Tips I Successfully Used to Potty Train My Toddler
We are just a few months in from being potty trained; I sometimes still can’t believe our success! Now, this is daytime potty training; we have not attempted the nap and nighttime potty training. Mainly because I’m a pregnant, exhausted mamma, and I don’t feel the need to tackle that right now. One of our biggest hurdles? Successfully potty training with a speech delay. My son was two years and four months old when we started, and he still only has a few words.
When to start potty training a toddler with a speech delay
In my mind, I had assumed I would start this potty training process once my toddler would begin saying “pee” and “poopie,” or at least start letting me know when he would go in the diaper. We had friends that visited us here in Germany when the boys were just under two ( they are two months apart ), and his vocabulary was impressive- in fact, he would let his parents know when he would make a poopie or a pee in the diaper. This, I thought, would be our first signs of readiness.
When I finally decided to start this new chapter of potty training, my son still only had a few words. He essentially communicates with hand signing and certain sound effects.
I would ask him if he made a poopie in the diaper, and he would say no. He didn’t mind being in a dirty diaper- mainly because he was just too busy to want to be changed.
How did I know my son was ready to start potty training? Call it mothers intuition, I just knew. Honestly, I wanted to start a month prior, but we were taking our two-week trip to Italy and thought the diapers would be far more convenient than looking for toilets. He was showing interest in the entire process. Also, he had been so rushed to grow up that I was hoping for he would ready.
How we helped prepare my delayed speech toddler for potty training
Lead by example
For the last year or so, I would communicate what I was doing in the bathroom. We even purchased a potty for him placed right next to our toilet. At some point, he started to sit on it next to me. He loved pushing the flusher on it. We kept it in the bathroom; it was never considered a toy for him to play with. Think of this as visual reinforcements. After some time, he would even tear a little bit of toilet paper and throw it into his potty, then flush. This was the top indicator that made me feel like he was ready- he had been showing interest.
Communicate with simple language
I would make it a point to say, “You made a poopie” when cleaning up the diaper, or your going pee if he did while standing in the bathtub ( my toddler still hates taking baths). Although he couldn’t say the words, his receptive speech is fantastic, and I wanted him to start learning these terms. I also made it a point to say that “Mommy is making a poopie.” My goal was to normalize this as much as possible; I didn’t want him to develop any feelings of shame with going number two.
It was also a great opportunity to say step by step what I was doing.
Tips that worked for me for potty training with a speech delay
Know how your child communicates
This is a bit more challenging when you have a speech-delayed toddler. Think outside the box. How has your child been communicating with you? Use this method! We rely heavily on signing- it has been, hands down, one of the best blessings for us. A few signs have been made up, but they work. My son also has certain sound effects that he uses. My husband and I are completely tuned in to his form of communication.
My son doesn’t use the visual charts, but they can be an excellent tool for potty training your speech-delayed toddler! I considered using them as an option. I even considered using stickers on the chart as a reward system. Start using this chart or signing when you are using the bathroom to start reinforcing this means of communication.
Include your spouse and family
I kept putting it off potty training toddler with a speech delay, not because I didn’t think my son was ready- but was I ready? Was I prepared to tackle this? Life is already more exhausting being pregnant- did I want to complicate it even more? I kept finding an excuse to put it off for the next week. Eventually, my husband said something to the effect of – Liam is going to be four and still not potty trained. Well, that comment got me started on it that day!
My husband was understanding and let me take the reins in this. But I kept him in the loop. What I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it. Communicating this to him allowed him to be involved and supportive. Also, this can be exhausting and stressful; I knew I needed encouragement and affirmation.
Pick out the big boy/ girl undies
Let them get excited! Have them pick out some undies! I decided to go straight for the undies instead of the pull-ups. Out of convenience, I ordered some that my toddler would love and showed them to him. I told him that we are going to start wearing these this week after we start potty training.
Plan for a week of staying at home
The first three days we spent at home- which was tough! Both my toddler and I need to spend time outside. It is consistently part of our daily schedule. These first three days were exhausting! I felt like we were in the trenches. So much so that I had to actively try to incorporate some of my self-care into that morning routine; these three days were the hardest- but then it got easier!
Staying at home gave me more control. It also removed any outside distractions that could hinder the potty training process. It is also the most comfortable environment for my toddler. I felt like this was a huge part of going all in with my potty training method.
It can be challenging having a toddler with delayed speech. It can be deceiving as to how much he understands; I often underestimate his receptive vocabulary.
