The BEST way to potty train

January 2, 2022

So you're looking for the best way to potty train your child? Spoiler: there is no right way for a child to learn.

When it comes to learning to use the bathroom, some kids will respond well to an intrinsic motivation method, like the approach laid out in the Oh Crap Book. Others will be motivated by visual reinforcement systems, such as a sticker chart, that shows them the progress they are making. Other kids may take to a token economy system, where set number of stickers on their sticker charts earns them a reward. There is no wrong wait to potty train a child. It is whatever works for them (and you!). And that's the best way to potty train. The good news is that we have resources to help you regardless of what motivates your child!

Okay, so when should I START potty training?

There is no rush! Many children show signs of being ready for potty training sometime between 18 and 24 months. However, others might not be ready until they're 3 years old. If you start too early, it might take longer to tackle anyway. To decide if the child may be ready ask yourself:

  • Can the child understand and follow basic directions yet?
  • Does your child have the motor skills they need to sit on the toilet, and start to pull up and down their clothing?
  • Has the child started to communicate when they need to go?
  • Are they interested in using the bathroom or wearing underwear?

I think they're ready. How do we prepare the child for the potty training process?

Grab the supplies you will need, such as new exciting big kid undies! You will want to decide between a stand alone potty or a seat that works with your toilet (and then also grab a stool to promote independence). You may want to have pull ups or flushable wipes on hand as well. Also grabbing a travel potty that can be both a potty seat or a stand alone potty, and can easily be stored in your trunk is helpful. This way whenever you are somewhere without a bathroom or need to use a public washroom you are ready to go!In the few days prior start talking about the process of going to the bathroom on the toilet and hyping up how in a few days we will be saying bye bye to diapers! Use our Bathroom Habits social story to give your child a context for the bathrooming process. When kids know what to expect and feel prepared they usually buy in. So read it to them again and again and again.Hand washing is also a big part of the bathroom process, and it is an entirely separate routine kids need to learn. So use our Hand Washing social story to help prepare them and provide them with the reason WHY we wash our hands. Kids like to be informed, and typically will carry out a task when they understand the reason behind it.Next, print out and tape our visual routines for using the bathroom and hand washing beside the toilet and sink. We know that by the age of 4 kids can only hold on to 2-3 step instructions. They haven't developed enough active working memory to hold onto more steps in a routine yet. So with potty training and hand washing being multi-step processes, having a visual routine is powerful for helping them learn the steps (and not have meltdowns when they can't remember what comes next).Walk through and model the steps of both routines to them, and discuss it as you go. Let them participate in whatever steps they wish to. But most importantly be excited! Your enthusiasm will be catching.

Okay, it's go time. What do we do now?

Once you decide to potty train, to the best of your ability don't go back to diapers. You can use pull-ups for naps and night (most kids won't night train until well after 5, close to approaching 5) but hype them up as something entirely new and different than diapers. You can use the book Diapers Aren't Forever to help with this process.The morning of, be super excited as you take off and throw away that last diaper. It is often best to stick close to home in the first few days, but you can still go through your normal daily routine. Start by taking the child to the bathroom every 15 minutes at first. Then slowly extend it to 30, 45, and 60 min intervals when they seem ready and capable. There will be some accidents. But every time the child is successful, celebrate! Your excitement and praise will be highly motivating for them. For some kids, this intrinsic motivation will be enough.However, if it doesn't seem to be sticking then trying a visual tracking systems can be helpful. Some kids like to be able to see their success (and will probably grow up to be the adults who make to-do lists just to check it all off).  So trying our sticker chart can be powerful!If the sticker chart doesn't seem to be motivating, then some kids do well with a token economy system where each set of stickers earns them a reward. Some kids will like to work long and hard for a high value, big prize. In this case, our reward chart with 20 stickers earning a reward will work nicely. Other kids, do better with short-term incentives. So we have a reward chart that gives the child a smaller reward at 5, 10 and then 20 stickers will be for them.Regardless of what rewards chart you choose, it will be the most motivating if you choose rewards with the child.  They should be related to the task at hand to help reinforce the process. So rewards like picking out a new pair of undies, picking a new book that they can read while they sit on the potty, or a picture to hang in the bathroom that they can look at are all potty-related rewards.But most importantly, have grace for yourself and the child. This process will take time. But they will get there :)Join Earlybird to download all the resources mentioned to make your potty training journey easier.Happy Potty Training!

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