Potty Training: Easy Steps to Success

When I found out I was pregnant with my first child, I had a slight panic attack thinking about when I would have to start potty training. The whole idea of potty training just grossed me out and seemed like an impossible task. Now, after successfully training two children and almost finished with training my third child, I find potty training to be a piece of cake. A lot of parents are apprehensive and fearful of this time in early childhood, so here are some of my suggestions for making the transition from diapers to underwear a smooth one for everyone involved:

#1: Pull-ups are NOT underwear
Yes, I know pull-ups are marketed for "big kids", to help transition from diapers to real underwear, and pull-ups are put on like real underwear, the wearer must step into them and pull them up. Let's be frank though, pull-ups are made of essentially the same material as diapers, and they look a lot like diapers, so much so that if you were to try to put one on my 2 1/2 year old she would tell you "I no wear diapers".

The only way for a person to learn to control their bowels is to know what it feels like when they don't. In other words, not only will messes happen but messes are the only way to learn. There are several approaches you can take, (1) using training pants which are made of cottom and look like regular underwear, only thicker, (2) using regular underwear in the appropriate child size, or (3) have your child go naked from the waist down. I am a fan of methods #1 and #2 mostly because I don't like cleaning up the floor after the inevitable mess, and I think that as the child gets used to knowing when they go (because they can feel it), they will be quicker at telling you when they have to go.

Should you use pull-ups at bedtime and naptime? You can, as night training always takes longer then day training. It is one thing to expect a child to tell you when they need to go as they run aound the house playing, its another to expect them to wake up from a deep sleep to do so. Personally, my night training aid of choice are bed pads made by LifeCare. I purchased two of these cotton bed pads, they are a plush and comfy white pillowtop material on the side on which you sleep, and the under side is a tougher blue materials, you may have seen these used in hospitals. I got mine from Amazon.com for about $10 each. The bed pads are great because I put one underneath my child on top of her bottom sheet, she sleeps on the bed pad, then when she wets the bed at night which happens about two to three times a week, I just peel up the pad and throw it in the washer, no need to completely strip the bed, and she gets to keep wearing underwear, reinforcing her mind what a big kid she is, and as we know all big kids use the potty.

#2 Early success is up to the parents

Don't make a big production about potty training, When you decide to get started, sit your child down and tell them how big they are and that all big people, like mommy and daddy, or whatever big person you are, puts their poop and pee in the toilet. Then start putting them on the potty. There will be trial and error and accidents but accidents are how they learn.

You'll know when your child is ready for potty training, its when you know their schedule (and facial expressions!) enough to know when they are about to or are going potty. Every parent knows the "poop face", some kids grunt, others hid in corners or under tables, my daughter always gets glassy eyed and very still. When this happens grab your kid, remove their underwear and put them on the potty. Then when they poop (or pee) in the potty, tell them they did a good job, wipe and let them flush. No bells or whistles required, just tell them how proud you are and move on. Most children love to be "big" because being big means you get more stuff, can stay up later, the perks can be endless to a small child.

Incorporate going to the bathroom in your daily routine, for example, everyone pees within 15 minutes of waking up, before lunch, after nap, before dinner, and at bathtime before bed, or whatever schedule you wish to devise. If your children gets in the habit of regular bathroom trips you will have less accidents. Let your children go to the bathroom with you, though let's be honest since you've had children you probably haven't been alone in the bathroom EVER so you are probably already doing this.

#3 Consistency is key to continued success
Make sure that you tell other caregivers of your child that you are potty training, and what you schedule/routine is so that they may follow it as well. When my oldest daughter was about 18 months old, I started potty training, which was going very well, except for Saturday mornings. On Saturday mornings my father would watch my daughter while my mother went to work and I was in school. He would give her lots of juice and put her in a pull-up so he didn't have to clean up the inevitable accidents. We had to talk and I asked him to (1) stop giving her so many liquids and (2) put her in underwear, as with almost all parenting issues, consistency in potty training is key. If you have the people involved in your child's upbrining who are at odds on how to potty train they training will not doubt take longer, through no fault of your child.

#4 Older children should be involved in clean-up
I am not suggestion that you make your child clean up any bodily fluids, rather that they rinse their pee pants (not poop) in the sink and put them in the washing machine for laundrying. When you start training, of course you will have accidents, just take your child calmly to the bathroom, clean them up and explain they need to make it to the toilet the next time. Plan to repeat yourself for a while.

Once your child is effectively potty trained, you may have occasion where they had an accident because they didn't feel like stopping their play to go potty. With these types of accidents, involving pee, I think children should be assisting in the clean up. A firm look of disappointment and a reminder that they are too big to have accidents, is sufficient, parents, in my opinion, should not physically punish their children for accidents, even those of older children.

While I now consider myself an old hand at potty training, I am very glad this stage in my parenting is almost over. My last child is almost completely trained, and being free of the mess and expense of diapers is quite liberating.