Communicate with your toddler
I told him that morning what we were doing:
- We are not going outside today
- Today we are going to learn how to pee and poopie in your potty
- Mommy is going to take your diaper off during the day
- Mommy is putting on your diaper on because it is nap time or bedtime
- If you have an accident, that is okay
Set a schedule for potty training your toddler with a speech delay
The timing approach didn’t work well for us; it was inconsistent. I also couldn’t get my toddler to spend time on the potty, even with toys, books, or the tv. However, I have heard of many mamas succeeding with these two methods and would try it again for our second child. The first day was a complete mess! My goal: I had to learn his schedule when he needed to use the potty. The first day, there was none- but by the third day, he developed one. I learned quickly that I would have to adopt his schedule into our daily routine.
As the week went on, I would ask before going out if he needed to go. Sometimes he would sit on his potty, while others, he would refuse. He is as stubborn as they come- I have not successfully made him sit on the potty against his will. I have had to work with him. I had to learn his pattern
Have the potty easily accessible
We had a separate potty for him that I placed in the middle of our living room. Prepare for your little one, it’s likely they give no warning the first few days. I would grab my son midstream and sit him on the potty.
If you’re using a potty seat on your toilet, I would encourage you to be close to that bathroom. You want the potty to be convenient.
Push those fluids!
You want your toddler to pee; the more they need to go, the more practice opportunities they have.
Understand that Pooping in the potty can take more time
I’ve been told kids can struggle with going poopie in the potty. Have a little more patience. Thankfully, my son didn’t struggle with this. However, he would immediately throw up. This went on for about a month.
Establish a rewards system
I think this is personal preference. You know what works well for your child. Some of my mommas did stickers, treats, or little toys. My son is spoiled. But what worked for him was affirmation. Pure joy and exaggerated praise. This may also be a bit of trial and error.
Celebrate every victory
I was so proud when my son learned to stop midstream and finish in the potty. Every little step is a victory- celebrate it! Every small success will lead to a bigger victory!
The first two to three days were the hardest. This first phase was all about my son learning what this sensation was and eventually being able to feel it coming. It was a couple of days filled with accidents- everywhere. Be patient. Take a few seconds to step away now and then. These first few days, I was in the trenches. Your toddler will sense any frustration you may have.
Let your toddler know that accidents are okay. Be their safe space
My son felt so bad every time he had an accident. It was almost as if he had some feelings of shame- this was a surprise for me! Potty training was an emotional experience for my little one. I made sure to tell him every single time in a calm voice that it was an accident and accidents were okay. Even through the exhaustion- I think this is so important. He would even make it a point to take me to the accident, energy, and say uh-oh. Accidents are accidents, and that’s okay. I want him to learn from an early age that he can always come to me if he is in trouble or has an accident. I do like to think that how I respond now could affect how he comes to me when he’s older.
How to mentally prepare yourself for this potty training journey
This was the hurdle I needed to overcome. The concern that potty training my speech-delayed toddler would complicate my already exhausted life. Giving up the convenience of diapers.
Even though my intuition told me that my son was ready for potty training for the first time, I doubted myself. Would I be capable of successfully potty training my son? As a pregnant military spouse living overseas- did I want to make my life harder?
A couple of months before potty training, I read through the first portion of Oh Crap, Potty Training by Jamie Clowacki. Unfortunately, I didn’t dive into the book completely. Between being pregnant, my blogging hobby, and often solo parenting, I skimmed through the first half. Even by just looking, I thought it was a fantastic resource, and it gave me a great starting point. Really- a lot of the foundation stemmed from this book! I would absolutely recommend it!
I was not shy about asking friends what they did and their methods. It was interesting to hear what worked for them. Many mommas had sworn by their techniques and were passionate about how they did it. Like motherhood, when you open up this discussion, this feedback can be overwhelming. Thankfully, most of the mommas were simply encouraging! You may wish to keep potty training to yourself until you get through it.
Include your spouse and family
As I mentioned earlier, including family is important in the potty training method and journey. But having that affirmation, encouragement, and support from them can go a long way. Remember how this felt when you have friends reach out to you when they start their potty training journey!
Prepare for the accidents
There will be accidents- especially the first few days. Have your carpet cleaner on hand. Make sure you have plenty of towels available. I tried to have him sit on a towel when he was on the sofa. I could leave the room for 2.5 seconds, and my son would not fail to have an accident. It will happen.
Remember to take care of yourself. If you feel like you are overwhelmed and easily frustrated, step away for a few minutes. Take a deep breath. Practice squeezing some self-care into your day. Keep up your hobbies!
My takeaway for potty training a toddler with a speech delay
It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. My son picked it up faster than I thought, and I handled the entire process okay. Despite the speech delay, my toddler can effectively communicate when he needs to use the potty. It’s a proud moment for you and your little one. Wear that badge!
I would love to hear what worked for you! Do you have any additional tips for your little one?