Every parent loves to watch their little ones grow and learn. This is especially true when it comes to getting rid of the diapers. In fact, many parents would opt to skip diapers altogether if there were a practical way to do so.
However, with the exception of those rare few who have the incredible time and patience required to practice elimination communication successfully, diapers are a part of life for every parent at one time or another. Therefore, instead of trying to skip the diaper phase entirely, many parents attempt to make it as short-lived as they can by potty training as soon as possible.
That said, this is probably not the best way to go about teaching your toddler about using the restroom. Forced potty training before a child is ready can actually lead to increased risk for accidents, as well as an increased risk for UTIs in the child’s future.
This is because children who train at a very young age are less likely to use the restroom as soon as they feel the urge. In fact, they may not even feel the urge to go as strongly as older children, because their tiny bodies have been trained to hold in pee and poop. With the ability to “hold it” mastered, why would they interrupt playtime to go to the potty? This situation leads to…
- A bladder that is much more difficult to control.
- UTIs due to infrequent urination.
- Chronic constipation, which often leads to accidents.
On the other hand, children who learn to use the potty at a slightly older age—and when they are actually ready—have had plenty of opportunity to experience uninhibited voiding. They have a better understanding of when they need to go, as they have had more experience feeling the urge and the release. Additionally, older children are better able to communicate their needs. This means they are less likely to attempt to hold it in and leads to a much healthier way of thinking when it comes to using the restroom.
To top it all off, helping an older child who is both ready to make the switch to the potty and motivated to move out of diapers is much easier than attempting to “train” a child who is uninterested. This fact means fewer potty woes for all involved.
So how do you encourage the use of the potty without becoming too pushy? Here are a few of our favorite tips for child-led potty learning:
First and foremost, it is incredibly important that parents have patience with their child and wait until he or she is eager to learn to use the potty before beginning the process. This is the most important step in the entire process and must not be ignored.
Signs of readiness include talking about the potty, sitting on the potty, asking for underwear, finding privacy in order to poop, and following others into the restroom to watch them use the potty.
When a child is showing signs of readiness, it is important to encourage them without being pushy. This encouragement should help the child understand that the potty is an ideal place to put their pee and poop and you will be there to help them figure it out.
Some good ideas for offering encouragement include:
- Reading books on the subject of using the restroom.
- Keeping an open dialogue about the subject.
- Allowing the child to accompany you on bathroom trips.
Encouraging them to sit on the potty occasionally throughout the day can also be helpful, but should never be forced.
Of course, if your little one is going to start using the potty, they will need the proper tools. When your child begins to show a genuine interest in using the big kid toilet, make a special outing together to pick out some big kid underwear and a small potty (if you don’t already own one). This will provide an extra boost of encouragement for your toddler to keep up the good work.
That said, big kid underwear should not be forced on the child. If he or she prefers to stay in diapers during certain parts of the day, respect those wishes.
Accidents happen. As frustrating as they can be for parents, these are simple mistakes and the child should never be punished for having an accident.
Instead, simply help your little one get cleaned up, comfort them if they seem upset by the episode, and let them know that accidents happen, you are proud of them for trying to make it, and they can try again next time.
Wait Some More
The final step in the potty learning process involves more waiting. Some children will learn to use the potty 100% of the time in a day or two, while others may learn to pee in the potty but wait to poop for a while (or vice versa). Still other young boys and girls are able to use the potty throughout the day but continue to prefer diapers at night for quite some time. Whatever the case, it is important that you remain supportive and continue to offer positive reinforcement throughout the process.
Every child learns to use the potty at their own pace. There is no right or wrong way for a child to go about potty learning, and almost anything could be considered normal when it comes to child-led potty learning. So sit back and relax and watch in awe as your child takes yet another huge step toward being a “big kid”.