A reader writes:
"Hello, I want to potty train three children. They are 22-, 20- and 18-month-old girls. The 20-month-old is showing the most interest, so should I start with her first? I've been trying to do all three and it's a bit overwhelming for me. I still haven't gotten one of them to potty in the toilet.
Now that I have written this down, I think I answered my own question. I guess start with one and the others will follow."
You have partially answered your own question, indeed. If the 20-month-old is showing interest, then definitely start there. Groups of children will often train together and become more aware of the process as they see their peers using the potty and hear the vocabulary of potty training.
Something that concerns me in this situation, however, is whether even the 20-month-old is fully ready, yet. If you've been working with them for some time and yet nobody has landed a drop or plop in the potty, it sounds to me like you need to take a step back. Take some time to just work on readiness for all three children.
Remember that some of the signs of potty training readiness include:
- Knowing when they are using the bathroom and recognizing the urges associated with going both pee and poop.
- Being able to handle tasks like getting in and out of clothing, cleaning up messes and washing hands.
- Having an increasing attention span so that they can sit long enough to get the job done and not become irritable or distracted.
- Being able to follow instructions.
- Interest in going to the bathroom and the desire to go.
Interest on the part of a parent or caregiver, unfortunately, does not trump interest and especially desire on the part of the child. You have to be in sync with them. Starting before these signs are present will just lead to frustration for everyone.
And don't despair if nobody is ready. That doesn't mean you must just sit idly waiting for that special day. You can do many things to encourage readiness such as:
- Read potty training books and watch videos.
- Talk about poop and pee during diaper changes.
- Announce your own potty times and describe what's happening when you go.
- Practice pulling pants on and off (let your child do it alone during diaper changes, for example).
- Practice giving simple one- and two-step directions.
- Practice sitting on the potty for a few minutes each day without pressure to produce anything and without reprimand.
- Look at potty chairs and underwear each time you go shopping and talk about the items and what they mean.
Best of luck to the four of you!
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