Practical tips and steps to make the process stress-free for both of you.
I never thought I would write a post on toilet training.
Before I start, while training has gone smoothly for most of my children, there was one time that it didn’t. That one child completely demoralized my confidence in my ability to train efficiently and successfully. Though the child below her is now trained (smoothly, BH), that child is still sometimes too busy to go to the bathroom. But it was that one child who taught me a valuable lesson: It’s not always in our ability to train quickly. Some children are just different. And that I could never judge if someone is having a difficult time.
That doesn’t mean we all can’t be helped by some tips:
Keep in Mind there is no one way to toilet train children. There is no right age to either. Some prefer to do it when they are “young and dumb” and some prefer to wait until children can completely understand and actually reach the toilet seat. Parents also have different personalities, and different methods might click for you better than others. I’ve always (aside from that one child we discussed) trained children under the age of 3 (most closer to 2) so these tips may differ from someone training a three-year-old. These tips have helped me and they might or might not be useful for you.
Before you are ready, start talking and practicing using the bathroom. Before taking a bath, see if your child wants to practice sitting on the toilet…start familiarizing the child with the concept without any pressure to actually use it.
And, you need to be ready. If you aren’t ready your child will not be ready. Yes there are slight exceptions to this rule (those kids who trained themselves) but we do not rely on miracles and YOU need to decide it’s time. That means it’s a time when you have the patience and presence of mind to be able to concentrate on this child.
With that said, it’s best if you see some signs your child is ready. They ask to be changed, don’t like being in a dirty diaper, you find that their diaper is dry for a longer stretch… you do not need all the signs but some sort of sign is good to start.
- Get a stepstool and/or toilet seat. Some kids love the support of a smaller seat on a toilet (so they don’t have to be scared about falling in) but some of my kids did not like it (one got nicked in the corner and never wanted to sit on it again). I have personally never used a potty so I have no experience with that. (See the end of the post for some options.)
- Buy a special treat for a reward. Personally Jolly Rancher fruit Chews always worked for me. They’re soft, sweet, not something they’ve might have had before at their age, and they love it. (Fine, I chose Jolly Ranchers because I like them too and I also deserve a treat!). Small prizes are also good.
- Be prepared to stay home for a few days. Don’t rush to go out and have the stress of trying to find a toilet for a child that may not know he needs a toilet until a second before.
- Keep your dinners simple, make sure whatever you need to do during those days should be simpler. The less distractions you have, the less stressful it will be for you.
- A good time to start is Thursday afternoon. Then you have a full day Friday, Shabbos and then Sunday to get the training done.
For the first 3 days or even 4, have the child bottom naked. The reason is very simple. The second my children felt pull ups or underwear they felt comfortable. For some, 2 days might be enough, but I find that you really want them to completely understand that anything covering their bottom is not just another diaper. Having nothing for a couple of days provides an adjustment period. Have them wear a dress or a longer t-shirt and stay home.
- They can walk around in a pair of natives, floafers, or any washable shoes.
- Do give lots of water, sippy cups, and drinks to the child. The more opportunities you have to congratulate them for using the bathroom, the better they will be at it.
- I don’t train day and night together since I find it’s too difficult at once. You can put a diaper on overnight.
- If your child naps, please let them nap. With a diaper. It’s quite a stressful time for their little bodies and minds, so if they can relax for a few minutes/hour, let them. For that reason I also don’t rush to remove the diaper in the morning. I let them hang around for 30 minutes and only when getting dressed for the day do I start the “training.” For the first few days I’ll also get them into diaper and pjs an hour before bedtime so they have a break. This is hard work!
- Do not get mad or lose yourself when the child makes on the floor. Some really young kids don’t even understand what they should be doing. So the first time, even if it’s on the floor, you actually congratulate them that they made! Rush them to the toilet and tell them hurray, clap, and give a candy. The second time you can use a sad voice and say that they need to make in the toilet only! At that age there really is no reason to yell or get mad. It’s not personal and we want to teach them positivity.
- Keep giving them candies. If you have other young children, encourage them to watch and give candies to everyone that uses the bathroom. By the second or third day, it should “click.” You use the bathroom, you get a candy, and everyone is so happy and proud of you! You share with everyone, x is such a big girl, she uses the bathroom and she gets a treat every time! Hurray!!!
There are two ways to encourage a child to use the bathroom while sitting on the toilet: 1. Run a thin stream of water in the sink 2. Encouraging them to blow. Sucking in their stomachs while blowing puts pressure on the bladder. You can either just ask the kids to blow or if you prefer a more exciting or visual way, buy some bubbles or party blowouts.
For the Following Two Weeks take your child to the bathroom before you leave the house, before nap time, after nap time…
- Some kids are scared to use the bathroom and after being encouraged to sit down, they’ll jump back up and say, “I’m done!” Pull out a book, a video clip, a DVD player with something they can watch… whatever it will take to keep them sitting for a longer time so they can relax. Rub their back, and insist that you aren’t going anywhere. This helps encourage them to let of fear and actually use the bathroom, so they don’t end up holding themselves in for hours and creating bigger problems (constipation, long term fear of using the toilet…)
- At this point, I do use a sterner voice if they do have an “accident” but only if I feel I wasn’t at fault. I can’t expect to take a kid on a 2 hour drive for carpool and control themselves. In addition, if the house is full of guests and I was distracted, it is not the newly-trained child’s fault. However, if they were 8 feet away from the bathroom and just got lazy, I would use a sterner tone of voice saying that I was right there and they could have told me.
- During these 2 weeks I avoid dressing a child in very tight leggings and clothing that sticks to the body very much. Stick to clothing that is easier to get on and off.
- The treats get less and less. While there’s less focus on treats, keep the verbal congratulations to all time high! After all, it really is amazing what they can learn. We’re still talking about toilets and keeping it a focus.
- I do ask them if they need to use the bathroom when I see them holding themselves, crossing their legs, or doing the bathroom dance. I once had a nursery teacher tell me that she doesn’t believe in asking children, and I disagreed with her. There is nothing wrong with gently reminding a newly-trained child that there is the toilet option!
- If you are traveling to someone’s house for a long time (a Shabbos meal) or going on a long car trip, don’t hesitate to put on a pull up. By that time they don’t usually use it but it keeps the travel less stressful. I’ll still ask them if they need to use the bathroom to remind them that the pull up isn’t a diaper.
Have any positive tips to share? Please share in the comments below. Let’s make this post a full resource for toilet training!