A typical "potty seat"
Having gone to a lot of effort with my son to figure out what to do and don't do with regards to using a toilet rather than a diaper - which is
most often euphemistically referred to in the English-speaking developed world as "potty training" - I figured I could pass along what has worked (and maybe some of what hasn't).
First of all, as with any parenting, it is important for you to know and associate with other parents who are your peers in your area, however you get to know them. Whether you get to know other parents through your church, a support group, classes or whatever, it is always important to know others who can pass on advice and keep you sane when the chips are flying. It's also good to know other parents as kid stuff is expensive
and it feels better to give the old stuff that you can't use anymore to someone you know will use it than to try to sell it or to throw it away. You may be in the situation where you are the first person in your group of friends who has a child...if that's the case, you need to broaden your horizons and make some friendships with other parents, even if the prospect seems daunting.
On a related note (and getting back to potty training specifically), the first thing you should do is get a portable potty seat. By this I specifically mean something you can cart around and plop down where your kid is comfortable, not an "adapter" chair that fits atop a toilet (those are nice, but not necessary). With a potty seat, you will be ahead of the game with an important tool. Sure, it's possible that you can teach your kids to go potty without one - I know parents who taught their kids how to eliminate into empty cans
, for cryin' out loud - but it is just so much easier with a potty chair.
So, the key thing to remember with teaching a child how to use a potty chair or toilet, which is the key principle behind all advice I've ever seen, is that the child must be able to relax while trying to go potty. In general, this splits further into two approaches:
Fun, fun, fun
: you've got to make it fun for your child. Here are some ways that have worked for us:
* Don't scold (I'm not saying that you're scolding your child, I'm including this for completeness): Scolding your child is just starting on the path to giving them a complex about their bodily functions - take a deep breath when there is an accident and say something like "Oops! Looks
like you had an accident. Accidents happen, but keep trying! We all make mistakes when we're trying to do something new." (Get used to this phrase - I had to say this pretty much verbatim this morning when my son wet the bed)
* Praise attempts (whether truly successful or not): if your child makes progress or shows signs of trying to go potty, give her kudos: "You did it!" "Nice try, baby (or whatever your endearment is)!" "You're getting so big!"
* Try hard to not make it about you (again, only an issue for some): The temptation is to say things like "I really want you to..." and "I really don't like it when you make a mess..." Making statements about your feelings about their performance/behavior is putting a big trip on your
kid and should be avoided. It's not your child's responsibility to take care of your emotions, and laying your emotions on your child is the first step to building them up as co-dependent. What you can do instead is tell them about your actions, rather than your feelings (this is getting into Love and Logic stuff, which hopefully you can forgive, since you know I've added all the Love and Logic stuff to this spot): "I give rewards to kids who try to go potty in the potty seat." et cetera. That way, you've set expectations for what will happen and won't happen, given what they decide to do.
* Give rewards (in addition to praise) and/or make it a game: with our son, we put up a couple of sheets of paper on the bathroom wall, one for "pee" and the other for "poo". Every time he did one of those things successfully, he got to choose a sticker from a large assortment of the same, peel it off and put it up on the paper himself. This worked wonders for his self-esteem, and strongly motivated him to try. Another common
motivator is to give actual money to the child for each success. If your kid has a piggy-bank, this can work well without presenting too much hassle (up to you, of course, as to whether your own child is old enough to not swallow the change).
* Have a "potty song". Many portable potty seats actually come with companion videos these days, but if you don't have one, you can try link
, which has worked well for us. Music is always a good learning tool, as it inhabits
different parts of the brain and memory - a 'catchy' tune can help kids remember what they're supposed to do as they sing the song throughout the day. It will likely feel ridiculous to you to sing a potty song (because you have to sing along with them if you want them to 'get' it), but remember: this whole process is not about you!
Distract, distract, distract
: kids, like adults, can't perform well if all they're thinking about is performing well. So the other thing you do is to provide distractions so they stop trying so hard and just let their bodies do what comes naturally. On further tip before I go into examples of what you can do: when practicing "going potty", your kids may complain that they don't "need to go". Set an expectation that they need to try for a certain length of time, say, five minutes, and that it doesn't matter if they do or don't "go", but that they try.
* Read some books with your child while they're "on the potty". There's really nothing but good with this approach: kid gets attention, works on social and cognitive skills, develops an enthusiasm for reading, et cetera. Just about the only drawback is the time you need to devote to reading, as there's no telling when your kid will need to "go potty".
* Tell your kids a story. This is pretty similar to the reading for its benefits and drawback, though if anything it shows more love to your kids and it involves more of your mind (especially if you make up your own stories).
* Give the kids a toy or book to entertain themselves. Kids like toys and, as long as the toy is not something that needs to move on the floor (thus getting away from them or drawing them off of the potty seat), they can keep themselves entertained for a long time. If you've been reading picture books to them, they can often re-tell the story to themselves from a book they know, or invent a story in a new book.
* Set the potty seat down in front of the TV and put on a video. Of course, a potty training video is good, but if you have a TV and are willing to expose your kids to kid's movies, this can be a real good way to distract your kids so they can relax and actually use the potty. If you're already showing your kids videos, you can give them a choice between two when they get on the potty. The only drawback for this approach (assuming you're OK with the content of the video) is that your child will want to finish the video after the time is up on the potty seat. You may allow this, or you can stop the video and promise to resume the next time they go potty.
These things may not work for you, as every child is different, but they have worked for me. Take what works and leave the rest.
The actual kind of potty seat we use.