Potty Training Phase I: Establishing the 2 Vital Keys for Success
Is your child between 18 to 20 months? Does his diaper stay dry for long periods of time? Does he tell you when he has a messy diaper? And finally, does he think it’s fun to sit on the potty? If so, these are clear signs that a child is ready to start the potty training process. But, where does a parent start? How does a parent teach a young child, with so little language to accomplish such a monumental task? Are stickers and candy rewards effective motivators in getting a child to go pee-pee or poo-poo in the toilet? Truth be told, the primary goal during the beginning stages of potty training is not voiding in the toilet, it is, number one, formulating a routine and, number two, teaching a child to be independent in the bathroom. In fact, going pee-pee and poo-poo in the toilet are part of the final group of skills a child acquires and accomplishes during the potty training process.
1. Establish Routine
Emotionally, for a child, potty training is an enormous undertaking and requires a strong foundation of trust to be successful. The best way to ensure trust and the first vital key in achieving potty training is the creation of a consistent routine. While the child is still wearing diapers, make visits to the bathroom every 45 minutes. Ideally, potty training starts the moment the child wakes up in the morning and will end around 3:00 p.m. or 4:00 p.m. The goal in the first few days is to establish the expectations in the bathroom and to familiarize a child with the potty routine. The day before the start of potty training, it is also important for a parent to have a discussion with a child about starting this new phase. Use words like, “You are a big boy now and big boys go pee-pee and poo-poo in the potty. Tomorrow, we are going to start practicing sitting on the potty and pretty soon there will be no more diapers because you are going to wear big boy underpants.”
2. Focus on Independence
Typically, once in the bathroom, a parent proceeds to pull a child’s pants down, place him on the potty and then concentrate all energies into encouraging a child to void in the toilet. While commonly executed, this is actually an unreasonable expectation in the early stages because it takes time and practice to develop this type of cognitive function and motor control. Therefore, the second vital key in the potty training process is independence in the bathroom. The main objectives upon arrival to the bathroom are for the child to push his pants down, sit on the potty for a few minutes, stand up, pull pants up, wipe, flush and wash hands. A parent’s job is to provide verbal and physical instruction and assistance during these tasks where and when necessary. A parent must allow a child to do what he is capable of doing on his own.
Routine and focus on independence are the two vital keys to setting a positive tone for a child during the potty training process. The establishment of a consistent routine allows a child to develop trust in the environment and himself because he can predict what comes next and, consequently, is motivated to function independently. Once routine and independence have been established, your child is ready to move on to Phase II of the potty training process, which is actually getting your child to void in the potty.