Using the toilet is something that comes so naturally that it’s hard to believe there was a time we didn’t know how. Until we become parents…..and then the crap smeared on our leather upholstery reminds us. Unfortunately, potty training isn’t always easy; it’s riddled with mistakes and overreactions that make it harder than it needs to be.
Yet there is a silver lining: knowing the most common potty training mistakes empowers you to avoid them.
So, go ahead and sidestep the following:
Mistake #1: Potty training too early
Potty training a child who is not ready is like teaching a puppy how to read; in other words, it’s pointless. In order for your child to effectively learn the ways of the toilet, they must have a certain level of dexterity and problem-solving capabilities. They must be willing, as well!
For most kids, this readiness happens somewhere between 27 and 32 months of age. Of course, this isn’t a hard and fast rule; it’s always possible that your child will be ready earlier or later.
So, how do you know it’s time to show them where to go? They’ll get curious about the toilet (they may show interest in the bathroom or ask questions), they’ll be able to undress themselves, and they’ll go for extended periods of time without wetting their diapers (this means their bladder has begun to regulate).
Mistake #2: Potty training during times of stress
Any sort of change can disrupt your child’s routine, even if it’s a happy change in the form of grandma visiting or the holidays approaching. Vacations, marriages, new siblings, grief, new babysitters, changing schools, or moving disrupt your child too.
Thus, if any of those are coming down the pike, reconsider your potty plan. Toilet training during times of calm and routine will always be more effective than training during times of transformation. If you opt to take your child out of diapers when all hell’s broken loose, you’ll only add to the chaos.
Mistake #3: Not talking about the potty in positive terms
It can be difficult to be complimentary about crap but speaking about bathroom-related things in negative terms (such as “stinky” or “dirty”) can impact a child’s self-esteem. This sets the stage for potty training that is based on fear rather than a desire to stay clean or act like a big kid.
Nix the negative for positive words. This doesn’t mean you need to write an ode to poop, but don’t act like it disgusts you either. Even subtle facial expressions (like plugging your nose) can be hurtful. And never punish a child for having an accident (as it’s only natural); this can impact the parent-child relationship. Instead, give praise, love, and cheer them on as much as possible.
Mistake #4: Allowing diapers on occasion
It’s not uncommon for parents in the throes of potty training to revert back to diapers every now and then; quite frankly, this is often easier. But it’s counterproductive too: consistency is key to powerful pottying. Going back and forth also confuses the child, leaving them unsure of exactly what to do with their doodoo.
Mistake #5: Leaving the house during potty training
Okay, potty training doesn’t mean you need to become a hermit, never leaving the confines of your home and flinching at the slightest ray of sun. But stay home for a few days when potty training starts – this sets you up for success and avoids accidents in the middle of Applebee’s. Potty training over a holiday weekend is often recommended for this reason: it gives you time to lay the necessary foundation. Staying home is less stressful on the child too, which ups the odds they’ll learn faster.
Mistake #6: Getting upset over accidents
We all know that accidents happen and, naturally, they’re called accidents for a reason. Still, it’s hard not to get upset when your floor is suddenly covered with urine. Keeping your cool and offering gentle encouragement keeps your child on track – shaming your child can lead to making potty training much more emotional than necessary and it may cause your child to withhold going, even when sitting on the toilet.
When accidents do happen, place your child on the toilet and remind them to go in the bowl. Afterwards, clean up the puddle but don’t act angry, shame, or punish them. Rather, calmly tell them to let you know the next time they must go.
Mistake #7: Thinking nights are the same as days
Night training is a whole different ballgame than potty training during waking hours. When children are asleep, they have no control over their bladder because the brain to bladder connection isn’t strong enough. Simply, they’ll sleep right through needing to go and wet their mattress instead of waking up and walking to the bathroom. In fact, 15% of five-year-olds and 10% of six-year-olds experience nighttime accidents because of this faulty connection.
Keep this in mind: even if your child is using the toilet like a champ during daylight hours, be prepared for damp evenings. And never punish your child for doing something they have absolutely no say in. Until your child wakes up with dry diapers several days in a row, put them in nighttime diapers whenever they go to sleep (and at naptime too).
Mistake #8: Not being on the same page with other family members
As mentioned earlier, consistency is a key to potty training. Yet this consistency can’t just come from you, it must come from everyone. This means spouses, grandparents, aunts, uncles, babysitters, and teachers need to all board the Toilet Express, working towards the common goal. You don’t want to put in the effort only to have your slacker brother-in-law undo your progress.
Mistake #9: Quitting too soon
Thomas Edison once said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” It’s unlikely that he had the toilet in mind when he stated this, but it still applies. It’s common for parents to mop up yet another puddle on the floor and then throw in the towel they used: it’s too frustrating to go on. But quitting and restarting (or picking up when the child is older) can make potty training more difficult. Give your kiddo time, at least a week, before you consider your alternatives.
Mistake #10: Not asking for help
Help is not always warranted, no matter how many of us would love to just call a potty training tutor to teach our child the ins and outs of indoor plumbing. But if you have a kiddo who just can’t seem to potty train, there’s likely a reason. Some kids are indeed stubborn or strong-willed; others love the convenience of walking around with a diaper attached. In these cases, you may need to look closer for the problem so you can find a solution.
A child may also refuse to use the toilet if something frightened them (such as almost falling into the bowl) or if they’re dealing with physical discomfort caused by things like constipation. There is always the chance that something medical is going on too, so make sure you contact your pediatrician for advice. They can help determine the root of the refusal and help you take steps to remedy the problem.
Potty training isn’t always a walk in the park; sometimes, you just have to “bare” with it. But staying on track, and using the above tips, can free your child of diapers and free you of having to buy loads of Lysol and bleach.