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Potty Training, Katie's Method

Phase 1, Introduction:

Potty Training/Learning doesn’t have to be anxiety-inducing. Learning new skills like this are best done in a relaxed and positive atmosphere. Stress around toileting can cause toddlers to hold back from relieving themselves which leads to UTIs, constipation, fear of the toilet, and a lack of self-confidence.

Here is how introducing potty training works:

  • Read books about using the toilet. Although adults can use the bathroom in their sleep, this is all very new to a toddler. Books can help explain what a grown-up might not think to say. Watching potty videos with Daniel Tiger or Elmo can also be motivating.

  • Use factual language, and keep your tone natural or positive. Metaphors are lost on toddlers. Use the real names for body parts and treat using the bathroom like the everyday thing it is.

  • Practice skills like putting his pants on and pulling them up/down and handwashing using a step stool. You can’t be bathroom independent without those skills. It sets him up for success if he feels proud and accomplished in the bathroom, not overwhelmed by too many new skills.

  • Take him with you. If he accompanies you into the bathroom, invite him to sit and try on his potty next to you. Toddlers are pretty communal creatures, and knowing someone else is doing the same thing can help toddlers relax.

  • Respect his “No.” If he isn’t in the mood, don’t force it. It will be a headache if you try and force the issue.

  • Praise the effort. It’s ok if he doesn’t go or misses and has an accident. Say, “Thanks for trying” or “Next time try and get the pee in the toilet.”

Phase 2, Training:

Once it seems like he has the idea, and you have a relatively calm moment (no major transitions, no guests, peaceful at-home break), remove the diapers and go all out. How this works:

  • No diapers, no underwear. Underwear can evoke the feeling of diapers, kids generally do better going commando for the first couple of weeks diaper free.

  • Make sure you help him wipe and remind him to wipe front to back. Wiping is a difficult skill, most kids need help after bowel movements for a couple of years. It is no fun to have to put diaper cream on a 3 or 4-year-old because their grown-up didn’t help them wipe.

  • Don’t ask too often or force going every 20min. No one pees that frequently. Relax, and watch for cues after meals, before or after sleep, and when it’s been a couple of hours. If you go, ask him to join you. Insist on trying before leaving the house for your own sanity!

  • Watch for distractions. When kids have to go, it’s usually RIGHT NOW! But they can still get distracted by a toy on the way. You don’t have to stay home though, bring a travel potty with you but practice setting it up beforehand so you aren’t struggling while he is dancing.

  • Give lots of praise and high fives. Let him eavesdrop on you praising him over the phone to a relative or friend.

  • It’s ok to revert to diapers for a flight or car ride, and some kids can’t wake up to use the bathroom in the night. But try to keep it mostly diaper free. Going back and forth is not only confusing, it sets the child up for failure. Be silly about using diapers so it doesn’t seem like a punishment, “There’s no potties in the car, silly!”

Phase 3, Follow Through:

It’s normal for accidents to happen occasionally in the first few years of being potty trained. However, you can set your child up for success by

  • Staying diaper free during all awake hours. Going back and forth is confusing and can cause a regression.

  • Keeping the routine as calm and same as possible even during travel and illness. Regressions are normal during periods of change.

  • Make sure all adult caregivers are on the same page and are using the same language.

  • Try not to look/sound frustrated even if you are really feeling it. Extra stress makes potty problems worse.

  • Be prepared. Have the travel potty, a change of clothes, wipes, and hand sanitizer always with you.


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