How to Ditch the Diapers and Start Potty Training

Filed under: Toddlers Preschoolers, Potty Training, Amazing Kids, Cabin Fever

If your children are well past diapers, you don't have children, or you feel the urge to shout "TMI!" at your computer screen on a regular basis, please, avert your eyes. This column may not be for you. If, however, you have a small diapered person in your care, and you're wondering, "Is there life after diapers?" do read on.

Cabin Fever is a parent, not an expert. But, I can assure you that there is life after diapers. I call it "Travels with Potty." Glamorous, huh? Still, it's a step above Adventures with Wet Poopy Pants, though unfortunately the two sometimes go hand in hand, to mix metaphors, and to create an unpleasant picture in your mind. Sorry about that.

Before parenthood, few of us could have imagined standing around with fellow adults discussing poop. Birth will do that to a person. Next thing you know, you're studying the contents of a diaper like you've found the Holy Grail. Worse, you're unable to resist the urge to share what you've learned with others. Surprisingly, others are moderately interested, and in return will share their discoveries with you. But only if you've got the ear of a fellow parent. And even then, only if said fellow parent has a child younger than two.

Because by the time a child hits age two, most of us have outgrown our fascination with diapers and their contents. Most of us are more than ready to move on. The question is: how?
ParentDish offers some excellent tips of the trade, to which I will add my two cents.

1. Readiness. (Your child.)
2. Commitment. (You.)

Are You Ready for This?

Determining readiness is a slow, cumulative process.

Start early. To establish familiarity, place a potty chair in the bathroom somewhere around your child's first birthday. Your child can sit on it, kick it, stand in it, wear it as a hat, ignore it, whatever. Choose the simplest model on the market. Baby Bjorn makes an inexpensive potty molded out of a single piece of plastic. It is portable, unobtrusive, and easy to clean.

When your child is somewhere between 18 months to two years, roll up the carpets and let her run around naked for an hour. See what happens. Is she able to control her bladder, or does she pee on the floor every two minutes? If it's the latter, put the diaper back on. Check in again in a few months. Do not push your child to do something she is physically incapable of doing.

But, if your child shows signs of bladder control, invite her to sit on the potty. Don't force the issue. If she agrees to sit, sing her praises to the moon. It's unlikely she will pee the first time she sits down, or even the tenth. Making this connection can come slowly. Roll out the opportunities to sit and try over days, even weeks, letting your child go naked for an hour when you have time to focus entirely on her, always keeping the potty nearby.

When she pees on the floor, pick her up and carry her to the potty chair. "Yay! Look! You're peeing! Now you can pee on the potty!" The tone is entirely positive. Do not chastise a child for peeing on the floor, or for not peeing in her potty. You are introducing her to an adventure. You are helping her understand what her body is doing. This is all brand new for her.

Finally, one of these times, you will sit her on the potty, and she will pee. She's made the connection. It's a pretty awesome moment. Let her know how proud you are. Call Grandma and let your child report the news herself.

It's Time to Commit!

Here's where you decide: Are you ready to commit? You've established her readiness, and she's connected peeing to the potty. If you're ready, too, set aside several days for intensive training, gird up your loins (not hers!), and go for it. Let the child go naked. Stay nearby, alert to her cues. You can fast-forward the potty usage by plying her with water or juice, so she's peeing and practicing more frequently.

Remember: you will have to remind her to sit on her potty. She is not capable of reading her own signals, yet. This will take time, and patience. At the beginning of the process, you are reading her signals for her, and helping her to interpret them.

Once she's got the potty = peeing connection solidly in place (ie. no accidents on the floor; and note that the potty = pooping connection might take longer), it's time to introduce underwear. Two-year-olds know they're not babies. They are proud to be big kids -- and excited to wear underwear. But know, again, that this switch will come slowly for most. You have to help your child recognize that the feeling of wetness is a sign that she needs to sit on the potty. Your child may not be able to pull her pants down by herself. You will have to teach her, or continue to help her. This could take weeks.

Yup. I said it. Weeks. If your child is ready, ask yourself: Are you ready, too? If so, commit. Goodbye diapers. Hello Travels with Potty.

We want to know: What are your no-fail potty training tips? Feel free to share them in the comments below!

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.