child. Even if you’re making everything super fun and positive, children know when they are being pressured and many will resist pottying if they feel like it is anything other than their choice. Let go of the attachment to potty training in a weekend, or by a special event, and try to adopt an attitude of “let’s try this and see where it goes!”
- Children will self-motivate if given the opportunity, don’t pressure or reward pottying. Many children who seem to respond well to pottying rewards are actually seeking measurable results, and many younger children would be thrilled to use “fun” soap or pick out special underwear.
- Set up the right pottying environment for your child; some children will prefer a private environment, others will want companionship; some will welcome distractions and comforting objects, while others would prefer to focus on the task at hand.
- Do only what you’re comfortable with. If you can’t handle letting your child run through your home without any containment unit on during the potty learning process, then don’t do it. If you are going to be stressed or react negatively to the inevitable accidents, pick a different tactic. In order to be fully trained anyway, children will need to be able to remove their pants and underwear, so keeping a child in training pants throughout the learning process will prepare them for that. If “Elimination Communication” is going to drain what little energy you have, leave it, the majority of children train without EC and yours can, too!
- Emphasize learning, not training. How would you respond if your child responded incorrectly to a question? How would you respond if your child spilled their water at the dining table? Hopefully, most of us would identify these as normal learning curves and accidents, respectively, and potty learning should be treated the same way. Yes, its a bit more unpleasant wiping up potty accidents than water, but asking our children why they think the accident occurred and giving them opportunities to come up with solutions is a better strategy long-term than lecturing or getting upset. Let your child take the lead and become comfortable with all of the different aspects of pottying at his or her own pace.
There are some children who just are not interested in potty learning (usually they are just not developmentally ready and will be when they are a bit older), and there are sometimes extenuating circumstances that require a child to be trained in a set amount of time. I cover that here, but please know that if your reason for training in a set amount of time is anything related to a major life change — a new sibling, a move, etc — your child is likely to revert to some degree (sometimes completely, sometimes just a few accidents). Children who revert are not necessarily trying to get attention, most are experiencing a great deal of new emotions and stimulation and cannot handle the additional expectation to use the potty.
What is (or was) your approach to potty learning?