Jaime Roshon and Tena Christianson are veteran teachers who have each been with KinderCare for 13 years. This year, they were among ten outstanding teachers presented with the coveted Knowledge Universe Early Childhood Educator awards, chosen from more than 24,000 teachers across the country.
Potty training is one of the key accomplishments of toddlerhood, but can be a challenge for parents. Jaime and Tena teach two-year-olds and partner with families on this every day. Here are some of their potty training tips for parents based on their observations and experiences in the classroom.
- If you think it might be time for your child to start potty training, look for signs of readiness. Some signs to look for are an interest in using the toilet and the ability to pull pants up and down independently.
- Take your child to the toilet every 30 minutes to 1 ½ hours, depending on your own observations of your child’s needs. People are different…some children need to go more often than others. Get to know your child’s toileting habits.
- At first, you might want to set a timer. You can get your child involved and make this fun. For example, have him or her set the timer for 30 minutes. Then when it goes off, ask enthusiastically, “What time is it?” and exclaim that it’s “potty break time!” This can turn into a fun game for toddlers.
- When it’s time to go, don’t ask if your child has to go. Tell your child it’s time. If you give children a choice, they’ll usually say “no!” However, toddlers and preschoolers do love to have choices and being provided with choices helps to foster independence. Just make sure the choices you give will result in the outcome you are looking for. For example, instead of saying, “Do you want to use the potty before we go to the store?” You could try saying, “It’s time to use the potty before we go to the store. You can use your potty chair or the big potty. Which do you want to use?” Or, “Do you want to walk to the bathroom by yourself or do you want me to hold your hand?”
- If your child doesn’t want to stop playing to use the bathroom, you could let him or her bring the toy to the bathroom and leave it right outside the door where it can be picked up again after he or she is finished using the potty. In the classroom or a playgroup, or at home if siblings are present, your child may be worried that someone will take the toy while he or she is in the bathroom.
- Modeling by same-age or slightly older peers can help. Many children will take an interest when they see other children using the bathroom. If your child is not in a child care center, you might want to arrange to spend time with children who are using the toilet so that your child can observe them doing it.
- If your child is resisting, try making it fun! Sing a song or do a dance to the bathroom. However, if your child continues to resist, never force it. You don’t want to make it a traumatic experience.
- Never punish accidents. Messes are part of the process and children will be discouraged if they are punished or scolded. Reassure your child that it’s okay, and talk about what he or she can do differently next time.
- Communication is key. Make sure your child realizes when he or she is not wearing a diaper. This can help your child learn to listen to his or her body and use the potty when it’s time to go.
- A lot of parents get frustrated and want to give up at times. Keep in mind that potty training takes time, and try to be patient. Also, don’t forget the payoff! You won’t have to buy diapers anymore and your child will be more independent.
- Many parents use reward systems, but most educators believe this is not necessary. If you do use rewards, keep in mind that your child’s teachers may not be able to give him or her the same rewards in the classroom as you do at home or the other children will expect it, too. Also, rewards don’t have to be physical items like toys or stickers, but could be an experience or something else a little bit special. For example, “If you stay dry all day, I’ll read you one extra story tonight at bedtime!” Educators do not recommend using food or candy as rewards.
- Stay consistent. When parents first start out, they tend to be more consistent about making sure the child goes to the bathroom at regular intervals. After a while, sometimes they get busy and slip. The timer tip helps with this, as well as getting to know your child and how often he or she typically needs to go.