I successfully potty trained both of my kids - boy and girl - before age two and in less than a week. Here are fifteen tips for successful potty training:
1. Don't believe the hype. Diaper manufacturers would like us to believe that potty training should start at age 3, but the American Academy of Pediatrics affirms that children's elimination muscles reach full maturity somewhere between 12-24 months, with an average age of maturity at 18 months.
2. Cancel your plans. Plan to stay at home for three days while you potty train. Play outside, but in the backyard.
3. Set the stage. One week before you plan to potty train, start talking about using the potty often. Let your child know that it's almost time for him to use the potty. Check out some potty-themed children's books from the library; download some potty-training videos. My daughter loved reading Miss Piggy's No More Diapers.
4. Talk it up! You may feel ridiculous doing it, but talk often about how much you love going to the potty.
5. Buy a child's seat that fits onto the toilet. Potty chairs are a pain in the butt (no pun intended!) to clean up. Purchase a child's potty insert and a stepping stool so children are using the toilet from the get go. Also, you can take the potty insert with you when you leave the home during potty-training and your child will be used to using it eliminating any public restroom drama.
6. Once you begin potty training, there is no turning back! Say goodbye to diapers on day one. But it might be wise to have pull-ups on hand for nighttime if you don't think your child can hold his bladder for the entire night. Do not reveal the new potty until day one of potty training and when you do make it a grand reveal - involve the whole family and talk that potty up!
7. Hello to comfy underpants! Surprise your child with a nice new set of underpants featuring their favorite characters. As soon as they wake up, reveal the new potty and guide them to use it for the first time.
8. Head to the potty every hour until your child gets the hang of it.
9. When it's time to go potty, create a ritual. I would run the water a little bit and we'd wait and listen for that first tinkle or poop. Flush the toilet with fanfare and wash hands.
10. Your child is used to the attention that you gave during a diaper change. Give that same amount of attention - even more - and sit with your child while he is on the potty.
11. Keep a couple of special books in your bathroom, so you have some potty-time reading material on hand.
12. If there is an accident, don't make a big deal. Don't give it any attention - neither negative nor positive. Just clean up the mess, without commentary. Try not to give a bath. Some kids view baths as rewards. Just wipe up with a warm washcloth.
13. After three initial days of potty training, plan three days of limited excursions. Bring a change of clothes with you just in case. When traveling in the car, you may want to place an absorbent towel on your child's car seat.
14. Celebrate. I never gave my children stickers or rewards after each successful trip to the potty, but after three consecutive days of successful potty training I did gift them with a special commemorative "You're a big kid now!" treat.
15. Give yourself a pat on the back! Potty training can be stressful, but once it's done, it's done. You've helped your child reach another milestone!
Have you successfully potty trained your child? What tips or tricks worked for you?
Amy Bizzarri is a writer, Chicago public school teacher and mom to two kids - a preschooler and a middle schooler - living in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago.
See more of Amy's stories here.