Potty Training Partners: Putting the Fun back into Potty Learning

A one-size-potty-training plan does not fit all potty training situations. Your potty training experiences will be as unique as you and your child. Liberate yourself and your child from external pressure. Design your perfect potty plan with a full awareness of your child’s personal strengths and complete respect for your child’s individuality. You will be your child’s potty partner inspiring and guiding at first, then shadowing and helping with mistakes, and finally celebrating your child’s mastery of her own body. This is your time to follow your child where he wants to go and to lead him to places he never imagined.

Immerse your child in a positive potty environment.

Just as you created a language-rich around your child long before she spoke her first words, you can create a positive potty environment long before your child masters the workings of her body.

Potty training is so much easier if learning is fun and the bathroom is a happy place. Invite and entice your child into this new world, never push. Be a positive potty role model – include your child in your potty routine. Pulling toilet paper, flushing toilets and washing hands are routines to share with your child. Let your child make friends with her potty chair long before there are any potty expectations. And be sure to add a few positive potty books and potty songs to your home library. Stories and music reinforce your positive messages while building understanding and interest.

Ready or not?

Too many potty training stories involve potty power struggles. Don’t go there. Your child must be ready – physically capable of anticipating potty moments and totally committed to giving up his diaper. Watch and wait for these four areas of readiness: physical development, language development, emotional development, and cognitive development.

• Your child can stay dry for short periods of time.
• Your child can communicate the need to potty before she goes.
• Your child is curious and motivated.
• Your child understands the sequence of before, during and after, as well as the big picture “this is the way to potty – goodbye diapers -see ya, don’t need ya!”

Once you see these developmental conditions, you can embark on a potty plan custom made for you and your family. If some but not all of these conditions are in place, wait. Continue to create a positive potty world around your child. Play to your child’s strengths. Build confidence and cognitive connections. Celebrate small successes and create a socially supportive potty network. Wait before you introduce the lure and the luxury of underwear.

A custom-made potty plan

At some point, your child will advance from casual, some-of-the-time potty experiences to that new goal of using a potty instead of a diaper. Your child may wake up one day say “no more diapers”. Or, the timing might be just right – a ready child and a long weekend with no other obligations and time to burn. Here are your positive potty tips:

Name the event. A name reinforces the message you’re trying to convey to your child – “Hooray, it’s time for a “potty play day”.
Tell your child the goal – “We’ll play and potty at home today. Then pretty soon you can say bye bye to your diapers.”
Practice the goal under the simplest conditions. Your plan for the potty play day is to help make pottying simple and easy for your child. Take off the diapers so your child can feel his body working. Dress him in easy-off clothing or no clothes at all. He’ll then have immediate feedback as to what happens without a diaper and an easier time getting on the potty in a timely way.
Teach potty hygiene. Bathrooms are very fun places without obvious boundaries. Start with clear messages about how to use the toilet paper, how many times to flush the toilet, and a fun hand-washing habit. Sing the “Happy Potty” song to teach children how long hand washing should take.
Happy potty to me
Happy potty to me
I’m learning where to pee (…where to poopie)
Happy potty to me!
Practice makes perfect. Athletes and musicians know repetition is essential to mastery. The beauty of concentrated potty play days is that you are creating the opportunity for repeated success. You are the time management expert for potty play days. It’s up to you to take your child for potty breaks at critical intervals. Focus on the adventure of discovery and the satisfaction of success – “look you peed on the potty!!!!”
A happy ending. No matter what happens at the end of potty play days, hopefully you’ve had a very personal, fun-filled time with your child. Tell your child how much you enjoyed being with him. If your child is ready, gift wrap those favorite underpants. If your child is still learning, celebrate with a cake, light candles to commemorate each trip to the potty. Either way, you have everything you need to evaluate your child’s future potty training success.

The secret to stress-free potty training is to customize the potty plan for your child and for your family. Here is where you modify the potty plan to match your child’s temperament. Think back to what you know about how your child learns and how your child adapts to change: Is your child eager and open to change? Is your child watchful and prefers baby steps into new situations? Is your child resistant and strongly asserts “his way”? These insights will guide you to know how fast or slow the potty process should go, whether your attitude should be focused or laid back, and which potty games will encourage your child’s success versus which will discourage.

It’s about the child not the potty

What do you gain if your child is potty trained but is fearful and living under constant threat of failure? What do you gain if the potty training experience is so riddled with anxiety that you wish you could send your child to potty camp and let someone else “fix” him?

There’s nothing wrong with your child. Potty training just happens to coincide with a time of huge developmental growth – emotionally and physically. Focus your potty training energies on supporting and guiding your child through this developmental maze. He needs you as a partner, a partner who will show him all that he can do. He needs you to be his #1 fan before, during, and long after potty training is complete.

This is parenthood. One skill accomplished; a million more to go!


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