I have identified 7 stages of potty training toddlers go through before complete toilet independence. I have also included tips on getting your munchkin to this stage if they are not exactly there yet.
Why would you be interested in those stages? For some, breaking potty training into stages might make the task less intimidating. After all it's much easier to tackle a project if you brake it into smaller more manageable stages.
And let me tell you, it is very difficult to pull together such a list. A list that is completely independent of a specific potty training method. Some methods require signs of readiness or want the child to express interest in potty training first. Other approached asses that babies are born potty trained and its up to the parent to facilitate going to the potty until the child is physically ready to complete the exercise on their own.
Here are the 7 stages of potty training that I believe are present in all the methods. I might offer some tips (like mentioning EC in stage 1 and 2) but I tried to stay as neutral as possible while identifying the stages.
Stage 1 - Awareness.
Your little sprout is aware of eliminating. If your munchkin is there already proceed to stage 2. If not make your child aware of what is happening - tell them: "you are peeing". Better yet, make a sound that can be associated with eliminating. Many parents who practice "elimination communication" use "ssshh" for pee. Using cloth diapers or regular clothes with no diaper at all are also excellent ways to bring awareness to the process of eliminating.
Stage 2 - Association.
Your child associates eliminating with a potty or toilet and will pee or poo on the potty if placed on it around the time he needs to eliminate. If not - place your child on the potty at times they usually "use their" diaper" and suggest they might want to pee or make your sound from stage 1. Or just keep them on the potty by reading books or playing games as long as they want to stay sitting.
Stage 3 - Communication.
Your little darling let's you know he has eliminated or wants to eliminate. Signals by pointing, grabbing themselves between the legs, doing a potty dance, communicates verbally or goes to the potty or the toilet door. This mostly happens when your sweetie knows (has awareness) the toilet is the designated spot for eliminating (associates), prefers to be dry or being wet makes them uncomfortable.
Stage 4 - Consistency.
Consistently lets you know before he has to eliminate and can hold it for a limited amount of time before you get him to an appropriate location. First this happens in familiar settings but then also when you leave the house and are in unfamiliar settings. This is definitely beyond the point where I recommend that parents should let go off diapers, around the house in the very least.
Stage 5 - Partial Independence
Your toddler is capable of getting himself to the potty or toilet and pull down his clothes and eliminate. Still calls you to finalize the process (wiping / getting clothes back on / washing hands). Help and assist, but encourage your toddler to complete as many task as possible on their own. Make sure they can reach the sink on their own, a step stool is crucial. In general facilitate only when needed.
Stage 6 - Independence
Can complete the entire going potty process independently without your involvement.
Stage 7 - Consistency and Independence
Your toddler has reached the last step of the 7 Stages of Potty Training is when they stay dry during the day and night. But the occasional accident still might happen even to age five or six.
I have not directly addressed nighttime potty training here - as some methods offer advice on day time and night time potty training simultaneously and others suggest to start after reaching complete toilet independence during the day.
With our Little Darling 7 Stages of Potty Training you can tackle nighttime potty training anywhere starting from stage 2.
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