The Business of Potty Training: This Is When Parenting REALLY Kicks In
As a parent to a young child, there are SO many exciting milestones to celebrate. Your child’s first crawl. Her first steps. His first words. With most of these, parents are anxiously waiting for the breakthrough, cameras at the ready and FaceTime one click away. And then there’s potty training. This is when it really gets fun.
The transition from diapers to toilets is challenging! Think about it. Your child has never had to worry about “holding it” or pausing “play time” to find a bathroom. They’ve always just done their business and waited for you to clean them up afterward.
And the toilet is scary. It’s loud. It’s tall. It doesn’t look fun at all. On top of all this, your child’s budding personality includes a not-so-cute, stubborn side that can surface at any given time and resist your coaching.
Fortunately, millennia of parents have gone before you and figured out some of the best tips and tricks for getting your child through potty training as painlessly as possible. There’s a huge industry built around this phase of child development and many great resources available.
With this article, we are going to summarize two broad approaches to positive reinforcement during potty training and mention a few companies that have really done their R&D to create products that help parents end their diaper changing days forever.
Rewards & Prizes: The Carrot-and-Stick Approach
Many parents like to reward a successful trip to the toilet with tangible prizes or rewards.
This could mean handing over a piece of candy, a new toy, or redeemable ticket after every accomplishment. At first, this is giving a lollipop to your child every time he or she sits down on the potty chair, even with clothes still on and no waste left behind.
As you move through this initial step of getting them used to sitting on a toilet, you then only reward when your child actually uses the potty chair.
As confidence and independence build, you can leave more space between rewards and only offer something if your child goes a whole day or two without an accident. This continues until your child has successfully transitioned over and left their diaper-wearing days in the dust.
There is, however, some downside to this rewards-based system.
Let’s say you give your child an M&M after every small victory. By creating the expectation that there will always be a prize, your child may start going to the bathroom just to earn their keep.
This could put you in a problematic situation when your child decides that he or she doesn’t want to use the toilet…just because.
You’ve just lost your power and leverage.
Now your son or daughter can demand TWO M&Ms instead of one to do their business. And then it’s three M&Ms. Before you know it, you just promised your toddler a new Mercedes just to get them to pee! If you get into a pattern where you are constantly having to raise the stakes, it could be tough to get out of it. For this reason, many parents turn to other strategies to positively reinforce.
Eliminating Fear From The Equation
There are a number of creative ways to encourage your child throughout potty training without putting physical rewards in his or her hands.
First of all, make every step of the transition less scary for your children, from the potty chair to the full-sized throne. Companies like Fisher Price have colorful and warmly decorated potty chairs that make it easy to begin teaching the seated position. A friendly smile on the toilet seat or chair back might be all you need to get your child to sit down.
Many parents will also change the color of toilet water with a few drops of food coloring or put cute stickers all over the toilet which can also go a long way to calming fears. Throw a Potty Scotty sticker at the bottom of the toilet bowl and tell your son to aim for it every time he goes. Look at that! You’re encouraging toilet use AND good aim. Future public restrooms thank you.
Placing funny characters or figurines in the bathroom is another easy way to help children overcome fears without having to hand out rewards after the deed is done. If your child really has trouble entering the bathroom, let her take her favorite stuffed animal in for emotional support.
If you are using training pants with your child, there are many super cute options available such as the Big Elephant brand undies that have printed animal faces and floppy ears stitched in. With these, your child will have no problem leaving diapers behind even though he or she now might be feeling wetness in their pants for the first time.
Finally, if you do decide you want to positively reinforce after a successful toilet run but don’t want to give a tangible reward, put up a sticker chart in the bathroom so that your child can visually see his progress over time. There are many great, inexpensive sticker charts out there that you can find online and in major retailers.
The Value of Overcoming Fear
Although this is a different kind of Untold story, our hope is that this was helpful for those of you who double as entrepreneurs and as parents.
There is a massive industry centered around helping children and parents through what can be a tough time. The companies that are the most successful in the potty training space truly understand the frustrations and fears experienced on both sides of the parent/child dynamic.
What scares your customers? What frustrates them?
Answer these questions, create a product or service that solves the issue, and you will have a long and bright future ahead!