Potty Training Requires Preparation, Patience and Praise

Filed under: Toddlers Preschoolers, Potty Training

Potty Training Requires Preparation, Patience and Praise

Be patient with your child when potty training. Credit: Getty Images

When it's time to potty train, it's all about the three "P" words: preparation, praise and patience.

Prepare your children for toilet training by providing them with books on the topic and the words your family uses to describe bathroom functions.

Introduce children to the potty slowly. Start by setting them fully clothed on a closed toilet seat. Eventually, let them sit on the potty at times when they are likely to go -- early in the morning, after a meal or about 45 minutes after they've had a drink.

"It's best to do some figuring out of the child's patterns in advance of the situation," says Linda Sonna, a psychologist and author of "Early-Start Potty Training."

Praise children for sitting on the potty -- regardless of whether they go, adds Susan Lipkins, a psychologist in Port Washington, N.Y. "Reinforce any attempt to go and sit on the potty," she says.

It's also OK to use stickers, small candies or reward charts to encourage kids to use the bathroom, experts say.

If your child is having difficulty making bowel movements on the potty, try placing a stool under his feet to help him push.

Expect accidents and let your child know they are not a big deal, says Maryann Bourque, a nurse and community education coordinator for the Nemours/Alfred I. DuPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Del.

Parents who get upset over accidents are making it harder for children, Lipkins says. She encourages parents to make sure their children are finger painting, using Play Doh and doing other messy crafts around the same time as potty training.

"It lets them know you'll tolerate messes," she says.

Finally, it's crucial to be patient with your child, Bourque says: "It just takes time."

Bourque, Sonna and Lipkins offer the following dos and don'ts to make the process easier:

  • Don't punish a child for accidents.
  • Do put books by the potty to make it fun.
  • Don't dress children in clothes that are difficult to take off.
  • Do establish a routine or set times for going to the potty.
  • Don't be afraid to make using the potty fun. Consider adding food color to the water in the toilet bowl.
  • Do let a child watch you use the toilet.
  • Don't force a child to sit on the potty.
  • Do allow children to help clean themselves up after accident.
Related: How to Ditch the Diapers and Start Potty Training

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