Potty training isn’t all just about pee and poop. It is working cooperatively with your child, teaching them a skill, and setting clear boundaries and expectations. If these sound like foreign concepts, it can be really helpful to learn some boundary setting techniques *before* potty training. For our family, around 18 months was a time that I noticed a big transition in my child. What used to be cute and interesting (oh hey, she can stand up in her chair at dinner!) started to look like behavior that could quickly get out of control if we didn’t get on top of it. At this age, kids are learning the expectations of the household. We have to help them to do this – in the end, potty training is part of that process - establishing expectations of where pee and poop go.
There are quite a few advantages to dealing with other household expectations before tackling potty training.
- Many other household boundaries are easier to work through than pottying. With potty training, kids have to learn to recognize their pee/poop feelings and *then* learn where to put it. Learning that mealtime is over if you stand up in your chair is a much simpler expectation to teach. If you tackle a couple of simple behavioral issues first, your child will develop an understanding that there are “do’s” and “don’ts around the house.
- You build confidence in yourself, that you *can* do this. Many parents I know today struggle with how to set limits and expectations respectfully. The calm consistency, and commitment needed for potty training is a skill that you can develop in advance.
- You get a preview of how potty training might go. How does your child react when you set a limit? With resistance? With a meltdown? Happily? It’s likely that these will be the same reactions when you take the diapers off. Similarly, the solutions you find for working through these reactions (what language to use, what tone of voice to use, what motivates your child) will give you a toolkit that can be applied to helping *your* child learn to use the potty.
In the month before potty training, we chose a few boundaries to work through with our daughter: toothbrushing, some basic table etiquette (not standing up in the chair, not playing with food), holding hands in the parking lot. Toothbrushing in particular gave us a *lot* of insight in to teaching a skill like using the potty. I used a plethora of resources to help me to learn how to do this, but I thought this blog post, “10 Steps for a Well-Behaved Kid from a Child Psychologist” by fellow blogger Mama Lovejoy was a great layout of the steps you can take to help with behavior.
A few of these points *really* apply to potty training, and can also be practiced *beforehand*:
Point 1: Learn how to set a routine. The more our children know what to expect from us – the more consistent *we* are, the better learning environment they have.
Points 3-5: Learn how & what to praise. This doesn’t have to be over the top. A simple “thank you” and observation of the desired behavior, “You put your pee in the potty,” is all you need!
Point 7: Learn how to set limits strategically. Learn how to give your child a sense of control, while guiding them to the desired outcomes. Offering choices can be a great way to do this (Do you want to peepee first, or should dolly go first?”)
Point 9: Really, there is no need for complicated rewards systems – for anything, especially expected behavior like pottying. It is really worth reading Mama Lovejoy’s full article just to learn more about the pitfalls of rewards.
Here’s the link to the full text of Mama Lovejoy’s article “10 Steps for a Well-Behaved Kid from a Child Psychologist.” It’s a helpful resource regardless of your child’s stage of development!
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