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Potty Training Guide: How To Get Your Child To Ditch The Diapers

Mum holding toddler hand potty training
ParentingPost Category - ParentingParenting - Post Category - Toddler & PreschoolerToddler & Preschooler

Potty power!

Ready to toss the nappies? Time to start getting your toddler excited about using the toilet. Potty training can lead to greater independence for your child, allow them to meet basic requirements for school entry, give your family more freedom and less travel hassle, and is of course, more environmentally friendly! It is important to ensure that the family is prepared for the nappy to potty transition, so take a look at our guide which will help you decide whether your child and family are ready and will provide information on possible approaches to take.

Is Your Child Ready?

Use this checklist to see if your child meets the criteria:

  • Your child is at least 2 years old.
  • Your child has periods of the day (a couple of hours) when he or she is dry.
  • Your little one is familiar with relevant language such as “potty,” “toilet,” “underpants,” etc. The words you choose should be used consistently, specific to your family, and ones that you are comfortable saying in public.
  • They should be capable of pulling their pants up and down, either independently or with minimal assistance (depending on the clothing).
  • Your child is able to follow simple one-step instructions without difficulty, such as “Come here,” and “Sit down.” If you have trouble getting your little one to listen on a regular basis, first meet with a physician or a paediatric psychologist to address behaviour management issues.
  • Your child should show awareness of the need to use the toilet after soiling a nappy. For instance, your child may point to the nappy, ask to be changed or take your hand and lead you to the changing area.
  • Your little one should understand the concept of what the toilet is used for. You can teach this by modelling or reading books to your child about going to the toilet.

If your child seems to have difficulty with any of these skills, talk to a paediatrician before beginning potty training.

Is Your Family Ready?  

  • Make sure there are no stressful events taking place or coming up in the near future (e.g. moving house, changing of caretakers).
  • Ensure you are ready to commit to this transition and will have the time to be consistent and patient with your child.
  • Make sure everyone in the home (including domestic helpers, nannies and grandparents) understands the plan fully and knows what to do when accidents happen.
  • Purchase a potty-chair, stool (or toilet seat adapter) so your child’s feet touch the floor for support.
  • Develop a rewards system. This can include a variety of preferred toys, stickers, snacks, games and special one-on-one time with a parent.
  • Consider drawing up star charts to track goals and remind parents to reward the child’s progress.
  • Ditch the nappies but be prepared for accidents! Remember, accidents are a completely normal part of the training process. Don’t shame or get angry when they happen.
  • It is important to toilet train children in big kid underwear/training pants. Having your child pick out new underpants can make this process more fun and something to look forward to.

Toilet Training 1, 2, 3

Which method to use? 
Depending on your child and the preference of the family, you may want to choose between these two methods:

Slow and Steady Method

  • Take your child to the bathroom with you so they can learn how it’s done from an expert.
  • When you first purchase the potty chair, have your child practice sitting on it. This can be done as “pretend practice” with their clothes on.
  • Praise your child and show excitement when they sit on the potty. Now, it’s time to ditch the nappies!
  • Next, have your child sit regularly on the potty throughout the day to provide lots of chances for them to use it properly. Ask your child routinely if they need to “go to the potty/toilet.”
  • Remember to have your child sit even if they say they don’t need to “go” because sometimes children don’t recognise the urge until they are relaxed and not distracted by other things (e.g. playing, watching T.V.).
  • Make sure to give your child lots of praise each time they urinate or
have a bowel movement in the toilet. You can use special rewards from your rewards system as well.

Intensive Method

If regular toilet training, as instructed above, is not successful, you can try a more intensive method like the weekend fast track. Some children may require intensive toilet training for a number of reasons (e.g. family convenience, urgency due to school entrance deadlines, etc.) This type of intensive training typically takes place over a weekend when a family can devote their full time and energy at home to potty training. For this process, it is helpful to keep kids “pants free” (underpants and a shirt only) at home for the weekend.

  • The first step is to ditch the nappies!
  • The next step is to increase fluids by giving your child at least one cup of 
liquid every hour. Consider varying the beverage so your child will continue to want to drink.
  • Next, begin reminding your child to use the potty every 15 minutes and taking them to sit on it. This will help your child learn to self-initiate and recognise when they need to go. As your child learns to request the potty and urinate with more independence, you can spread out the time between sits/reminders (15, 30, 45, 60 minutes).
  • Complete pant checks (dry pants vs. wet pants) at the same time you give the reminder. If your child is dry, give praise for the accomplishment (for example, “Great job, you still have dry pants!”) but if they are wet, follow through with the toilet sit and then clean up the accident.
  • Don’t have lengthy discussions about the accident, just move on. Instead, focus giving your attention to the positive accomplishments.
  • Each time they sit on the toilet, praise your child for listening. Remember, this is not necessarily fun for them either! Provide a small treat or time with a preferred special toy each time they urinate or have a bowel movement in the potty. When your child self-initiates and uses the toilet, make a big deal out of it because it is cause for celebration! Have something special planned for when this happens (maybe special play time with a parent, a new toy, a fun colouring book or stickers).
  • Complete this process over the entire weekend. By the end of the weekend (Sunday afternoon), you should be providing reminders and having toilet sits every 1 to 2 hours.

Consider purchasing a urine alarm: This device is attached to your child’s underpants and buzzes when moist. Typically the sound/vibration of the buzzer will cause the child to immediately stop urinating temporarily so you can get them to the bathroom. This allows your child to have more successful sits on the potty and for you to know if an accident occurs. The device can be used as part of the toilet training process.

General Tips And Recap

      • Remember how much your child values your attention! When your child urinates in the potty, congratulate them by providing lots of praise, such as including high fives and hugs. Give them something special immediately after they use the potty successfully rather than later in the day.
      • Expect accidents. As mentioned above, if your child has an accident, do not scold, shame or punish. Simply say, “No wet pants,” in a neutral tone, take them to the potty, and have them sit for about one minute. If they finish urinating in the toilet, praise them! If they are unable to go, it is OK. Clean them up and go back to your daily routine. There will be plenty of chances to try again.
      • Complete pants checks throughout the day. If your child is dry, praise them for learning to control their bladder/bowels.
      • Take them to the toilet frequently throughout the day so they have more opportunities to go in the potty and fewer chances of having accidents.
      • Stay calm and be patient. Learning any new skill takes time, practice and positive feedback.
      • Keep the nappies on at night. Children take longer to be consistently dry at night vs. during the day. If you are not seeing progress, or your child experiences unusual or unexpected reactions, stop the training and contact a professional (physician, paediatric psychologist) right away. More often than not, the complication can be easily addressed and your family can be back on track in no time!

This article was originally posted on 17 September 2014 and has been updated by Catherine Leung. For additional resources on toilet training, check out “Toilet Training in Less than a Day”, available on Amazon or Potty Power! available online at Amazon.  

Feature image by Guillaume de Germain on Unsplash; Image #1 courtesy of kazuend via Unsplash; Image #2 courtesy Edward Cisneros via Unsplash;  Image #3 courtesy of Kelly Sikkema via Unsplash; Image #4 courtesy of Cami Talpone via Unsplash; Image #5 courtesy of Bruno Nascimento via Unsplash; Image #6 courtesy of Ashton Bingham via Unsplash


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