Okay, this should really be titled low stress potty learning, but you get the idea. I have hesitated to offer parenting advice on this site because, first of all, I firmly believe that having a child does not make you an expert in child rearing. So here's a little background on me: before I became a mother, I was a professional nanny specializing in infant and toddler care. In other words, this isn't my first rodeo. Furthermore, I just wanted to share what has worked for me in the hopes that it will help someone else. I personally hate unsolicited advice, but I have also found myself googling for parenting information, so if you are searching for some potty training tips please read on. Jude was totally potty trained (except for sleeping) at 21 months, here's what worked for us:
1. Use Cloth Diapers. Cloth diapers make it easier for your toddler to feel when they are wet, which helps them make the connection between the urge to go and going. Furthermore, as the parent of a cloth diapered child, you will be just as happy to wipe up the floor in lieu of more laundry. If you haven't been cloth diapering, that's okay, consider a switch to cloth pull ups, it will really help and save you some cash.
2. Start early. This is a key principle in Montessori Toilet Learning and Elimination Communication for a reason, it works. When you introduce the potty early they learn to use it before they realize it can be a power play issue. Plus, if you have the potty around and available from an early age, it isn't a foreign (i.e. scary) object. At seventeen months Jude was regularly sitting on the potty (often still clothed) when mommy went, just getting a feel for it. At nineteen months he was already using the potty consistently.
3. Naked time and the traveling potty. When you start early, pulling down pants and getting on a big toilet are very challenging prospects. Spending as much time naked, with a small potty near by, really helps them make the connection and reduces accidents. We spent a lot of time outside, and when we saw him start to go we just stuck him on the potty; he figured it out fairly quickly. Furthermore, going poop outside of a diaper can be daunting, and it is much easier if the little one can try without missing out on all the action. For us, that meant we brought his potty into the living room.
4. No rewards beyond verbal encouragement. Going potty should not be a bribery- induced endeavour. It's just what we do. When done successfully, positive re-enforcement is great: "Great job, you went pee in the potty!" And when it doesn't work out, it's no big deal, "Oops, pee goes in the potty." (And when Jude decided peeing on the floor was fun, I enlisted his help in cleaning it up. That solved that.)
5. Be consistent and casual. Remember, your toddler is learning a new skill, and the best way to do that is through repetition. Lots of trying, lots of patience. Accidents are just a part of the learning process. Try not to put undue pressure on your child or yourself. What's the worst that can happen if your little one refuses to sit on the potty for some reason? A little mess, it's really not worth forcing them on the potty and turning it into a power struggle. If you freak out, so will your child.
6. Ease into going out and going to sleep without a diaper. It's much harder to make it to the potty in a public place, don't put that stress on yourself or your kid until they have shown they can successfully tell you they need to go and hold it. (Boy tip: stand them on the public toilet seat and let them go from a standing position.) Dry naps and nights are the last to come. I would personally rather use one diaper a day in exchange for 10 hours of uninterrupted sleep.
7. Every child is different. You may not be a child expert, but you are an expert on your own child. Follow your intuition and you will find what works best for you and your family.
Wishing you the best of luck!
For those mamas who have already been through it, do you have any other tips? What worked for you?