So you’ve been following my advice in the Potty Training Primer about developing ‘potty readiness’ skills, and now you’re wondering when it’s time to actually start hard-core training.
Here are the key signs I suggest you keep an eye out for before you move forward:
If you’ve got all that going on, then BRAVO—you can ask your child if they would like to wear a Pull-Up (or something they can remove quickly) instead of a secured diaper so they can use the potty whenever they want to! They find this idea very appealing if they are truly psychologically ready to potty train. If they are not interested, sorry—you have to wait. It’s their body, it’s their time line so believe me when I say that any insistence will just invite resistance.
The next time they say they need to pee, ask if they want to go use the potty. Assist but don’t take over. Let them take the lead on getting undressed and pulling down their own pants as best and as fast as they can. This is their milestone, not yours! You are a witness to their development and success, so cheer them on and celebrate their success with a big smile, a hug, a high five and acknowledge them: “You really know how to take care of your body!”
If they prefer using the big toilet, that is fine, but be sure to use a foot stool, as planted feet allows the pelvic muscles to be engaged, and that helps with the whole biomechanics of elimination.
You may have a child who needs a little help getting started. If so, determine what time of day is their ‘usual’ for having a pee or poo, and ask them to see if they’d like to try. Help them relax by reading a book with them on the toilet, and if after five minutes they have not been successful, move along. You can easily become a hostage in the bathroom to a potty-training child who might want to keep your attention.
After a good spell of success, ask if they’d like to try underwear and take them shopping to pick their favorites. Expect some accidents and don’t admonish them if they happen. Instead, comfort them, and let them know that you would expect accidents to be part of learning. Teach them how to clean themselves up when they occur such as pulling off a pee soaked sock to put in the laundry pail. The more hassle and time the child has to spend cleaning up after their own urine accident, the more likely they are to move more quickly in the future.
If accidents become plentiful, address the fact that freedoms and responsibilities go together. If you want to wear undies, you have to try to use the potty. If you aren’t managing that responsibility well, you lose the freedom of wearing undies and it’s back to Pull-Ups for a few weeks or a month and then you can try again! With no rewards or punishments, and with a patient parent who understands that interest in training will ebb and flow, you’ll ride the wave of potty training until your child decides it`s time and success will follow!
So it’s time to move your sweet pea from her baby crib to her new toddler bed and you’re freaking out about how to manage the change. Let me reassure you that children are actually quite robust and resilient. In fact, it’s these little life struggles that help build up their ‘psychological muscle’ as they discover for themselves that they can cope and manage in the ever-expanding world.
When to move? My general child guidance rule is to continually foster his or her progress towards autonomy and mastery. The sooner they can go from bottle to cup, high chair to booster and likewise, crib to bed—the better.
If you have a new baby on the way, it’s recommended you take down the crib and have it out of sight for a time before moving it into the baby’s nursery (and perhaps changing up the bumper pads). If you can’t pull that off, no worries. Trust your older child to make the adjustment and learn to share, because there’s a lot more of that coming!
Ask your child to join you shopping so they can help pick their new bedding for the new bed. Often they’re so excited to sleep in the Spider-Man/princess sheets, they don’t mind passing down their old crib to the new baby.
How do you know when it’s time? If your tot is a real monkey and starts scaling the sides, you should make the move. Don’t risk a tumble over the top rail—simply keep the railing down so the crib becomes a day bed. Teach them to crawl in and out of it safely on their own.
Ah yes, now they’re not contained anymore. No need to panic. Install a baby gate at their bedroom doorway. This serves to enlarge the area they are contained in from their crib to their whole room. Make sure you’ve child-proofed the room before this step, however.
With the gate in place, you can tuck them in, say your good nights and if they crawl out of the crib and stand at their doorway calling for you, so be it. Treat it the same as if they were in their crib. They may fall asleep on the floor instead of their crib, but that will only be for a few nights while they discover this new limit. Once asleep, you can move them back to their bed or cover them with a blanket.
My daughter Lucy transitioned by keeping her crib mattress and sheets but dropped on the floor, futon style. For both my girls, there was a time when they had their new bed set up and old crib (side down) still in their room. I simply let them pick where they wanted to sleep. They both chose to start with naps in the bed (with a side attachment to stop them from rolling off onto the floor) but both preferred their cribs at night for awhile.
When the crib finally has to come down, talk about it together, mark it on the calendar a week in advance so they know the big day is coming, and make a fun event of disassembling it together.