Is potty training difficult? Does a bear poop in the woods? The answer to both of those questions is yes (it’s worth noting here that potty training bears is next to impossible). Luckily, parents don’t have to reinvent the toilet seat when it comes time for their kid to start spending quality time in the bathroom. From preparing them to ride the porcelain pony, to having a three-day bottomless extravaganza, these are the seven tips that will reduce the potty training learning curve.
Time it Right
The ideal age for starting potty training is largely a matter of parental preference. There really is no commonly accepted age that parents should absolutely start the process. And, interestingly, the age at which neurotypical Western children start potty training has been trending older.
There are basically two schools of thought as to when to start. For many cultures, potty training begins almost at birth and can finish sometime around 9 months of age. That said, the process is very intensive and time-consuming. For most people in the US, potty training begins around the age of two, which is roughly the time a child becomes curious about the bathroom.
That said, there is a consensus that potty training is most difficult between 12 and 24 months when a kid is consumed with their just-developed mobility. So start right away or wait until after the developmental threshold.
Prepare for the Potty
For those parents starting the process later, potty training is made significantly easier by proper preparation. That preparation should lean into a child’s natural curiosity about what’s happening in the bathroom. After all, the process of elimination has largely been out of sight to them and taken care of by parents. They have very little perspective regarding non-diapered defecation and micturition.
One of the best ways to bank on their curiosity is for parents to forgo the privacy they’ve likely already lost. Being open about peeing or pooping and allowing a kid have a relatively modest look at the process of sitting on the toilet helps normalize things. They see that using the bathroom is something mom and dad do too, so it can’t be that frightening or traumatic. Parents can even let the kid flush.
Of course, there will be some squeamish parents for whom a bathroom demo is a non-starter. For these fussy folks, there are books like the classic Everyone Poops that can help get the point across. There are also videos featuring popular characters like Elmo going through the potty time process.
Finally, a little practice and role play helps too. Parents can help a child get used to the idea of potty time by allowing them to pretend to go on a training seat or kid toilet. Give praise, encouragement and make it fun.
5 Simple Tips for Potty Training Your Kid
- Prepare a child for potty training by helping them understand its normal for everyone to poop and pee, and indulging their bathroom curiosity.
- Starting at 1-year-old or after 2-years-old will allow for the most success. One-year-olds prefer to focus on the newfound mobility rather than potty training.
- Use elimination communication by looking for signs a baby is about to poop or pee and then holding them over the toilet while whistling or making a distinct noise. Soon they will learn to eliminate when the sound is made.
- Set aside a long weekend to allow a child to go pantless and direct them to the toilet when they have to potty, reward them for the effort and make it as fun as possible.
- If all else fails, consider seeking the help of a professional or buying a potty training system that will create the structure for training.
Learn from Other Cultures
For those who want to get potty training out of the way as early as possible, a process called “elimination communication” is likely the best bet. This is essentially the process used by cultures from Vietnam to the African savanna and uses the psychological tactic of classical conditioning.
The idea is to basically train a child to use the bathroom on command by connecting a strong stimulus with the desired response of eliminating in a toilet. The process is simple enough but requires tons of patience and parental attention.
Elimination communication requires that a parent be beside their unclothed baby nearly constantly, watching for signs that the child is about to poop or pee. As a child begins to eliminate, the parent gives a sound or whistle and holds them over a toilet. Eventually, the child begins to associate the sound with relaxing their bladder or bowels and a parent can place them on a toilet, make the noise, and have the child eliminate on command.
Pantless potty training is another intensive method for getting a kid-oriented to a toilet. Unlike elimination communication, it’s generally reserved for children older than 24 months.
The process is simple in theory but can be frustrating in practice. The idea is to simply take a long weekend wherein the kid is freed from diapers, undies, and pants to increase the ease of using the toilet.
During this three day period, parents ask the child at regular intervals if they need to use the bathroom. Treats, praise and rewarding play are offered when the child is successful and gentle encouragement is given if they poop on the rug. The process helps the kid focus on both how it feels when they need to use the bathroom and the rewards of putting the waste in the right place.
For those parents who have tried everything, or simply refuse to even get into potty training, there are professionals who can step in and help out. A full potty-training session and support can cost upwards of $600, but results can supposedly be seen within hours.
The great thing about potty training is that when a kid finally learns to use a toilet, parents will save time and money by not changing diapers. Given that’s the case, it’s not a terrible idea to invest in potty training gear that can help in the process. The options are seemingly endless.
For instance, some parents prefer to have a stand-alone training potty that increases the ease of use for a kid. Other parents prefer installing a child-friendly toilet seat that gets kids on the big toilet from the get-go. There are also products that offer a full potty training program, complete with dolls and books and targets to put in the toilet for little boys who want to pee on neon bugs.