Take these tips with a grain of salt, but this is what worked for me & what I've learned so far!
- Don't start potty training too soon. All of the books and websites say to start when the child shows interest. This is a good point but it did not work for me. Madi showed interest very early (around 1.5 years) and even "pee peed" a few times on the potty. I was SO excited; I thought this is it! She's ready! Wrong. She went about 6 times in one day and then not again for many weeks.
- When they are ready, you will know. After the "false alarm" I said - Madi will just go when she's ready...and that is exactly what she did. About a month ago one Saturday she told me she had to go potty 3 times and then the next day she didn't go at all in the potty, but then starting that Monday we were on the road of potty training. I'm not saying it will be like this for all kids but it has to be your child's idea. If they don't just tell you they have to go, then twist it and make them think it's their idea!
- Use underwear, not pull-ups. This is key to potty training, in my opinion. Pull-ups are nice if you don't want the mess (& for nighttime of course) but it doesn't give your child the full understanding that you shouldn't go potty in your pants. It looks like a diaper, feels like a diaper so why shouldn't they treat them like a diaper? Underwear are completely different - (a) it's a great way to get your child excited about potty training. Let them pick some out with their favorite character on them or their favorite color! I hate cartoon clothing but I let M wear underwear with it. (b) when they go to the bathroom in their underwear they can feel it on their skin and it makes them aware of when they go. *tip I got from my MIL-fleece pants are best when potty training with underwear; they soak up the wetness instead of it seeping through.*
- Reward, Celebrate, Throw a Party! This one seems obvious and maybe it is but it can't be stressed enough. When your child goes to the potty (pee or poop) jump up and down, do a potty dance, throw confetti, and give them a treat!! It's a BIG deal!!!! YAYY! They went!! Even if your child has been going for a day or two, continue to make a big deal out of it until they are fully potty trained. It makes them feel special and shows them that they are making mommy & daddy happy! M&Ms are the most obvious "treat" but we used marshmellows (& sometimes m&ms). Find something your child doesn't get very often and make that the treat. If they get it all the time, there's no reason for them to go to the potty to get it.
- Read to them on the potty. As y'all know we have had quite a difficult time getting M to go poop on the potty. I finally asked her pediatrician what we could do and she said read to her. Duh! Why didn't I think of that? It worked too! We leave books in the bathroom and when she has to go I sit in there with her and read her a book (or 3) and say "push" every few minutes! :) Reading books distracts her so she's not as impatient. *another poop tip - get your child a potty instead of just a seat for the toilet. Putting their feet on the floor helps them go #2!*
- Be Patient and know that it will happen eventually! My #1 fear was that Madi would be 5 and still in diapers! I was so scared that she would never get potty trained. It WILL happen! Every child is different. So what if all your friends kids are potty trained and yours isn't? They will get there! Potty training is hard work. Madi asks to go to the bathroom about 10 times in 5 minutes. Not exaggerating. I have lost my patience, but then I just try to calm down and realize she's just learning and it will only get easier from here! Hang in there!