The No-Cry Potty Training Solution

If your child views sitting on the toilet as a punishment, then likely there’s been too much stress or pressure for her to learn. If things are really awful you may need to stop training for a week or two to give both of you a breather. However, if you have made some progress you may not want to give up what you’ve achieved. Instead, make potty time much more fun. Add books, toys, music, story-telling or singing to your bathroom visits. Start the fun before she even sits down by having a parade or race into the bathroom. Almost all children thrive under a parent’s light-hearted one-on-one playtime, so concentrate on this aspect for a while, without demanding a deposit every time she visits the potty.

When you feel your little one is enjoying potty visits, then begin to take her on a regular schedule of every 1½ to 2 hours or whenever she looks like she needs to go. When she begins to have success then praise her and provide her with a sticker or prize. Soon she’ll take over and be on her way to independence.

If your child is new to potty training it is perfectly normal to have one or more accidents every single day. Even children who have been trained for six months or more may have an accident once a week. The best solution is to be prepared for these with proper cleaning materials, easy access to a change of clothes, and a relaxed attitude.

One approach that can help reduce the amount of accidents is for you to become familiar with your child’s signals of impending need (such as wiggling or crossing his legs) and take your child to the potty when you suspect he needs to go. Do not ask if he has to go, since he’ll likely say no. Instead, invite him to follow you, “Let’s go potty,” or offer a choice, “Do you want to use your potty or the big toilet?” or simply take him by the hand and lead him to the bathroom, “Come with me, kiddo.”

There’s one last thing for you to consider. Do you give your child more attention (good or bad) when he has an accident than when he has success? Turn the tables. Clean up accidents quickly and without emotion; and at the same time provide lots of praise, hugs and attention for every productive potty visit.

You child may not be hearing her body when it tells her it’s time to go. Or she may get so busy with her play that she tries to wish it away, or she thinks she can hold it much longer than she can.

You might consider moving the potty closer to her and make it easier for her to go. Create a ‘potty nook’ nearby her play area and keep her dressed in very simple clothing. Once she gets used to going when she needs to, you can move the potty chair back to the bathroom.

You might try a having potty party weekend. Don’t announce this to your child, just make a plan in your own mind. Stay home all weekend and hang out in the same room as your little one. Provide lots of salty snacks and plenty to drink. Watch her for signs (such as dancing or holding very still) and get her to the potty as soon as you think she may need to go, plus do a potty run every hour or so. Give stickers, small prizes or treats (how about her favorite salty chips?) to keep her motivated and interested. The hidden advantage to this approach is that you can enjoy a weekend of one-on-one quality time with your precious little child.

About 80% of parents report having to deal with toilet training setbacks, which means you are in very good company! There are about a million reasons that children who are having great success with toilet training suddenly go totally backwards. Here are a few of the more common reasons for setbacks:

  • Family or home disruption: such as moving, a new baby, divorce, marriage, vacation, houseguests or the holidays.
  • Boredom with the toilet training routine.
  • Illness or injury of the child or parent that interferes with the usual daily routine for days or weeks.
  • Drastic change in routine; such as starting daycare, a sibling going off to school, an at-home parent going off to work.
  • The child has mastered toiled training, but then has a number of accidents that erode confidence. Perhaps a particularly embarrassing public episode occurs, or the unthinking comments of a family member or stranger made your child feel inadequate. She may have decided it would be safer if she went back to diapers.
  • Your child may have been successful at potty training because you were very successful at reminding him to go at the right times. After a period of success you stopped reminding him, and so accidents begin to happen.

Setbacks are always temporary; otherwise we’d see second graders wearing diapers. So when a setback occurs with your child, simply set yourself back, right along with your child and repeat the actions that were successful for you in the past. For example, if her potty poster was a hit, make a new one. If she was doing perfectly on her potty chair, but a setback occurred soon after the switch to the big toilet, go back to using the little potty. If she responded to two-hour potty reminders begin setting a timer to remind her to visit the bathroom.

Tuck your own injured pride away, since this has nothing to do with your job as a teacher nor does it mean your child has failed Potty Training 101. It just means your child is normal. Be patient, be supportive and soon your little one will be back to potty success.

This is an excellent question and one that often gets missed. Once your child begins to use the bathroom, even before he goes alone, you should make sure you’ve made the room child-safe.

Here are a few things to check:

  • Cover outlets with child-safe covers
  • Lower water temperature to a maximum of 120°F (48.89°C)
  • Store electrical appliances, such as hair dryers and shavers unplugged and out of reach
  • Keep medications, toiletries, razors and other hazards in a locked cabinet
  • Put non-skid mats in bathtubs
  • Cover bathtub faucets with soft protectors
  • Purchase all medications in childproof containers, and keep them locked up and out of reach
  • Use plastic or paper cups and soap holders, not glass
  • Make sure your child’s potty chair, seat insert and stool are securely in place
  • Accompany your child when he uses bathrooms away from home
It’s not unusual for a child to peer into the toilet and watch the water swirl down the hole to the sound of the loud flush and become confused or fearful about the noise or the hole. They all get past this fear in time, but there are a number of ways to help him overcome his apprehension:

  • For a while, wait until he leaves the room and flush for him. After a few days or a week casually flush while in the middle of talking, singing or playing. Don’t make it a big deal.
  • Chat about what happens when the toilet flushes. Get a book or two from the library about plumbing or visit a plumbing fixture showroom and do some exploring. (Just watch him carefully so he doesn’t use a model toilet!)
  • Play a game: Stand a foot or so from the toilet. Take turns tossing Cheerios or Froot Loops into the toilet, and then flushing and watching them swirl away.
  • If he has a cousin or friend who’s relaxed about flushing let the other child flush while your son is in the room.
  • Play music in the bathroom to mask the loud flushing sound.
  • Be very relaxed; this is a normal fear and usually passes quickly.

Excerpted with permission by McGraw-Hill Publishing from The No-Cry Potty Training Solution (McGraw-Hill, 2006).

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