As a mother of three children, you would think that by child #3 I would have had the toilet training thing down pat! Right? I couldn’t have been more wrong!
Every child is different, and with my third child, I was having issues with her “strong will”. Every child goes through what they call the “terrible twos”, but remember this is a normal part of development. Toddlers are trying to assert their independence, while still being dependent on you as the parent. They can go from cuddle to conniption in a matter of minutes.
They try to deal with their emotions, like frustration, sadness or anger, without having the language skills to fully express what they are feeling. And they haven’t mastered how to regulate or control their behaviors yet. This is why they often have meltdowns or tantrums.
With all of these challenges in toddlerhood, how do you help your child to navigate something as stressful as potty training?
As a teacher, I know that all children learn best when they clearly know what is expected of them, can be shown what to do, and when learning is FUN.
Here are some tips to take the power-struggle out of potty training your toddler:
- Children naturally learn by observation and mimicking behaviors. Toddlers learn best when you model what you want them to do. With potty training, it can be a parent or older sibling that they look up to that demonstrates the steps of toilet training in the bathroom. Just make sure that you allow the toddler plenty of opportunities to do things by themselves. The more they feel that they have some control, the less they will resist. And remember to give them a whole lot of praise!
- Most children are visual learners. While it is important to show toddlers what is expected by modeling, it is just as important to have some kind of visual reminder. An illustrated potty training chart that shows the steps to toilet training using pictures is a great resource! Toddlers can identify the sequence of pictures and follow along independently. This takes the power-struggle out of potty training because you are not having to constantly remind your toddler of each step. Toddlers feel a sense of confidence in their newfound independence and this builds self esteem. It’s a win-win.
- The natural next step is for the toddler to want to be the expert! This is why having little dolls or favorite stuffed animals potty train alongside your toddler is a wonderful idea! The toddler wants to be the teacher, and in doing so, is practicing the steps to potty training. This allows them to feel in charge and feel good about what they have learned by helping to teach a little friend what to do.
- Toddlers also love stories. Potty Training books, toilet training DVDs or potty training apps that have a social story about toddlers learning potty training are great for toddlers to feel that they are not alone in the process. They identify with the character(s) of a story and are more likely to follow along with these new found friends.
- Make Potty Training FUN! Let your toddler “set up shop” in a bathroom. Let them be part of placing their toddler potty, hanging the potty chart and filling a basket with some small toys and books that will help them pass the time while they are conducting their business! Music is also a great motivator for mood! So if you can find a potty training song , that would be a BONUS!
- Allow children to help you to develop potty training rewards that will work for them. If they feel like they have some say in the process, they will be more likely to “buy in” to what you are trying to get them to do. Some parents use a favorite little treat or small sticker or prize. Others have found success with fun activities or games.
- Remain Calm and Potty On! And never forget a sense of humor! This has helped me with more than potty training and it will help you too!
Happy Potty Training!
Mom, Educator and Creator of the Potty Tots Potty Training Program