Recently I addressed what has become the No. 1 toilet training problem in America: Children who refuse to use the toilet for bowel movements. In almost every case, these kids' parents missed the boat when it came to training, meaning they didn't start until well after their kids' second birthdays. In that column, I summarized a corrective program that has proven successful for lots of frustrated parents.
Since prevention is the better part of cure, let's talk about how to toilet train a child between 18 and 24 months, which history confirms is the ideal window of opportunity.
Your attitude is the most important ingredient in this toilet-training recipe. A technique is useful to a point, but without the right attitude, no technique will produce lasting results. Approach toilet training with the same casual, matter-of-fact attitude with which you approached teaching your child to eat with a spoon.
Put a potty or two in the areas of the home where your toddler spends most of his time. They should be simple contraptions, not ones that do silly, superfluous things like play songs when sat upon.
Set aside a week during which you can spend most of your time at home. Your ability to maintain a calm focus during this teaching time will help your toddler remember what you are expecting of him.
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If you're working with a girl, she should spend her day naked from the waist down. Don't even use diapers for naps. Dress a boy in nothing but the thinnest cotton underwear you can find. The point is for the "mess" to travel unimpeded down the child's legs, which they do not like. Just take a deep breath and clean it up.
As soon as your child wakes up in the morning, take him or her to the potty. When he/she is seated, walk away, saying, "Call me when you've done something and I'll clean you up." Do not hover or otherwise act nervous.
Set a timer to ring every 60 minutes or so (different kids, different intervals). When it rings, simply announce that it's time to sit on the potty. Remember, don't hang around acting like a high school girl waiting for her prom date.
Clean up messes without drama. When there's an accident, say, "Make sure you sit on the potty next time." Be firm and resolute, but don't be angry.
Respond to successes positively, but not overly enthusiastically. Do not give rewards or use them as enticements.
When the process is complete, hire a carpet cleaner to erase the evidence. The typical cost of said removal is why I call this method "Naked and $75."