I’ve worked in child care for a number of years specifically with two year olds. For most care givers two years is the dreaded age group. You’re dealing with temper tantrums and potty training. But I happen to think that two years is the best age. I actually enjoy watching the children feel grown up as they tackle using the toilet. So here are some of my tips that can be used at home.
1) Equipment- Get a doughnut/potty insert and a potty seat. You’ll want the two choices because the more choices the child has the better. You’ll also want them to eventually use the doughnut for going out places. The potty seat is great because it can go in any room especially the bedroom which is key to night toilet training. Let them pick out their potty seat and potty insert. Also let them pick out their own underwear. There are some great cloth trainers on the market if you’re just starting out. You’ll want to buy several pairs of underwear/trainers as well as several sets of sheets for nighttime training. Accidents are normal and occur even with elementary school age children.
2) Get to talking- It’s never too early to discuss bathroom habits with children even infants. It doesn’t matter what words you use (we use poop and pee) as long as it won’t embarrass you in public (like curse words). Make sure you use them and talk about bathroom behavior as though it was normal and even Mom and Dad use the potty.
3) Model it- Not everyone likes this part, but toddlers are monkey see monkey do. If you take them with you to the bathroom, they will learn how toilet paper and washing our hands work. They also will learn what a potty is for and that it’s normal to use it. You may also want to get Dad or some other trusted adult male on board too. When it comes to teaching boys how to urinate standing up, there’s just no substitute for having the right equipment.
4) Integrate it- At my house we read before going to bed or nap time. Take the opportunity to read books about using the toilet or to watch a video discussing it. You can also make build lessons around the toilet like having the child pretend their teddy bear is using it or to make a toilet-shaped craft.
5) Let the child go at their own pace- Encourage any behaviors (however trivial they may seem), and don’t push children to go beyond their comfort level. I know that there is pressure in the United States for children to be trained by age three. It doesn’t matter when they accomplish toilet training. It only matters that children don’t develop complexes about it which can lead to episodes of constipation (for instance). Even if they are only sitting on the potty fully clothed for a second, it’s still a victory.
6) No Rewards/Punishments- I totally do not believe that there should be any reward or punishment for toilet training other than praise. I believe that children can be taught how to use the potty through modeling and dialogue. However, not everyone agrees with me. I would not use punishment, but if a parent decides to, rewards, in the form of stickers or toys, is acceptable. I do not believe in using candy as a reward. The problem with using food as a reward or a punishment is that it creates an unhealthy hierarchy of foods in the mind of the child. Somehow desserts seem better because they are only given when a child has behaved properly. Food is supposed to nourish our bodies. The only hierarchy that should be created is one of unhealthy versus healthy foods.
7) Make sure your child is ready- Mimicking Mom and Dad, having the ability to remove ones clothing, being able to use potty language, staying dry for long periods of time are all important clues that a child is ready for toilet training. It’s also important that a child is willing to use the potty. Some children are not emotionally ready to give up diapers and should not be forced to use the toilet.
8) My final tip is just for the parents. Don’t let the outside pressure get to you. You will be asked constantly if your child has been trained yet. Just smile and say “we’re working on it.” And remember to filter any advice. People mean well, but some of it is more destructive than helpful. You are the parent. You know what’s best for your child.
Article by Laura Weirich
Laura Weirich has been married for four years and has two sons. She's been breastfeeding for nearly two years and currently tandem nurses her toddler and infant. A big proponent of breastfeeding, she's been educating her friends and family about the benefits of breastfeeding and helping other women along the way. When she's not nursing, she chases a toddler all day, washes cloth diapers, tries to catch a few zs and reads up on the latest research about children.
Laura has written 33 awesome articles for Natural Family Today.