If your child is struggling with using the potty, having frequent accidents, holding poop, or very stressed, you may have moved to underwear too soon. If you think it was too soon and after a week or two it hasn't improved, we recommend telling your child, "It seems like pooping in the potty is really hard for you. Do you want to go back to wearing diapers and try the underwear again when you feel more comfortable pooping in the potty?" Ask at a time that is not stressful. If he says he would prefer diapers then put all the underwear away. When he starts asking for it (which he will) then tell him, "Remember how tricky it was to put all your poops in the potty? We can get your underwear back out when you are using the potty instead of your diaper for poop." If he says he wants to wear underwear, then let him know that you are here to help him figure that out, but wearing underwear means that it's his responsibility to be sure the poop goes in the potty, so he needs a plan for what might help him poop in the potty.
"Though going back into diapers seems like moving backward and can be frustrating to us, it's likely the most peaceful path. Just this afternoon while looking for something else I found this quote. “Learning to use the toilet is a process that takes time. Rather than push or manipulate your child by giving him treats such as candy or a special reward for something that he will learn to do on his own, trust that he will learn when he is ready. Respect is based on trust.” – Magda Gerber.
Using the terms penis, vagina, and vulva can be very uncomfortable for adults. We believe it’s best to use real terms so that children and those supporting them are all on the same page. While you will hear teachers using a bit more politically correct language outside the bathroom, when we are teaching children to potty we want them to feel no embarrassment, mystery, or anxiety about their body and its parts.
It is also important for children’s safety. For instance, some researchers believe that child abusers target children who are thought to be uneducated about their bodies and easily manipulated. By giving children the real words to talk about their body, you are beginning the process of educating and protecting them from possible dangers. You might say, "Your vagina and butt is under your diaper because it is private."
As children become young toddlers, we recommend introducing the concept of sitting on the potty instead of changing their diaper on the table. Most parents begin this process as a part of the bath time or good morning routine. You will know your child is ready to sit on the potty when she clearly refuses to lie down, usually around 10-14 months. At this point we recommend learning the art of the stand up diaper for everything but poop.
Children begin to work to take off their own pants and diaper. Children are encouraged to sit on the potty so they can begin to make that connection. Every child will make the connection of how to use the potty in their own time and in their own way. We want to be sure the opportunity to sit on the potty is available when they make the connection of how to control where and when they relieve themselves.
Young toddlers will begin to show an interest in using the potty. Then they will likely make the connection that they can pee and/or poop when they sit on the potty. Sometimes before they are able to pee or poop we will encourage them to simply sit on the potty and we may read a book while we ‘wait for the pee pee to come’. If you see your child is trying to poop in his diaper or has stopped playing with a focused, pushing look on his face, then we recommend asking, “It looks like you have to poop. Would you like to go to the potty?” This is a choice we will encourage, but never force. If a child is more hesitant about using the potty, we will encourage him to try but help him down or change him on the table if he seems upset. If a child is consistently upset by the thought of using the potty, teachers will still ask him each diaper change, “Do you want to sit on the potty or change on the table?” As the child gets older we may ask him to change standing up in the potty area even if he doesn't want to sit on the potty.
Potty try in early toddlerhood around 15 months: Adult says, “Joshua, it’s time for your potty try. Would you like to sit on the potty or change on the table?" Joshua continues playing with his truck. The adult moves closer until Joshua looks up, “There you are! It’s time for your potty try. Would you like to park your truck in the garage or outside the potty?” Joshua drives his truck to the garage and reaches up for the adult’s outstretched hand. The adult remarks, “You walked right into the potty! Start taking off your pants. I am going to grab you a diaper.” The adult gets the diaper and sits down on the bathroom floor next to Joshua. “You’re pulling at those pants. I will help you get them started,” she remarks as she pulls Joshua’s pants to his knees. Joshua leans against the wall, steps out of his pants, then walks to try to flush the potty. The adult takes his hand, “We can flush after you sit on the potty,” she says, “Work on taking your diaper off. Can you find the stickers?” (We commonly call the diaper tabs stickers.) Together the adult and Joshua work to remove his diaper and the adult lifts him onto the potty. “You’re sitting on the potty! Do you have any pee or poop coming?” Joshua makes a grunting sound scrunching his face. The adult remarks, “I see you’re focusing and trying to push out your poop.” Joshua reaches into the potty and begins touching himself. The adult helps him put his hands on his knees. “That’s your penis. That is where the pee comes out of your body. You can put your hands on your knees. Are you all done?” Joshua reaches to the adult and she helps him down. He flushes the potty and she remarks, “You did it. You sat on the potty, then you flushed it away. Now we need to put your diaper on.” The adult puts Joshua’s diaper on remarking about each step and then lays out his pants. “Joshua, put your legs in your pants.” Joshua begins sticking his legs in his pants but gets distracted by the display of pictures. “You see the pictures. We are almost finished with our potty try. Can you find your toes on the other side of those pants?” Joshua puts on his pants and reaches around to the back to pull them up. The adult turns on the water. “Last thing we need to do is wash our hands.” She guides Joshua’s hands to put one under and one on top of the soap. They scrub and rinse and he gets a paper towel. The adult reminds him, “Wipe all the water off your fingers with the paper towel. That makes them dry.”
Once children are consistently making the connection of how to use the potty, we will encourage them to pee and poop each time they go to the bathroom. As they can consistently use the potty, we talk more and more about staying dry. To encourage children that are consistently using the potty we ask them to try to use the potty each hour and stay dry. We do not recommend pull ups because it takes away some of the natural motivation of moving out of diapers and into underwear. Pull ups are simply diapers that cost more. They give your child a bit more independence but not much and do not give children any better indication that they are wet. Sometimes the slight independence children get with pull ups stops their motivation to make the move to underwear.
Potty try for a toddler or a two year old still in diapers or pull ups: Adult says, “Juri, it’s your turn to potty try.” Juri runs into the bathroom taking off her pants and her diaper. As the diaper falls to the floor, the adult reminds her, “Put your diaper in the trash can.” Looking at the diaper with her the adult asks, “Is it wet or dry?” Juri remarks, “It’s dry!” The adult responds, “Wow, you must be holding a lot of pee in your belly. Climb up on the potty.” Juri climbs onto the potty and pees, then climbs down and flushes. The adult asks, “Grab your diaper and I will help you put it on.” She tells her, “Put this part against your butt then pull that part through your legs.” Together they find the tabs and snap the diaper. Juri sits down in front of the pants her adult has laid out for her. The adult coaches her through putting on the pants. Juri climbs up on the stool, washes and dries her hands, then goes back to her play.