We as parents love when our child is potty trained, but not so much the training aspect of it. As a mom of five children, I have been asked what has worked for me. While I do not pretend to have a “one size fits all” magic equation for potty training, I have found something that has worked for all of our children and am happy to share it.
Every child is different so we started our boot camp with each one at a different age based upon their readiness, usually between 2 1/2 years and 3 years of age. We also start when we are ready, let’s be real, it is a boot camp of sorts for us as well! Most books and doctors say there are signs your child is ready to potty train. One being they wake up from naps or bedtime with a dry diaper. This signifies control of the bladder. We watch for this but again, we gauge each child’s readiness by their behavior and cognitive understanding of consequences. I believe the most important sign of readiness in our children was their ability to comprehend what our expectation was for them.
When we feel they are ready we choose a weekend without any plans and we prepare for potty training boot camp. We call it this as it is all we do that weekend, we make it our main focus, and it’s hard work! No soccer games, shopping trips, or other distractions that might tempt you in a weak moment to slip on a diaper and go. Choose a weekend when your spouse or someone else is there to help out.
We start by letting the child go shopping and pick out their favorite underwear and lots of it, buying in bulk takes on a whole new meaning. Then we let them see and even help us throw out every diaper in the house. We wake up Saturday morning and put on the first pair of underwear and start the training. Reward systems like m&ms and sticker charts are also a great addition to potty training, but shouldn’t continue past the first few weeks or so after boot camp. This is because once they have learned to use the potty, it should be expected they would always use the potty, not something special they did that day that deserves a reward.
The first part of the day is spent asking the child if they need to go pee or poo. This is preferred to asking if they need “to go to the potty”. Be proactive as well and place the child on the toilet if you know it’s been awhile since the last big drink. We choose not to leave them sitting there for too long, as we don’t want it to become a negative experience. When the child goes pee lots of praise is then given. This trial and error of getting them to use the potty goes on for most of the day.
The pay off proud parenting moment of your weekend boot camp is when your little champ gets up on their own and then actually makes pee or poo in the potty. They knew they had to go, they exhibited control, and then went in the potty. Lots of praise should be given at this point, potty dances (you’d never want your coworkers seeing you do), hugs, rewards, confetti, cheers either for them or you for sticking with it, anything goes.
The end is in sight, but this is still training, a give and take, a process, and a roller coaster of successes and “oopsies”. Praise your child in the moments of success and encourage your child through the “uh-ohs…”. Remind them of what the goal was and let them know you know they can do it. Be prepared mentally to do loads of laundry and lots of scrubbing, don’t give in to the urge to put them back in diapers after a few mishaps. We feel this might confuse them, or maybe let them think we’re not serious about this whole potty training thing. Children are much smarter than we give them credit for, hang in there and stick with it, you might just be amazed.
One last thing, the further you are into training should reflect the amount of praise given. For example, on day 15, phone calls to Grandma announcing the arrival of pee in the potty should be a thing of the past. By this point going in the potty should be as normal and expected as the child going to sleep at night, nothing worthy of extreme praise, but still worthy of a hug, verbal praise, or a high five. Finding opportunities to praise your little ones are always a plus and should be taken advantage of.
After our boot camp all of our children went to bed that night in underwear and woke up dry. Every child is unique and able to conquer things at different, not right or wrong, just different times. Be patient but consistent. Disclaimer: bed wetting can be hereditary, a sign of illness, or sign of stress and I am in no way advocating discipline or judgement in such cases. Trust your Mommy instincts.
This is what has worked for my children and has been fairly simple to implement as long as you stay focused, adhere to it, and don’t go back to diapers, no excuses! Good luck!