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5 Effortless Ways to Potty Train Even the Most Stubborn Child

  • Change the words you use from Potty Training to Potty Learning.

This simple change of language can alter the way you view the process.  The meaning of the word training encompasses the need to make something happen, to change the way a child is doing something, to get a result.  Learning reinforces that using the toilet is a developmental milestone that needs to unfold as the child is ready, willing and able.  This is difficult in our culture of “potty boot camps” where parents are trying to potty train children in 3 days.  Can you imagine if we did this for other milestones?  Teach your child to walk in 3 days!  Tired of baby food, teach your child to eat solids in 3 days!

  • Teach other necessary skills while waiting for your child to show interest.

There are many skills that are necessary around the use of the potty, such as washing and drying hands, pulling up and down pants, getting dressed, ripping toilet paper, and placing items in the hamper.  If your child already has these skills when they are ready to use the potty, they will have an easier time with the entire potty sequence.

  • Teach a stuffed animal how to use the potty.

What we teach others strengthens the skill in ourselves.  By having your child “teach” one of their animals, you will be reinforcing necessary potty steps, and the rhythm to which we all need to stop and use the bathroom.  This also allows you to work out potential issues through play.  The stuffed bear could struggle to leave his toys behind and stop playing, or he could “talk” about how being a big kid is hard and how he would rather be a baby.  If you know what issues may be troubling your child about this process, be sure to have the stuffed animal attempt to handle it. 

  • Use a visual placeholder with toys or activities to mark a “time out” while the potty is being used.

Often children will not want to stop playing because they fear what they are using or working on will be destroyed or put away while they are in the bathroom.  Make a visual placeholder, such as stop sign or a picture of the child.  Place this on the toy or activity they are working on and teach them and the other children around that the toy or activity is not to be touched while someone is using the bathroom. 

  • Talk about your own experience with your body and using the toilet.

Talk out loud in front of your child about how you know when it’s time for your body to use the potty.  Discuss feeling full and needing to push as cues to get up and use the toilet.  Verbalize that it’s hard to stop what you are doing to use the bathroom.  Explain digestion in simple terms such as food and water being used as energy by your body and then what your body doesn’t need comes out as pee and poop.  Invite your child to be present while you use the toilet and have them take part in some aspect, such as handing you toilet paper or reminding you to wash your hands.