5 Steps for Potty Training Success

Mother potty training her daughter

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Figuring out how to start potty training your toddler is an all-important step once you've determined that your child is ready to ditch the diapers. Of course, what works and what doesn't depends on the personality of your little one. In general, however, these tips will help you get started:

Have a Talk With Your Toddler

Sit down and discuss some key toilet issues. For example, tell them that everyone goes potty (even animals) and it's a normal part of life. Talk with them about the toilet, a special place where they can potty, and let them try flushing themselves. Explain that they're going to be wearing underwear instead of diapers, just like you.

Take this time to read some books or watch videos about going to the potty, and be sure to involve other family members, especially older siblings who are already using the potty.

Plan a Trip to Purchase Potty Training Products

Involve your toddler in purchasing underwear, a step stool, and a potty chair (if you decide to use one). These items will have much more significance if they're involved in the decision-making process. Decide whether or not you're going to use pull-ups, training pants, or regular underwear, and try to stick with this decision, so your child has consistency and isn't confused. If you go with undies, be sure to purchase plenty, so you're not overwhelmed with laundry in the beginning stages of training.

Make Dressing and Undressing Easy

Put away any difficult clothing until potty training is complete. Overalls, pants with lots of buttons, snaps or zips, tight or restrictive clothing, and oversized shirts will all be an obstacle to your child during potty training. Put them away now, so you can resist the temptation to use them when there's nothing else clean or you're in a hurry during the morning rush.

Brainstorm Ways to Handle Praise, Rewards, Accidents

Make decisions about how you're going to try to approach these things with your child. These don't have to be written in stone, and indeed they shouldn't be. As potty training progresses, you may have to change methods many times according to his needs (and yours). It is helpful, however, to have some things outlined in your mind. Think about whether or not you want to use rewards or not. Figure out a strategy on how to handle potty issues when you're away from home. Practice a calm, matter-of-fact response to accidents in your mind.

Talk to Your Child Care Provider

If your child is in child care, ask for their advice and make sure there aren't any hard-and-fast rules the center or caregiver has in place that may be an issue. Let them know that you're going to start and enlist their help with the process. You and your caregivers should all be on the same page. 

By Stephanie Brown
Stephanie Brown is a parenting writer with experience in the Head Start program and in NAEYC accredited child care centers.