Encouraging Potty Training

For many parents, potty training can be one of the most frustrating parts of early child rearing. In the act of weaning their children from diapers to the potty, a mother or father must learn to be a psychologist, a teacher, and, at times, a drill sergeant.

There are literally hundreds of books on the subject, many of them more than a few hundred pages in length, detailing the best methods to use in potty training, and certainly an entire field of child psychology devoted to the subject, and still, it has not yet been perfected to a science. Every child will learn at a different pace, and every child will respond to different techniques than the next child.

Serious study into the psychology of potty training began, of course, with Sigmund Freud, who put forth that potty training is one of the most important components in the early phases of an individual’s psychological development. The general theory being that a child must be taught that bodily desires do not always take immediate precedence over social and other imperatives. As such, a child who is potty trained poorly may grow up to experience difficulties in controlling their own inhibitions in a social setting, and a child who is potty trained too strictly may grow up to experience issues of self worth centred around cleanliness and perfection.

While many of Sigmund Freud’s theories have been considered less and less important over time by the psychological community at large, they remain the foundation upon which much of modern psychology is based, and Freud’s theories on potty training are no exception.

While different children may respond differently to various methods, the one constant, believed by nearly all child analysts, is that a potty training routine must remain consistent, and must focus on positive reinforcement as opposed to punishment or scolding. In short, a child spends the first year and a half of life using diapers. Rather than punishing a child for doing something they consider normal, it is much more effective to reward them for taking a developmental step forward.

Between the ages of eighteen months and two years of age, most children enter a phase wherein they hope to earn parental approval. Almost invariably, child psychologists recommend making the most of this time by focusing on potty training. Some parents wait too long, and wind up with their children going through a stubborn, rebellious phase, where they are more concerned with asserting their independence than they are with impressing their parents. It’s certainly not impossible to teach a stubborn child to use the potty, but it’s nothing if not an uphill battle.

In general, it’s a good idea to make the act of potty training fun. You need your child’s cooperation. Obviously this begins with a training potty, and Fisher Price’s My Potty Friend is as good a place to start as any, with a clicking “flush” lever, and an actual toilet paper roll holder. Furthermore, there should be some form of consistent reward system in place. Many parents opt for the “star system”, wherein a gold star sticker is placed on the calendar (one for number one, and two for number two, of course). When a certain number of stars have been reached, the child may be rewarded with anything from a new children’s book, to a trip to the pet store, so long as it is something that the child enjoys.

However, ultimately, the most important reward system in potty training is simply parental praise. Let your child know you love them, and let them know when you are happy with their progress.