Someone from the Denver Dads Group recently asked me a question about potty training his son. I thought I’d share some advice.
Dear Potty Frus-Training,
Here’s something really important to remember: You’re not “training him” to pee in the potty, you are helping him practice skills. Our pediatrician shared that with us when we expressed our frustrations. Think about it, we are expecting a 3-year- old to do something an inebriated adult can barely do. So, we treated it like practice.
Here’s my setup: Go to Home Depot and buy a plastic lined paper drop cloth in the paint section. Lay it out on the floor and place a small toddler potty there and one in the bathroom. You can also put a training seat and stool on your toilet, or whatever he’s going to use. Toss toys and books all over the drop cloth, turn on Sesame Street (specifically, because it’s one hour… and because it’s Sesame Street).
Now, take off his diaper and put him in underwear NOT training pants. Make sure they’re underwear he picks and loves (my kid loved the Lego Jedi ones). Let him roam free and play on the drop cloth. It’s his special play place. Every 15 minutes, you race to the potty and set an alarm that makes noise to help with this. He races in and practices getting his underwear off and sitting.
Don’t have him stand and aim. Again, think drunk adult and ease of use. Standing will come.
Also, NO Cheerios or food in the toilet for aiming. That can be confusing for a toddler and next thing you know, you’re training your kid to NOT eat cereal pieces from the toilet.
When he’s done practicing, give him a reward – I gave my child M&Ms, letting him pick which kind he wanted.
If he has an accident, don’t get mad. Take off the dirty underwear and have him race to the potty from all of the rooms nearby; his bedroom, the living room, the kitchen. Then have him sit on the potty while you grab the drop cloth and fold it up and toss it. Then you’re done. Let him know he did a good job racing to the potty and your work is done for the day.
The entire process lasts no longer than one hour / one episode of Sesame Street.
He will eventually make the connection between the feeling of having to use the potty and the skills you’ve practiced. Mine did it when he got sick with the stomach flu and he FELT the urge. Hard. One day later, he’s completely diaper-free forever. We’ve only had four or five accidents in the last year.
And most important, make it fun and never seem like something to be ashamed of or embarrassed about.
A version of this first appeared on Skinned Knees in Short Pants.