Originally posted here.
Start a search on the web for “Potty Training Tips” and you will be bombarded with millions of links. “The Best Way to Potty Train,” “Potty Train in Three Days,” “From Diapers to Underwear in 24 hours“ …and a million other catchy headlines that throw info at you on how to quickly transition from diapers. But just like losing weight, there is no quick fix, overnight pill, or one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to potty training. Successful potty training requires consistency and hard work.
I’ve been in childcare for 15 years and I am currently in the trenches of potty training my seventh charge. I have tons of experience but still find myself learning new things with each child. My most recent charge is proving to be a tough case. So, I had to remind myself of my own rules, and in the process I thought I would share with you.
Rule #1: Make Sure They Are Ready
A child will start showing interest in the potty, removing diapers, struggling with diaper changes, and waking up from his or her nap dry when they are ready to begin potty training. Once the child is ready, it’s time to make sure you are ready too. Potty training is a huge commitment and it takes more work than just letting them go in their diaper. Make sure you are ready to put in the work it requires to avoid the confusion of inconsistency because stopping and starting potty training can be massively confusing for a young child.
Rule #2: No Training Pants
I know some moms and nannies love training pants, but personally they are not for me. I start with a trip to the store with the little one and we pick out big kid underwear with characters or designs that they like. We talk about the process in detail and get excited about going on the “big potty” instead of in the diaper. The morning I begin potty training, I swap out all disposable training pants for real cloth underwear and I don’t look back. There will be messes, but it allows the child to feel what it’s like to be wet and dry. Training underwear or training pants feel too similar to diapers for the child, so it makes the connection less likely to click. Be prepared to deal with the hassle of messes, but have faith that your charge will catch on much faster without the training pants and soon you will be rid of diapers altogether, so it’s well worth it.
Rule #3: No Long Outings the First Week
Partly because I don’t use disposable training underwear, I find it much easier to not take major outings during the first week of potty training. Accidents will happen. It’s inevitable and it’s okay. It is so much easier to prevent and clean up accidents when you are at home. Kids and parents are much more distracted when they are outside the home, so staying in for the first week allows you both to focus on the main goal. This isn’t to say you can’t leave the house at all, but limit the outings and if at all possible spend the first three days at home, incorporating fun potty-themed activities into the schedule.
After the first week, you can start taking longer trips from the home each day in big kid underwear (always with back-up clothes packed in a bag) until you and little one feel the potty training has officially clicked.
Rule #4: Make It Fun, But Mean Business
Going to the bathroom: it’s not a negotiation, it’s not a test of wills, it’s a simple task that all humans have to perform. It might not always be as fun as playing, but we still have to do it. Make sure to encourage them each time and make a big deal about it! We have a special potty song that my charge and I made up together, and each time he goes on the potty we break out a chorus of “pee pee on the potty” and he gets a sticker on his chart. It’s fun and interactive and it gives him something to focus on. Encouragement and a fun attitude go a long way with children.
Rule #5: Be Consistent
This really should be rule #1! Stopping and starting potty training, reverting back to diapers or training pants, or allowing them to go in their diapers because it’s easier, you’re tired, or they are fussy, sends major mixed signals and just prolongs the dreaded work of potty training. Make sure that both parents and caregivers are on the same page and willing to put in the work together to successfully transition the child out of diapers. If Nanny potty trains all day and MomBoss is too tired to follow through when she gets home, this venture will not be a success. The same holds true for nannies following through with the potty training plan parents have set out. Make sure everyone is willing to put in the work. Consistency is so very important in potty training!
Rule #6: Don’t Freak Out
It’s exhausting, but it’s okay. If accidents happen, don’t get yourself worked up. Instead, just remind yourself (or MomBoss) that the child won’t be peeing their pants in high school. They will get it even if it takes some time. Hang in there until they do. All kids learn at different times and in different ways when they are ready. We as caregivers just have to hang in here, encourage, and be consistent with our methods until it clicks. Believe me, when it does click, it’s the Best Day Ever. Call your best friend, pop a bottle of champagne, and do your own potty dance. It will be well earned!