Potty training: Find the best strategy for you

We walk you through four toilet-training strategies with help from Marvin Gans, associate professor of paediatrics at the University of Toronto.

Photo: iStockphoto
Photo: iStockphoto

Booty camp

How it works Devote a weekend to diaper-free training, with the goal of having your child day trained by the end. The idea is that she’ll need to put that pee and poop somewhere, so why not in the potty?

How to prep Stock up on fun underwear – and paper towels. Be sure you’re well rested so you’ll have lots of patience for a weekend of coaching, cleanups and, hopefully, celebration.

What to expect Lots of accidents, and possibly some frustration, are very likely. Hang in there!

How long will it take? If all goes according to plan, she’ll be day trained by Sunday night.

The upside You’ll likely be saying goodbye to diapers in no time.

The downside Besides dealing with messes, you’ll have to arrange your schedule so you can stick close to home and be totally focused on training.

Is it right for you? Easily frustrated or distracted toddlers might not take to this method, but if she’s motivated to wear big-girl underwear, this may mean short-term chaos for big-time gain.

Read more: Practical potty training>

Slow & steady

How it works Watch for signs of readiness and follow your child’s lead to introduce the potty.

How to prep Set up a potty in the bathroom or living room (he could even help you pick it out). Get some potty-training books and DVDs to introduce the idea.

What to expect Toddlers are curious copycats, so he may want to watch you use the toilet before he tries it. He may love sitting on a potty, but not do much more, or pee once and then not again for a while.

How long will it take? Some kids will be quick learners, but because you’re not pushing it, his interest could come and go. It could take months to say goodbye to his training pants for good.

The upside Once kids decide they’re ready, it often leads to quicker, easier training, with less frustration all around.

The downside It might take quite a bit longer to master training using this method, unless your child is really keen on training.

Is it right for you? If neither of you are sweating extra time in diapers, you’ll both do well with this approach.

Read more: Potty training: Setbacks and challenges>

Deadline

How it works You have a laser focus on the end goal and use strategies consistently all day, every day to beat the clock (which is often the first day of school!).

How to prep Switch to cotton underwear and let her know you’ll be going to the potty regularly all day. Create a bathroom chart to track her triumphs, so you can celebrate every deposit with a star or sticker. what to expect If your training efforts have been sporadic, she may rebel at first, so keep the tone light, but firm, and focus on the successes. Be prepared to up the ante with special movies or extra stories.

How long will it take? A dedicated effort can help reluctant toddlers ditch their diapers within about two weeks.

The upside With a timeline looming, you’ll be incredibly motivated to help her learn.

The downside If she knows there’s a deadline (and you seem stressed out) she could crack under the pressure.

Is it right for you? Yes, if you can stay cool – even as D-day approaches – and ensure it’s a positive experience.

Read more: Potty-training books we love>

Rewards

How it works This method relies on rewards to entice your little guy into training.

How to prep Stock up on stuff that’ll motivate him. a two-tiered rewards system works well. For example, he gets a sticker on the potty chart every time he tells you he has to go or makes it to the potty on time, then gets a bigger reward – like a small toy – when he collects five stickers. what to expect you should see steady progress, as long as he’s sufficiently enticed by his rewards. (Ask him to help you pick them out.)

How long will it take? You should be diaper-free within a few weeks.

The upside Since there’s no pressure for him to learn quickly, this is a low-stress approach.

The downside You run the risk of him demanding a treat after every trip to the loo. To wean him off, transition to potty- related prizes like cool underwear.

Is it right for you? Most kids get the hang of a bribery system and are very enthusiastic about it; it’s just a matter of whether or not you’re comfortable doling out daily prizes.

A version of this article appeared in our January 2014 issue with the headline “Where to begin.”

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