If there is one thing we have learned about potty training it's that there are no set rules! Children show signs of readiness at different ages and a method that yields great results with one child can be completely ineffective for another, even siblings. That being said, the methods we believe are most effective are used after children are 18 months old and showing signs of readiness.
The straightforward potty training approach below is based on the method developed by our very own contributor, Terri. It is a relaxed, child-led approach to potty training that allows you to effectively train your child how to use the potty stress-free. This method is great because you can go about your day almost completely as usual because the potty is always close by your child (which helps to prevent accidents). If you need or want to go out with your child during the potty training process, just put her pull-up diaper or training pants on, and go.
The Calm Potty Training Method
- Must-know tips and must-have products for successful potty training – There is a list of helpful tips and products to make potty training easier on our Toddler Method page. It's a quick and worthwhile read!
- Potty prep – Talking to your child about potty training can help determine and promote readiness. Before you start, you may find it helpful to show your child how to go on the toilet by demonstrating with her doll (by pulling down the doll’s underwear and sitting it down on the toilet), or perhaps even going with her yourself for the first few times. Using picture books to help explain things is also a good idea (see our post Seven effective picture books to support potty training). Ask your child to tell you before she has to go to the washroom. Also ask your child regularly if she has to go to help remind her (you may want to do this for a number of months after your child is potty trained).
- Bring out the portable potty and be proactive – Put your child’s potty in the family room of your home or other room you spend most of your time. You can either put underwear on your child or let her go commando. If your child does not get the hang of where to go to the washroom right away, you may want to either: place the insert of the BabyBjorn Smart Potty between her legs when she starts to go on the floor (your child may think this is funny!), or pick your child up and quickly put her on the potty (of course you will have a trail of pee to clean up but the potty isn't too far away - and it is completely worth it when your child finally catches on!). As your child gets the hang of things, slowly move the potty closer to the bathroom. When she can make it to the bathroom you will have the option of teaching her to go on the toilet.
- Use positive reinforcement and rewards as an incentive – Let your child know how proud you are of her and give her a reward each time she successfully goes to the washroom on the potty. For example, you may find it helpful to give your child a new sticker to put in her sticker book each time. When she gets the hang of it, you will be able to phase this out. Remember to always be positive and enthusiastic, even if your child doesn’t make it to the potty on time (be patient and never show your frustration!).
- Increase liquids during the day and avoid them before bedtime – Depending on how often your child goes to the washroom, you may find it helpful to increase the amount of liquids you give her during the day so that there are more opportunities for her to go on the potty. That being said, the more space between your child's last drink in the evening before bedtime, the better. Do not offer your child liquids after dinner (but do give her a drink if she is thirsty and asks for one).
- Nighttime protocol – If possible, take your child to the washroom at least once (if not twice) after dinner, before bedtime. If she isn’t ready to go when you take her, wait 15 minutes and try again. It can be helpful if you remind her to relax (practicing deep breathing exercises with her), giving her a bath or shower, or running the tap. It is up to you and your child to determine whether it is appropriate for her to wear underwear, training pants or pull-up diapers to bed. If your child is not wearing a diaper at night, consider taking her to the washroom before you go to bed, especially if she wasn't able to go before bed that night. Depending on how well your child sleeps at night, be careful not to get her into the habit of waking her up at the same time each night just to use the washroom.
Please let us know the potty training method that was most effective for you and your child!