Starting like a Pro
Time-Tested Tips from Parents Who Have Been There
5/28/2008 | by Lisa A. Goldstein
So you’re about to start potty training. If you haven’t the foggiest idea where to begin, start with the experts: parents who have been there, done that.
One mom of four children, ages 4 to 14, has been asked for tips on this subject by three different parents in the last year. Her advice? “Wait until the child is ready,” says Karen Blood of Ft. Dix, N.J. “Once the child is interested, there will be very little work to do on your part.”
Don’t Push It
Blood has watched parents agonize over potty training unnecessarily. “It makes no difference if every time you bring them to the toilet they go,” says Blood. “The idea is that they tell you. They go on their own.”
One of Blood’s friends brought her son to the potty every hour on the hour and would then get mad if he had an accident. “Kids need to learn the feeling of needing to go, not just the reaction of ‘There is a toilet, I guess I could go,’” says Blood.
This is one mistake Stacey Goldsamt, of Gaithersburg, Md., learned the hard way. She started working on potty training with her daughter when she was about 20 months. She began by sitting Eliana on the toilet so she wouldn’t be scared early. Then it became a routine before her nightly bath. She loves to read, so they read her books while she sat on the potty.
What Goldsamt regrets is removing Eliana’s diaper and putting her in underwear at 2 years and 4 months. “I felt like I was a nag asking her every 30 minutes if she had to go,” says Goldsamt. “I think what I did by introducing the potty before [age] 2 is fine so she got used to it and not scared of it, but I should have waited until she was more aware – closer to 2 1/2 – of her urges. She will be 3 in April and is still not great at telling us her urges.”
The worst thing a parent can do is listen to everyone else, according to Blood. Instead, parents should take the cue from their kids to determine when they’re ready to start working on potty training.
“Our time is precious,” says Blood. “Why should we waste it spending all that time forcing the issue?”
Once the interest is there, says Blood, a small amount of work begins. Blood’s rule was simple: Just try. Then there’s the issue of praise – always praise for a job well done, she recommends.
Praising every effort is one tenet Lisa Brewer of Highland Park, Ill., recommends. Brewer says not to turn potty training into a power struggle. This mother of two boys also suggests teaching boys to urinate in the toilet while sitting down; they can learn to pee standing up once they are taller and understand when to use the toilet. It’s much cleaner this way, she says.
“When finally teaching the boys to pee standing up, throw a couple of [circular cereal pieces] in and have them try to sink them,” Brewer says. “This will motivate them to aim.” Remember that all children are different, however, and not every child will respond to every tip in the same way.
Have a potty available for them to sit on by the age of 2 and let them “use” it whenever they want, suggests Brewer. Put a portable potty in the bathroom and have them sit on it.
Martina Fetten of Pittsburgh, Pa., actually got a potty seat that’s not very big and is easy to transport. Wherever she went she took the potty so her son would feel comfortable with it. “He quickly managed to always tell me that he had to go because he knew his potty was right there in Mommy’s bag,” says Fetten.
Every kid wants to be a Big Kid®, says Brewer. Just remember, one day they will.