Are you worried your toddler won’t be potty trained by August when he heads to preschool? Well, don’t be. With a little time and training, he’ll reach that milestone.
First, is it really necessary for your child to be potty trained for preschool?
“Yes, it is.” says Jeanne Wilson, director of the Early Childhood Center at St. Mary’s School for Girls. Educators view potty training as an indicator of a child’s independence and readiness to learn other school skills.
But for potty training to work, you must approach practice with a cool head.
“Never let them see you sweat,” advises preschool teacher and toileting expert Karen Norris with A Children’s Place daycare center. She says children feel your stress. Being patient allows you to reassure your child and support her through potty accidents and mishaps.
Gina Chamberland of Wethersfield, Connecticut, wishes she would have been given that advice when her two children were little. She admits she pressured her son, now 9, during toilet training. After several years and much backsliding (he wound up wearing pull-ups to preschool), Gina and her husband eventually turned to their pediatrician when, at 4, their son still wasn’t trained.
The physician calmed the couple down and gave them tips that helped them become more positive and supportive during the training process. As a result, Gina took a week’s vacation from her job to work with her son on potty training. That concentrated time sealed the deal.
Stay home and switch to undies.
When worried parents ask for advice, Wilson suggests a quick call to the pediatrician to rule out any physical issues, but then recommends stopping social events and staying at home to develop consistency with the toileting process. Norris seconds that. She says parents too often stay busy and give up early, reverting to diapers or pull-ups instead of consistently keeping their child in underwear. The experts we spoke with all agreed: once potty training starts, put the pull-ups away — for good.
Gina discovered her 3-year-old daughter was ready when she caught her putting on a diaper and pooping in it. She came up with a toileting plan and told her daughter once the diapers were gone, there would be no more. She would wear underwear only. Her daughter was ready and was potty trained very quickly after that.
Rende Ginn, Memphis mom of three girls, approached potty training with the precision of a drill sergeant. Every morning, she took the girls to the potty as soon as they woke, and then only dressed them in underwear. Throughout the day, she observed each child and learned the cues they demonstrated when they needed to go. She accepted that accidents are part of the process and didn’t become angry, even when there were lots of clean-ups.
Speak it into existence.
Gina did the right thing. She spoke to her daughter and explained what the plan was in their home. Norris says talk to your child in a patient and calm manner. Don’t engage in yelling or shaming conversations with her. Share your plan with daycare or preschool teachers as well to encourage team work. Mimic what happens at school at home and vice versa.
Approaching each child as an individual is key in Norris’ classroom. She figures out what each child’s timing is and takes them to the potty on their schedule. She has also found that some children are motivated with the reward, like playing with a toy once they’ve pottied. Finally, all children respond to positive praise and she lavishes that on them with cheers, stickers, and reward charts (but no candy).
Remove stumbling blocks.
What else works when you’re in the trenches? Our experts agree that summer is the best time to work on toileting because there are fewer articles of clothing for dressing, and it’s easy to allow your child to run around naked if you don’t mind the clean-up. Just remember to relax, be consistent, be patient, and be encouraging. “Make it normal for the kids and not a big ordeal,” says Norris.
Toileting tips at home:
• Dress your child in clothes he can easily get on and off.
• Watch for cues that he needs to go.
• Make sure he knows to wipe, look, and flush.
• Keep a chart and reward when pottying is accomplished.
• Buy plenty of underwear & be ready to do lots of laundry.
• Have multiple bed pads on hand so your child can help with clean-up.
• Limit drinks after supper.
• Light the path to the bathroom with nightlights.
• Clean up accidents with a smile.
When in public:
• Locate bathrooms immediately. Show your child where the toilet is in stores or at your friends’ homes.
• Don’t talk about public bathrooms as scary, germy places. Bring a portable toilet cover, or line the seat with toilet paper.