Limitless energy and intense curiosity make it a challenge (to say the least) to get a toddler to sit still long enough to make any progress with the potty. Don’t make it a battle. Take advantage of that curiosity to perk your toddler’s interest. Then incorporate quick and frequent potty trips into your routine.
Include your toddler in your bathroom trips. Yes, you’ll have to say goodbye to privacy, but you haven’t really had that since she was born anyway. When you’re at home with your toddler, announce your bathroom breaks: “Mommy’s going to the bathroom now!” Make it sound thrilling. Don’t tell her to come in with you. Just leave the door open. Curiosity, in this case, is a wonderful thing. Keep up a little running monologue about the potty process every time you go. “This is the toilet paper. This is how we get clean after we go potty. This is how we flush when we’re all done.”
Get the gear. Bribery may not be the best training method, but sometimes it is the most effective. Buy your toddler a shiny new pack of underwear with his favorite cartoon character on them. Tell him they’re his to wear once he learns to go potty. Purchase a toddler-sized potty seat (that goes on the toilet) or potty chair (the free-standing version) and leave it in the bathroom. Explain it briefly: “This is where you can go potty so you get to wear your new underwear.”
Use repetition. Start making it part of your toddler’s normal morning routine, bathtime, before-dinner handwashing to have a quick potty break. It’s okay if she’s still wearing diapers or pullups. Don’t make a big deal out of it. Just help her get her pants and diaper down. Sit her on the potty, give her a minute or so and then proceed. She may go, or she may not. When she does, praise her. When she doesn’t, just move along. Say, “Maybe next time” or something else encouraging.
Reward your toddler when he does go to the potty and produce something into it. Don’t offer a reward just for sitting on the potty. That act is great, and you can give verbal praise. But save the tangible reward, a sticker or a small piece of candy, for when he actually goes in the potty.
Make frequent trips. As the potty becomes a normal part of the daily routine, add in more potty trips. Try to make it at least once an hour. Don’t ask if she needs to go. Just say, “It’s time to go potty!” like it’s the best thing in the world. Help her through the process. Praise her or reward her when she does go. Then carry on. The whole thing can take less than five minutes once you both get used to it.
Save the new underwear for when significant progress has been made, such as when he is asking to go to the potty and actually going, or when he is staying dry through naps. You might use the rewards as a way to let him know when the underwear is an option: “Once you get five rewards for going potty, you can wear a pair of underwear.” If it’s warm enough, let him run around in the new underwear or sans clothing of any kind on the lower half. Expect an accident. Sometimes toddlers need to see the process to understand how it works and that they can exercise some control over it. If you can handle a few clean-ups, you’ll probably find that your toddler is much more aware of the need to go potty.
- Don’t make it a big deal when accidents happen, since they inevitably will. Reassure your toddler: “That’s okay! Let’s clean up!” and let her help clean up.