Should you reward your toddler for potty training?

The old adage “when the student is ready, the teaching will come” applies too, to potty training. All toddlers (like people) are different, so different approaches work with different toddlers. Potty training is a right of passage, a once-in-a-lifetime achievement, and whilst experts agree that the habit of bribing children to do what you want is unwise, the right reward can work as a motivation for a developmental achievement such as potty training. But ensure the reward is relevant and in keeping with your own values:

1. Talk it up. “Won’t it be fun when you can also wear big-boy pants, instead of nappies” “Soon you will be able to go to the toilet too, just like daddy”. But please don’t denigrate the beloved nappy, you might start a potty mutiny. And importantly, don’t refer to nappy contents as smelly, stinky, yucky. Going to the toilet is natural and wonderful, and very, very clever.

2. Decide on your potty terminology. Poo, poop, pee or whatever you decide to call it, be consistent, and tell grandparents and carers to use the same word.

3. Potty training bedtime stories. There are excellent picture books for toddlers with titles such as “The Prince and the Potty” [or indeed, the “Princess and the Potty”!] about children learning to potty train and what fun it is to use a potty. There is also a Once Upon a Potty DVD with a delightful song which parents report is a great incentive. But remember to let the pictures do the talking. Don’t moralise after you have read the story. No pressure!

4. Explain what the potty is for: Wrap it up as a present. Explain what the potty is for: ‘When you’re ready, you poop and pee into the potty instead of in your nappy. We’ll keep it here in the bathroom until you’re ready to use it”.

5. Show how it is done. Use the potty yourself to show how it is done. Or if you have a visitor that is already using the potty, encourage your toddler to watch and see what a potty is used for. And do provide some teaching for your boy toddler on the delicate issue of how to control the direction. Show him how to press his penis down so that the urine will flow downwards into the potty. Make it fun to get right… do some fun practice with targets in the potty; shaving foam or balls of coloured paper. Of course, if you have an older child who is already using the potty, potty training by imitation is the fastest training of all.

6. Personalise a potty. Go potty shopping with your toddler. Let him pick one out. Make sure it is robust and won’t tip over when he gets up to have a look. Write his name on it, or ask him to decorate it with magic markers or stickers.

7. “This is my potty.>” Let your toddler carry the potty around with him and encourage him to use it as a stool e.g. whilst reading a potty book or watching television. If he feels comfortable with the potty, and at ease on the potty, it will be easier to encourage usage when he is ready for potty training.

8. Or pick a potty seat. If your toddler seems to prefer using the grown-up toilet, choose a potty seat that is a good fit on top of your toilet. [A shaky potty seat can unnerve a toddler]. Choose one with a footrest against which he can brace when making a poop. And also ensure you have a well-balanced step, so that he can get up to the potty easily.

9. Flush away. Start making nappy changes in the bathroom, and then let him flush away the contents.

10. Teach your toddler to know when it’s time. As soon as you see your toddler straining to make a poop, focus his attention. “Oh that’s good. When you do that, it means a poop is on the way. Soon you’ll be able to poop in the potty”. Then nonchalantly change the nappy. +27 (0)81 885 4683

*Important : The information provided is for information purposes only. No medical diagnosis or prescription can be inferred or is implied. Please consult your doctor for medical advice.

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