Potty training is an exercise in patience and consistency. You have to be patient—potty training can be a long process—and you have to be consistent with your routine. It's just as much about you training you as it is training your toddler. Every parent eagerly awaits the milestone of potty training. It means you are coming to the end of your diaper changing years, but it can take a while. Some children take to potty training quickly and easily; others may take several months to adjust. Taking it slow and explaining the process can help you and your toddler throw diapers away for good.
First, you must assess your toddler's readiness for potty training. Most toddlers are ready to start somewhere in between their second and third birthdays. Some may be ready as early as 18 months. Watch for signs of potty training readiness and if they aren't there, don't rush. Forcing your toddler to use the potty before they are ready will only hinder the process.
Once your toddler expresses interest in using the toilet, you must buy some potty training accessories. You will need a child-sized potty chair or potty seat that fits on your toilet seat. You may want to show your toddler both as most toddlers prefer one or the other. Whichever you choose, make sure your toddler can still place their feet on the floor so they can push when having a bowel movement. If using a potty seat, place a stool under their feet.
To introduce your toddler to the new potty, set it somewhere where your toddler can see it on a daily basis—living room, bathroom, bedroom. Portable potties are handy for moving from room to room. This will peak their curiosity and they may start sitting on it all by themselves. Explain what the potty is for when asked.
If you toddler shows no interest in the potty, give it a week, and then set your toddler on the potty fully clothed once a day. Pick a time of day when your toddler usually needs to go—first thing in the morning, after a nap, or before a bath. If your toddler doesn't want to sit on it, leave them alone. Never restrain or physically force your toddler to sit on the potty, it will only make them more resistant. If your toddler isn't ready, put it away for a couple of weeks before you try again.
Once your toddler is comfortable with the potty, sit them on it without their diaper. Sitting on the potty diaperless will feel different. Let them get used to that feeling. Explain again what the potty is for and the process of using one. If you hear a surprise tinkle, then your toddler is getting it, but don't lay on the pressure. Explain the process of feeling the need to pee and running to the potty to go pee. Explaining and repetition is what potty training is all about.
The next time your toddler voids in their diaper, take them to the potty, and empty the diaper into the potty. Empty the potty into the big toilet and let your toddler flush the toilet and watch it swirl down the drain. Teach them to put their clothes back on and wash their hands. Make a big deal out of it, your toddler wants this to be a big accomplishment they can be proud of.
Once your toddler understands the process, encourage them to sit on the potty whenever they feel the urge to go. Ask them regularly, especially if they look fidgety, if they have to use the potty. Make sure your toddler knows that they can tell you when they need to use the potty and that you'll take them to the potty anytime they ask.
If you can, let your toddler run around with a bare-butt and keep the potty nearby. Reaffirm they can use it when they need to go and occasionally ask if they need to use it. A few days with a bare bum and peeing down the legs is usually all it takes to kick-start potty training. No one likes the feeling of pee running down their leg, not even your toddler.
If training is going well, trade-in the diapers for extra-thick cotton training pants. Cloth training pants do require more work than diapers, but they work better to move the process along. The fact is your toddler needs to experience the discomfort of wetting themselves to motivate them to potty train. It is easy to ignore the potty when your diaper wicks away moisture from your body. Unlike diapers, your toddler can really feel it when they go in training pants. This motivates them to tell you when they need to go and can motivate them to hold it and run to the potty when they feel the urge. Use the training pants during the day and stick with diapers overnight.
It may take several weeks, months, or years before your toddler stays dry throughout the night. Most toddlers relax their bodies as they fall asleep, including their bladders. Encouraging them to use the potty right before bed is always a good idea, but they are not quite ready to wake up and go when the urge strikes while asleep. Keeping fluids to a minimum late in the evening will help. Moving the potty next to the bed may encourage nighttime use if your toddler wakes up in the middle of the night having to go.
When your toddler is consistently dry all day, the time may be right for a shopping trip. Most toddlers love picking out their first pairs of big kid underwear. Underwear with their favorite cartoon character or super hero on them gives most toddlers an added incentive to stay dry.
Every toddler will have accidents when potty training. Accept them with grace. It takes some time to develop muscle control—this is when your patience needs to kick in. When your toddler has an accident, stay calm, don't get angry or punish them. Reassure your toddler that they are not in trouble, calmly clean up the mess and your toddler, and remind them that next time they should try using the potty.
When your toddler is ready to start the process, potty training shouldn't be too traumatic a process for either of you. Expect to receive many requests for you to look in the potty. Toddlers are proud of their accomplishments and want to show it to others for validation and praise. It is a big accomplishment, so make it a big deal—clap, smile, offer encouragement and congratulations, watch them flush their goods. Just make sure show-and-tell stays in the family.