Hard work, determination, self-confidence, social skills, and independence are all qualities parents want to teach their children. We take them seriously. But most parents don’t think those are taught in the bathroom. That sounds silly. The truth is that the potty training stage is vital to building strong, capable children and lasting, solid relationships between parent and child.
You’ve taken the time to catch the coos and snag the snuggles. You rejoiced when baby rolled over and again when they took their first steps. But, the stinky messes at diaper change don’t garner the same praise or smiles, do they?
Yet, this process is certainly natural and the time you invest in your child transitioning from passive diaper filling to purposeful potty filling can boost your child’s self-esteem, deepen your relationship and, quite unexpectedly, be really fun.
So how does a parent make a party out of poop and pee? There are several things that you can incorporate into the process. All the things that toddlers enjoy in other rooms, they enjoy in the bathroom. Books, dolls, rhythms and quality time with you are all transferable to the bathroom. And as much as we were taught not to have a potty mouth, it is actually helpful to talk about the bathroom in other rooms.
That potty talk can take place in many ways. Good books exist to help put words in the mouths of parents unsure of how to start the potty dialogue. Adding such a book to the daily reading routine will help introduce the idea to both you and your child. Dolls are quite useful, too, not only adding a level of play, but also adding companionship. Dolls have a secret power, too. As you teach your child about anything, including potty training, encourage him to instruct the doll. As he tells the doll, what he understands and doesn’t understand, will become clear. Dolls are like mirrors reflecting your child’s understanding. If what you hear reminds you more of a funhouse mirror, try teaching that part again. Your child can’t do correctly what he doesn’t understand.
A successful process certainly begins with a great deal of support. And support is spelled t-i-m-e. You will spend time reading books, playing with dolls and maybe even singing bathroom themed songs.
What more can you do? You can take your child to the bathroom – when you use the potty. Narrating your “experience” might be awkward but it’s normal for your child. They are used to hearing his entire life narrated:
“Look at Katie walk!”
“Is Ayla eating with a spoon?”
“Andy is sitting like a big boy on the potty!”
We don’t usually exit the bathroom and announce proudly, “I made a poop in the potty and I washed my hands after!” But, your child will find that statement fun and encouraging. Why? Because as adults we see the bathroom as more of a library than an auditorium, but for a child “all the world’s a stage”. While you can use the bathroom several times a day without giving it a thought, this process is awkward for most children. It’s not like you let them poop into any other chair in the house.
And to be honest, that toilet flush is loud and not a little creepy, right?. Potty training is a very transitional and empowering time in a child’s life. This is the first physical accomplishment that they are attempting to master since walking and requires much more control, awareness, detail and sequencing.
Being in the bathroom with you for your assorted “accomplishments” will be a great learning tool, too. They can sit on thier little potty while you assume the throne. When you wipe and flush, so can they. You can wash and dry your hands together.
Doing this together several times a day will help reinforce that this is a natural process that everyone does and makes muscle memory for the sequence of wiping and flushing, wishing and drying. And whether or not they makes a deposit at the potty bank, allow your child to praise you for your job well done!
Through many attempts comes a success. And a string of successes becomes mastery. Your confidence is bestowed in praising the effort more than the outcome. While they sits on the potty, each moment of your time in conversation, reading a book, singing a song, or involving a doll will give her the patience to keep trying. It will also build her conviction that you will always be there to help her.
Some children take to potty training more quickly and some need more time. Some children have developmental delays and some have had trauma in their young lives and need even more support and patience.
The good news is that this often dreaded stage of parenting is really a great platform for the coming phases.
You and your child will set precedent for the learning process. Your child will learn how to trust you with other obstacles they face. Potty training isn’t just a physical accomplishment, it is emotionally empowering, too.
The openness you share will help build a more trusting relationship in the future. Your child will pass through life going from one accomplishment into the next challenge. Being the interactive, encouraging and inspiring parent at this phase will show your child that you will be all of those things in the next.
Don’t worry about how fast you get potty training done or get dragged into the “I trained my child faster” race. Successful potty training should not be defined not by how quickly it was done – but by how thoroughly it was done – by how happily it was done – by how the parent-child relationship blossomed in the process.
Done successfully, the achievement of toilet training will give your child confidence they can build on for a lifetime, and help them to develop those desired qualities of hard work, determination, self-confidence, social skills, and independence.
How was your potty training experience over all? Do share the lessons you learned with us below.