Fatherhood is full of good reasons to potty train your little one. We’re all looking for ways to cool down during the hot days, but that trickle of pee rolling down your back while your child sits on your shoulders isn’t one of them. And at one time or another, we’ve all fallen victim to holding our kids when their nappy/diaper waves the white flag and unleashes its contents onto our lap. So, with fists clenched and Clint Eastwood-like determination, we launch ourselves into potty training. But that’s not always a walk in the park either.
Before kids learn to run, they must learn to crawl and then walk. The same developmental pattern applies to potty training. What many dads don’t know, however, is that in the months leading up to potty training, there are several exercises and activities you can perform with your toddler that will streamline the process when the time comes. These pre potty training exercises will also introduce them to new motor and cognitive skills that will help their overall development as well.
Why Potty Training is a challenge
There are several reasons why potty training is a challenge for toddlers. First among them is that the act of going to the toilet actually encompasses several different steps. Kids have to go from the one very simple and natural step of just pooping to:
- recognizing the urge
- holding it
- sprinting to the potty
- sitting down, and then, and only then, can they do what they would effortlessly do before: poop.
To complicate the matter further, all of these steps have to be executed in their specific order. For example, if a toddler decided to sit down first and then try to take off their pants, that poop would likely never make it past their underwear. While this is something you may have done on a drunken night, we can promise you that it will be slightly less ‘cool’ this time.
Lastly, kids only succeed if they do all of the steps correctly. If they skip any one of them or decide to change any one of them, they miss the mark. Think about if your little one decided to head to the nearest potted plant but they did everything else correctly. Your philodendron might appreciate the fertilizer, but we’re guessing you won’t appreciate the clean-up.
Pre Potty Training Steps
To help children overcome the challenges of the multi-step process that is potty training, there are lessons they can be taught in advance of dumping the diaper.
1. Learning how to undress
The first of those lessons is how to undress. Undressing is easier than getting dressed and is a great place to start. It involves the same motor skills and more quickly provides the satisfaction of success. Also, the fewer obstacles they have to overcome when the urge strikes, the more likely they are to succeed.
When it comes time to change into pajamas or head to the bath, start teaching them to undress on their own. Learning how to push pants down or lift a dress up is a great first step:
- Feel free to weave in other dressing/undressing skills and don’t be afraid to get involved!
- Show them the difference between the front and back of their pants.
- Have them put your socks on your feet and then transition to doing the same with their own socks.
- Give them choices for what to wear on a daily basis to involve them in the dressing process—having some control over their wardrobe will empower them to take more initiative.
- Maybe even set up a race between you and your child as to who can get dressed/undressed first!
2. Multi-Step Directions
“Between the age of 18 to 24 months, a toddler is able to remember as many as 50 new words per week. As his thinking starts to change, his mind begins to keep track of events that take place on an everyday basis. This is the prime age for teaching 2-step directions to toddlers.”
Executing instructions that involve two or three steps will help your child maneuver processes as opposed to just individual tasks. Great times to apply this exercise are during play, meals or clean-up. For example, you can tell your child to:
- pick up his truck and then you will do a puzzle together.
- wash her hands and then sit down for lunch.
- put his shoes by the front door and then you will play cards.
- put her spoon on the table and then come back for her green cup.
By mastering the skill of following multi-step directions, “please use the potty and then we will go for a walk” becomes a realistic expectation, not a daunting one.
3. Pre potty training – talk about it!
Lastly, in the months before you anticipate potty training, talk about the bathroom. Make it a part of your normal conversations. This will help ensure that everything that goes on inside the bathroom is accessible and comfortable, not taboo. Allow your child to come inside the bathroom with you so that the toilet becomes a normal part of their day. As Dads, we have a special appreciation for the temple that is the bathroom and the throne that is the toilet. Share that love with your little one!
Even before you are ready to start potty training, you can prepare your child by introducing them to the bathroom, talking about the process, and yes….bonding over a bowel movement ?! ?Let your child watch you sit on the toilet (remember kids learn by example). ?Take time to talk about why you pee, spin the toilet paper roll together and sing while you wash your hands. ‼️A little bit of prep work, comfort and conversation will make the potty training process go a lot smoother. ❤️Tot on the Pot (super excited to be launching in October)
You can explain that they will begin to pee and poop in the toilet when they are a bit bigger. Pick particular words for pee and poop. What those words are does not matter, but choosing particular words and using them consistently is important. It helps minimize confusion when those words become more important.
If they see you reading while on the toilet, acknowledge that reading helps the poop to relax and flow out. By introducing them to reading and other activities while on the toilet, you are showing them that patience is an important ingredient to potty success. After you’re done, point out that you wash your hands to get rid of germs. And you know what? Congratulate yourself and celebrate your achievement. It’s been a while since you’ve made a big deal over one of your poops. Do a victory lap and take your little one along for the ride.
Before kids learn to run, they must learn to crawl and then walk. The same developmental pattern applies to potty training. Before they learn to master the potty, they must first learn the pretty potty training skills that will get their butt on that porcelain. Well done, Daddy. Soon enough, your little one will be pooping in the potty. And as we all know, the rest of life is downhill from there. 😉