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7 Potty Training Mistakes You’ll Want to Avoid
Over the past couple months, I’ve had a few ups and downs when it came to potty training my two-year-old.
Before deciding to potty train her, I thought I was following the pediatrician’s recommendation to wait until my daughter was “ready” to start potty training.
But then, I watched a webinar by Jamie Glowacki, author of Oh Crap! Potty Training: Everything Modern Parents Need to Know to Do It Once and Do It Right. And I realized it was time to potty train.
Now, I knew exactly how to potty train from the webinar and my previous training. (I was a child therapist before becoming a stay-at-home mom). But life sort of happened, and I fell into making some mistakes that set us back a good month or so with our potty training progress.
So I want to share with you some common mistakes that many parents make when potty training their kids so that you can avoid making them yourself.
(Please note that these potty training tips apply to a toddler or young child who doesn’t have a disorder, such as encopresis or enuresis. In that case, you would use more intensive techniques recommended via working with a specialist.)
Potty Training Mistakes You Should Avoid
1. Going through a big change or transition before your child is fully potty trained
I went away for a week and left my daughter with my parents, thinking that my daughter was potty trained enough to make it through. But even though my daughter had used her potty seat at my parents’ house before, she ended up regressing with potty training by having frequent accidents. I had to start from scratch and retrain her. And it took about a week or two to get her back on track.
So it’s best to ensure that your child is fully potty trained before going through any changes. Or just wait until after the change or transition has occurred to start toilet training.
2. Using rewards without knowing whether your child would respond to a less intensive approach
While rewards can certainly be useful and effective at motivating your child to do a certain behavior at times, using them requires you to fade them out eventually.
And if you don’t use rewarding correctly, it can be hard to fade out, and your child can become dependent on the rewards (Related post: How to Reward Your Child’s Behavior the Right Way).
So it’s best to use the least intensive approach that your child will respond to, rather than starting with rewards from the beginning. For instance, if your child responds to you giving verbal praise, use that instead of rewards.
3. Asking instead of prompting or challenging your child to use the potty
If you ask your child whether or not he wants to use the potty, a lot of times, his answer will be “No.” This is especially true if he’s engaged in another activity.
In the beginning stages of potty training, it’s better to prompt your child (i.e. say, “Go potty”) or to present it as a challenge so that he’s more likely to respond to you. Just be careful not to over-prompt.
Related Post: How to Get Your Kids to Listen to You (And Do What You Say)
4. Putting a diaper/pull-up on for pooping
Some kids tend to withhold their poop or don’t potty train as easily for bowel movements. As a result, a lot of parents get to the point of putting a diaper or pull-up on for their child to poop in. However, this can make bowel movement potty training way more difficult.
Instead, try to train for both pee and poop at the same time.
If your child tends to withhold his poop, give him foods that will encourage bowel movements, and be very calm and supportive of him. Some kids also want privacy for pooping.
5. Putting too much pressure on your child
There are times when you need your child to use the potty… like before you leave the house for a long trip or before naps and bedtime once he’s night trained. And these times can be really tough when your child refuses to go.
But try your best not to pressure your child. If your child is showing some general resistance to potty training, it may be time to back off a little so he can feel more in control. My daughter is in a control phase right now, in which SHE has to be the one to initiate going potty. She can’t be asked or prompted.
Sometimes, you just have to wait it out and be late for things, but with time and consistency, things will get better.
6. Punishing or shaming your child for having an accident
Harsh punishment and shaming are generally bad parenting strategies, but they can really backfire when it comes to potty training. (Related Post: 10 Mistakes to Avoid When Disciplining Your Child)
Your child already has some natural consequences when he has an accident. For instance, he has to deal with the feeling of his pants being wet (although, some kids don’t mind this). And he doesn’t get the praise and positive attention that he gets when he uses the potty.
And even if it seems like those natural consequences don’t work, focus more on when he’s not having accidents. Giving little to no response when your kid has an accident but then a big, positive response when he uses the potty if often enough.
7. Waiting too long for your child to be ready to start or to move on to the next phase of potty training
When to potty train is a big question that parents have.
While you certainly don’t want to push your child to potty train too early, a lot of times kids are showing their parents that they’re ready, but they’re not listening.
Most kids aren’t going to ask you if they can start using the potty, so according to Jamie Glowacki, the better question to ask is whether your child is capable of potty training.
When you’re potty training, you can always pull back and slow down your pace if your child isn’t handling the first or next step well.
P.S. I highly recommend you check out Jamie’s potty training book Oh Crap! Potty Training: Everything Modern Parents Need to Know to Do It Once and Do It Right (affiliate link). Her potty training tips were super helpful for me in getting my two-year-old potty trained.
A Bonus Tip on How to Potty Train
Another potty training mistake you’ll want to avoid is trying to potty train when your toddler or child is demonstrating some pretty intense behavior problems.
Granted, if you’re in the terrible two’s phase, you’re probably witnessing your toddler throw temper tantrums all the time. So that doesn’t mean you can’t potty train at that point. (Related Posts: What NOT to Do During Toddler Tantrums & 7 Quick Tips for Dealing with Temper Tantrums)
But just know that potty training can be very demanding on YOU and your independence for a few weeks. So if your child is throwing a lot of temper tantrums or displaying a lot of problematic behaviors, you may want to get those under control first before you increase the stress levels for both of you by starting potty training.
If you need a little help with handling temper tantrums, check out my free course here:
What potty training mistakes have you caught yourself making? Share in the comments below!
Disclaimer: Although I was a therapist, I am not your therapist or your child’s therapist. Reading this post does not enter you into a client-therapist relationship with me. The content in this post is meant to be used as a general guideline and has not been individually tailored to the needs of you and your child. If you are in need of therapeutic services, please seek the support of a mental health counselor or behavior specialist.
References: My information comes from years of training on Applied Behavior Analysis and other evidence-based techniques.