By Jennifer Ellis

There are many milestones in your child’s early years. Some leave you feeling triumphant and some cause you pain. Potty training is definitely one of those events that will wear you out but will result in a feeling of accomplishment for both you and your child.

In potty training, timing is everything. Every child is different and develops at different rates.

The key to successful potty training is to make your child want to use the toilet and not see it as just having to do it because “mom wants me to”. Some children simply need praise and become internally motivated. They desperately want you to be pleased with them. Others need an external motivation, such as a small treat or rewards.

I used M&Ms. I gave the trainee 3 M&Ms and I also gave 3 M&Ms to the siblings. This helped keep the whole family motivated in reminding the trainee to go and made the world seem fair in the siblings’ eyes. For poop, I gave out a mini peanut butter cup. Just keep in simple, because your child will figure out that if she increases the fluid intake she can attempt to go more.

To get her used to the idea, begin with a “talk”. Tell her she’s not a baby anymore and is getting too big to wear diapers. Everyone must learn to use the potty and everyone has accidents, even mommy and daddy did. No one likes to take time out to go to the potty, not even when you grow up but it has to be done.

I like the “point of no return” approach. Tell her you are not going to buy anymore diapers and that it is now up to her to choose either to go in the potty or to have it drip down her leg and get her clothes all wet. Tell her you will help her to remember and that there will be accidents but that that is okay because she is learning.

I recommend skipping the Pull Ups for day usage and move straight from diapers to real panties or underwear. Modern day diaper technology is great for babies to stay dry but slows down the training process for children since the child is never forced to feel the wetness. The advertisements suggest that children will want to put them on earlier because they look like real underwear but they soon discover that they too are really just cool looking diapers. This makes it possible for the child to decide not to take the time to go to the potty and just keep on playing with no real discomfort.

If your child is reluctant or refuses to use the potty then let it go and try again in a few weeks. The harder you push, the more she may resist.

Never flush the potty while your child is sitting on it. She may feel that she might be accidentally flushed away and become scared of the potty.

The first couple of days, fix your child’s favorite drink and let her have lots of it so she will have lots of opportunities to practice feeling the urge to “go” coming and what happens when she doesn’t catch it in time. She will need to feel it dripping down her leg and decide she doesn’t want that to happen.

Try to stay unemotional when you clean up each accident. Just say something like “oops! It looks like you were just a little too busy playing to remember to go to the potty. Let’s clean it up and try to remember the next time”. When she has success in the potty, there should lots of hugs, kisses and praise of what a big girl she’s becoming.

In addition to extra fluids, make sure your child eats lots of fruits and vegetables maybe even prune juice to keep the bowel movements coming easily. It takes only one painful bowel movement while sitting on the potty to make your child scared to try to poop in the potty again.

Two hours before bedtime, try to limit fluids. Set her on the potty right before bed time. Layer the bed sheets. Put on a sheet set and then top it with a plastic sheet or puddle pad. Place another
sheet set on top of this so if the first set is wet then you just have to remove it and another set will be there ready and waiting for you.

Additional ideas to make using the toilet fun:

Fruit loops or goldfish crackers floating in the toilet bowl for aiming practice, shaving cream squirts in the bowl to rain upon, a little dish soap in the bowl will make bubbles, a drop or two of food coloring in the bowl to watch the color change when she goes. You can also purchase floating bulls eye squares and floating fish for aiming practice.

A sticker accomplishment chart and activity book can be found at . A free potty training kit can be found at and every type of potty chair imaginable can be found at .

Helpful Hints:
Spring and Summer are the best times to potty train because of the freedom from clothing
Dress your child in easy to take off clothes
Buy lots of underwear
Slightly squash the toilet paper roll so that it won’t unroll so easily
Keep a pump bottle of antibacterial gel by the toilet for easier hand washing for little ones

Jennifer Ellis is a former elementary teacher and is now a stay-at-home mom.