Using positive parenting in potty training

Positive Parenting

When it comes to potty training, even if you start with the best intentions, those niggles can creep in.

We’re not talking here about whether you start to think your child might actually not be ready to potty train. No, instead we mean the bits of everyday life that can get in the way of your well-made progress.

The “it’s ok to use the potty in front of the TV this time” or “I’ll just pop a nappy on for the car journey” type decisions.

Any of this off the cuff decision making can be counter productive to the embedded routine you have established and whilst it might seem more convenient at the time, can confuse your child and lead to potty training regression.

We know exactly how you feel though, and don’t want to come across all ‘preachy’ about it. From personal experience, we know just how disheartening it can be to keep trekking off to the toilet only for a child to sit there for 5 minutes and decide that they actually don’t need to go after all.

So rather than wanting to tell you what you are doing wrong, we thought it might be more helpful to share some positive parenting techniques that you can use to aid the potty training process.

Ask them to explain the situation back to you

If you are beginning sound like a broken record trying to explain the process, get them to do it. Start them off with a sentence such as, “when we need a wee, we…” or when in the bathroom, “the first thing we do is…” and so on. By engaging your child in the steps, they are not simply reciting passive ‘rules’. Instead it’s sinking in what exactly needs to be done.

Use positive phrasing

Rather than using words like ‘don’t’ and running the risk of sounding like you’re nagging, flip the phrasing. So instead of “don’t get off the potty yet”, use instructions like “we sit and wait on the potty a little while” and perhaps offer a distraction e.g. a book to read.

Giving clear boundaries for rewards

Being unambiguous is the best thing a parent can do for a child. If a child is confused they may misinterpret an instruction and then end up getting into trouble for it. Rather than threatening to not give a reward if they don’t do something, we suggest, “Please do [something] and you will get [a reward] for trying”. Stickers or ticks on a reward chart make great cheap incentives.

Praise effort rather than focus on the accidents

It’s common for us to focus on what a child is doing wrong during potty training, rather than what they are doing right. If your child has accidents or refuses to play ball in the process, turn your attention to each small effort that they do right. Positive reinforcement is a technique we wholeheartedly encourage, no matter how small the step. When a child recognises that their efforts are being rewarded, it can lead to greater progress.

Offer limited choices

In potty training, a lot will bother you. Where they do their wees or poos, for example. On the other hand, what colour ‘big girl’ or ‘big boy’ pants is irrelevant. To give your child a little sense of autonomy in the process, offer them limited choices on things that don’t really matter. There is a lot of the potty training process that they will resent and feel is out of their control, so let them think they are involved in making some decisions rather than just being told what to do.

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