Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Potty-Training: The Timer Trick

A friend was visiting the other day. She's the mother of an infant and has no experience with potty-training. My Ami (2 1/4) woke up from his nap, during which he still wears diapers. I took his diaper off and after 20 minutes or so I told him it was time to go to the potty. (He's still at the stage where if I don't remind him, he's likely to have an accident.)

Ami is cranky when he wakes up from his nap. He wasn't having any of it. He refused.

My friend asked "How can you make a kid go to the potty if he doesn't have to [or more likely just doesn't want to] go?"

I went and got the kitchen timer. I set it for two minutes. I said "Ami, when the timer rings, we're going potty."

He was not impressed.

I tried to distract him. I said "Listen, the timer's going tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick." (Usually he loves that.)

He said "Timer NOT go tick-tick-tick."

I walked away.

When the timer rang, Ami slid out of his booster seat and dashed to the bathroom!

When we're at the mall, I do the same thing, except I set the alarm on my phone and I let him hold it till it rings.

If for some reason this doesn't work, you can also use the timer trick another way. Set it for one minute and say "Let's just sit on the potty until the timer rings and then we can go play." He might squirm or even cry, but if you can keep him there for a minute, chances are he'll do his business while he's waiting for the timer to ring.

I can't promise this will work with every kid, but it works with mine.


  1. Interesting technique. I'll have to try it once Asher's ready for potty training.

  2. I love it that you comment on my blog as soon as it's up. I don't even have to put it on Facebook!

  3. I read this blog a few days ago. Then I got a lecture yesterday morning from the woman who runs the Chabad daycare system here, and last night I read through the chapter in Tracy Hogg's book (the last book in the Baby Whisperer series which has detailed techniques for dealing with all kinds of problems with kids and toddlers, and some very good explanations of how to understand kids' behaviour and development). So armed with all that I've taken the plunge and decided that the time has come to potty-train Elnatan. We had 3 accidents at my sister-in-law's house this afternoon, but then after we got home, and I sent Yisrael to the toilet, Elnatan decided he had to sit on the potty, and we chalked up a success! I'm just going to concentrate on daytime hours at home. I don't want to involve his carer at daycare yet. I'd rather let him build up some confidence at home first.

  4. Good job, Elnatan! How old is he now?

    Every success will encourage him and make him excited to try again.

    If he has a "miss," don't even mention it. Just clean him up and send him on his way. Only make an issue out of a success.

    I agree with starting at home. The weekend is a good time to focus on it.

    Ami's daycare provider said not to send at least 50% successful at home. While I was not happy in general with the way she handled his potty training (up until a week ago she was still insisted that he wasn't ready, even though he's been in underwear for months now), this was one thing I agreed with her on.

    Let me know if you need any more help!

  5. Thanks. Elnatan is nearly 2 1/2 now. When I read that you'd already potty-trained Ami, I said to myself "Ami is younger than Elnatan. If he can do it, so can Elnatan." The main issue is that he's very stubborn, so I have to find the right approach. He likes having a story at potty time, and I also think that it helps that he has an older brother who also has to go to the toilet. The problem is that I have to keep asking Yisrael not to interfere with my efforts - Elnatan doesn't need two mothers telling him what to do. He can show by his example, but he doesn't have to take on my role as well.

  6. Ami is VERY young to be potty-trained and I don't think it means that every, or even any kid his age is ready to be potty trained. He happens to have a very easygoing and eager-to-please personality.

    Eliana, on the other hand, was stubborn and absolutely refused to be potty trained. She expressed an interest at a young age and then changed her mind (maybe because that was around the time Ami was born). I never did find a method that worked for her. Even peer pressure, which works for most kids eventually, didn't work. She was the only kid in her class still in diapers and she just didn't care. I had to just give up and let go and eventually one day it happened. (And yes, it only took one day because she was 3.5)

    I have the same problem with Eliana thinking she's in charge of Ami. She's always telling him what he can eat and how much, etc.

    When I first started potty training Ami, she would go in there and bug him. I said "Don't bother him" and Ami said "don't buckle me." It became (and still is) a running joke. "I'm not buckling him." "He's buckling me."

    I'm glad you're aware of Elnatan's personality and that you're going to have to tailor his potty-training experience to it. That's one of the key elements to parenting. You can't parent every kid the same way. As Rashi says, teach each child according to his ways.

  7. Yes, I agree with you, and I'm glad that I've finally realized it with the potty training - I was waiting for him to show the same signs that Yisrael showed, but finally on Sunday the penny dropped and I realized that in his case, I have to take the initiative.