As a teacher of two year olds, potty training is something that I did on a regular basis. With every child, the experience is different and I was always a little bit nervous when it came time to potty train one of my kids! There is often a lot of pressure from the child’s parents and from the center directors to get the child potty trained in a certain amount of time. With some kids, it’s taken me less than a month to get them fully trained. With others, it’s taken me longer than five months!
I potty trained a child for the first time in 2012 – and I was so nervous about it!! Since then, I have learned a lot about potty training in preschool. Although I am by no means any type of potty training expert – I’d like to share several things I’ve learned along the way!
Teachers NEED cooperation from parents!
Parents – work together with your child’s teacher to make sure your child is potty trained. Stick to the same potty schedule at home that your child is doing at school. If you have agreed only to put your child in underwear – then only put them in underwear! It sends mixed messages to the child when the teacher and parent are doing different things. I’ve had some parents continue to use pull-ups and diapers at home, despite telling me that they were going to stop using them! Those children have more accidents at school than those whose parents stuck to their guns. And I know that accidents are no fun. Trust me. I clean them up all day – and not just the ones your child has. It’s easier when you’re in a rush to just throw a diaper or pull-up on your child and not have to worry that they’ll soil their clothes. But it slows down the process. So don’t agree to underwear-only until you’re sure you’re ready! And speaking of being ready…
Don’t start potty training until the child is ready!
Starting before a child is emotionally and mentally ready for potty training can actually delay the process. A child that would have potty trained in just a few weeks may take months if you start too early. The timing for potty training is a delicate thing, but there are a few signs that I look for when assessing whether or not I think my kids are ready to be potty trained.
The first thing I look for is whether or not they can talk. If they aren’t talking yet, it’ll be a bit more difficult (in an American daycare setting) to potty train. There are plenty of cultures where parents begin potty training from before a child can speak – and I have nothing against that. I know my kids are becoming ready to potty train when they can accurately tell me what’s in their diaper. I had one child who always came to me and said, “I’m poopie!” or “Diaper!” or “Wet-Wet!” (or some combination of the three), and every time she told me what was in her diaper – she was right about what was in there!
Another sign is when they are taking off their own pants/diapers. Yeah, I’ve had that happen, right in the middle of our alphabet rug.
A third sign that a child is ready happens when children who are not potty training happen to get to watch children who are potty training in the bathroom. When a child sees his peers using the toilet, is he engrossed in watching what the potty training children are doing? Or is he more interested in making a mess with the soap on the sink?
Another huge clue for me is when a child whom I have never taken to the bathroom asks me specifically to “go potty.” I had a little girl who always came up to me and said, “My go potty!” Even though she hadn’t started doing anything in the toilet, it was great that she was so enthusiastic about it.
In general, girls train faster than boys, and children with older siblings train faster than children who are the only child.
I’m not sure why girls generally train faster than boys. With one of my boys, I trained him to “go like a boy” by sitting him backward on the toilet. He loved sitting like that and it kept any urine from coming out onto the floor (which happens as a result of a child not sitting far enough back on the toilet seat). He trained really fast! As for children with older siblings – they are more likely to see another child using good bathroom habits on a regular basis than are only children. There is also more help in the home for parents to train the younger child when older children are around.
Stick to a routine!
Teachers, this can be super hard. Especially when you’re not well-staffed! I have definitely had days when I didn’t get my kids to the bathroom on time because of something else that I had to deal with in our classroom (a child throws up, a child bites or hits another child, a child spills something all over the floor, the list goes on). But it’s so important that our kids have that stability in the potty training process – it teaches them to learn to “hold it” if they know that they are going to be going to the bathroom around a certain time of day. And once they’re able to consistently hold their urine or bowel movements long enough to get to a toilet – they’re potty trained!
I have a few more tips to share on this topic, but they’ll have to wait until next week! If you teach twos, what has been your classroom potty-training experience?