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How to Celebrate the Small Wins in Potty Training

Updated: Dec 29, 2023

Inside: How praise can help your toddler feel more confident and help bring potty training success.

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They say the words we say to our children become their inner dialogue. If we’re always quick to say no you can’t, you never do, or in potty training, if we’re repeatedly saying throughout the day, for days..

Pee goes in the potty, not on the floor

then it's not so surprising some toddlers will shut down. Stop hearing us. That's when you see a toddler not step up for this big new skill. Mentally throw in the towel that they can't do it. After all, those words don't spark inner confidence in a child.

Yes, boundaries do need to be set with potty training.

And yes, pee doesn't belong on the floor.

But what many parents overlook is the oh-so-important role of praise.

When done right, praise can help your potty training journey.

When done wrong, it can make things even messier.

Praise is an important tool I see many parents overlook when I'm working with them as a potty training consultant.

Here's why (and what to say) for the small wins in potty training your child.

How to celebrate the small wins in potty training

Potty training can be exhausting! Let's be real on that front. And while you can do your best to change your schedule around to be home for a long weekend, and mark off time to potty train your child..

Your life continues on while you're in the middle of potty training.

All the must-do things and unexpected life happenings will need your attention, still. So it's really easy for any mama, even with the best of intentions, to go into tunnel vision mode when it comes to potty training.

You may miss seeing your child's progress because all you see are the misses.

After a day or so of potty training, it's natural to want to be DONE.

I get that. But remember this. With no other milestone in a child's life, do we expect our children to learn it in some arbitrary time frame.

So why does potty training get boxed into this get-it-done-in-three-days or something's wrong?

potty training tips

What's behind this timeline expectation for potty training?

It's due in part to all the social media sharing that if your child doesn't naturally potty train in 3 days time then you picked the wrong time to start. The idea that every kid should potty train in 3 days if you do it right just doesn't make fundamental sense on my part (12 million children in the U.S. who are of potty training age, and they all should magically move through in 3 days flat?!).

And it also doesn't match up with what we've seen in Oh Crap Potty Training, through the thousands of children who have moved through the Oh Crap blocks of learning how to potty train.

In most cases, for the age set of 20 to 30 months, we've seen children move through potty training in 7-10 days.

And yes, some kids do move through in 3 days flat.

But what happens when things get messy and it's day 4 or 5?

That's when the defeated attitude can easily mess with the potty training process (and your confidence), because you had expectations that your child should have gotten it by now.

Then your child feels your frustration (toddlers can read us like books) and vibes off you.

That's when the wheels can come off the bus, for sure.

when expectations in potty training aren't lining up
What to do when potty training feels like a rockier ride than you expected

So picture you're a toddler learning a very big skill.

Picture you're a toddler learning a long sequence of steps..

  • feel pee

  • get to the potty

  • push down pants

  • get on potty

  • release pee or poop

  • wipe

  • flush

  • wash hands and be on your way

Now imagine that you're expected to learn those steps, and the right order, a process you weren't expected to know just a matter of days before. It's all new to you.

And imagine you're getting some of it wrong.

Because learning is messy, right? We make mistakes while we're learning. That's a part of the process.

Now picture how you'd feel if your teacher was only focusing on your misses. How would you feel?

If your toddler is in that up-and-down zone of potty training, where some things are going right but some things are not clicking (just yet), what's language that helps the process along?

Use praise as a tool until the lightbulb goes off for your potty training toddler.

Praise. Remember to praise your child on what he or she IS doing right.

If you just focus on the potty misses, your child may go to that place of thinking..

Nope, can't do this potty thing.

Why it's important to celebrate small wins in potty training

You want your child to learn that it's okay to make mistakes. But if your child is peeing through his pants on day 5 and you're just saying..

No No No!!! Pee goes in the potty!

Then you may be missing out on the small wins.

What are examples of small wins in potty training?

Those small wins could be that your child KNEW he was peeing or felt the pee before but didn't get to the potty on time. Point out the small wins and then remind your child what to do next time.

Hey buddy, you knew you were peeing. Next time you just need to make it to the potty a little faster.

That way you're teaming up with your child. You're building up your child's confidence. And that pride will be the biggest motivator for your child in potty training.

That way it doesn't become you against your child, but rather you and your child against the pee.

So don't forget to give your child a high five for what he DID do right. And remember, potty training is a process.

Celebrate the small wins in potty training.

If your child is not clicking with potty training in a few days, that doesn't mean your toddler won't EVER be able to do it. What can you do to help the process along?

  • Check in with your vibe. Are you sharing your frustration?

  • Remember a good sleep is often a clean slate to reset you all. Keep you and your kiddo as rested as possible

  • Celebrate the small wins.

The best way to potty train is to focus on TODAY, not where you want to be or where you were yesterday.

And it's always a good idea to be mindful of language with our kids. Use language that gives your a child a boost that this potty thing is something he's totally capable of doing.

Illustrations: Citrus and Mint Designs


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