June was National Potty Training Awareness Month and much like this belated post... potty training can take much longer than expected to finally be complete. That means that potty training can also be stressful, frustrating and insanely confusing for parents and their kids. If you have a little one, chances are that you have a ton of questions on and fears about how to potty train right so you can ditch the diapers once and for all.
I asked a couple of experts for their advice on how to get through the literal gauntlet, ew, that is potty training.
Meet the experts:
Lynn Ell Tilker: mom, potty training pro, and founder of the new eco-friendly, busy-life-friendly Potty Training System, BottomZz Up.
Jen L'Italien: Maine-based registered Oh Crap Potty Training Consultant, mom, and founder of Oh Crap Potty Training from ME to You, an online potty training coaching service and community.
How do parents know when it's time to start potty training?
Lynn: I've found the best way to find out is to communicate with the child and ask them, "Do you want to use the potty?" or "Do you want to go and get potty stuff?" Communication with the child is a must when determining whether or not a child is ready to potty train.
Jen: The ideal time to potty train is between 20 - 30 months. The sweet spot is right around age 2, when most children show an interest in the potty. By the time your child is 3, they're in a different developmental stage, where they're finding their independence, all which sets you up for more potty battles.
How long should it take to potty train a child?
Jen: Can you imagine saying your child has to learn any other milestone in a certain number of days? Walk in three days!
In general, the process normally takes about a week to go from the child being clueless about peeing to self-initiating to go to the potty. When do you stop prompting? Maybe when your child is a teenager! I still need to prompt my 5-year-old sometimes and she's been diaper-free for 3 years.
Lynn: There's no magic number. Each child moves through milestones at different rates. It also depends on the parent's willingness to commit to the process and actively engage with their child. Don't expect it to happen overnight.
What are the top mistakes parents make when potty training?
Lynn: Negativity and getting mad at your child over accidents is a big one. Children will feed off of that negativity and not want to participate in the process. Accidents happen so be prepared.
Lack of consistency is also another common mistake. Putting kids in underwear all day long and then putting them in a pull-up at night causes confusion. Parents need to know that once they start potty training, they need to be committed to the process 24/7.
Jen: Over-prompting and being too on your child. You want to hand them their success. And, missing the magic window of when to potty train because the myth of waiting till they're ready is everywhere.
What's the biggest myth about potty training that you've heard?
Jen: Wait till they're ready. Using the potty is a cultural norm that has to be taught, unlike a child naturally learning to crawl and then walk, babble and then talk. Your child probably won't wake up one day and say they're ready. When you commit, your child will too.
Lynn: I think the biggest myth is that the parents can decide when a child is ready. My advice to parents is not to let your friends, family or the school influence your decision of when to start potty training. Ultimately, if your child and you are not ready, you will not be successful and the whole process will take longer and be more stressful for everyone.
What's the key for successful potty training?
Lynn: My potty training philosophy is centered around consistency, encouragement, participation and celebration. I believe that all of these elements together are necessary for potty training success. Because BottomZz Up allows parents to potty train at home or on-the-go and during the day and night, children are 100% potty trained when they complete the program. There are no extra steps involved! It's not a magic bullet, but if you're committed to being your child's potty partner, you will both be successful.
Jen: Be confident that your child is a small human who is very capable of using the potty. If you're unsure, your child will feed off your doubt and it won't work. Also, bring a sense of humor and compassion. If you hit bumps (most of us do) talk to your child without an emotional tone, or you'll set yourself up for a toddler power battle.
Any last insider tips for how we can overcome fears and problems with potty training?
Jen: Don't be afraid to reach out for support. It's similar to breastfeeding to me in that way. I used a lactation consultant with both of my kiddos, because we had different issues -- and I personally couldn't hone in on the problem, even the second time around. I think it does take a village.