Wondering how to get your toddler to tell you when they need to potty? Encourage self-initiation and communication with these simple tips!
Is your toddler really potty trained if he won’t go on his own?
He’s been going to the potty regularly when you take him as part of your routine (every 45 minutes, to be exact). And he does go every time, and will usually stay dry between potty breaks. But in your ideal world, you’d like him to get to the point where he’s telling you that he needs to go.
Instead, he takes no initiative to tell you that he has to pee or poop.
If you simply wait for him to say something, he’d likely have an accident. The times you’ve forgotten to have him sit on the potty seat, he peed in his underwear—and didn’t even say anything until you saw the telltale signs of an accident. You’ve tried offering stickers, toys, or snacks, but even these treats don’t work.
It’s worse when you ask him if he needs to go, and he says “no,” only for him to pee in his pants a minute later. And while he doesn’t have many accidents, his track record is only that good because you’re diligent about his schedule.
How to get your toddler to tell you when they need to potty
I get the frustration, friend.
Taking younger children to the bathroom on a regular basis is a fantastic way to introduce the potty and help them get used to a new way of peeing and pooping. But at some point, you’d like your toddler to be able to go on his own based on his awareness of his bodily sensations.
The key is to help him make the connection that wetting their pants isn’t pleasant, and that the best way to avoid this feeling again is to sit on the potty chair.
So, how can you start bridging the physical sensations to using the potty in the daytime? Take a look at these tips that can help:
1. Catch the accident
Have you caught your toddler in the middle of an accident? This is a perfect opportunity to send him straight to the bathroom, no matter how “finished” his accident may be.
This allows him connect the physical sensations to the action that needs to happen, which is to go to the bathroom and sit on the potty. As much as you tell him beforehand what he should do when he needs to pee, there’s nothing like experiencing it right then and there to drill the message in.
In other words, don’t wait for him to finish doing what he’s doing before taking him to the bathroom. Rush him there so he knows that this is what he should do when he feels himself peeing.
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2. Look for triggers
Your toddler may not be able to articulate the exact words to say he needs to use the potty. But he just might be dropping clues here and there, enough for you to prompt him to go to the bathroom and use the potty.
For instance, he might have an awkward stance when he needs to pee, or hides in a corner if he has to poop. Perhaps he says his belly hurts, or you see him grab his crotch or clench his behind.
Look for telltale signs that he needs to go, and then urge him to go to the bathroom. This is a perfect opportunity to show him that these sensations are his clues that he should use the potty.
3. Use consistent language
One strategy that can help get your toddler to tell you when he needs to potty is to stick to consistent language. In other words, use the same language for the same things.
For instance, use the word “pee” in all cases, instead of interchanging it with “pee-pee,” “potty,” “number one,” or other nicknames. Use simple instructions to keep the process understandable.
Sticking to the same word can help him verbally communicate exactly what he needs without having to consider all the other options.
4. Praise progress
With potty training, it’s easy to measure success as peeing or pooping in the potty. After all, the ultimate goal is for our kids to ditch diapers and use the toilet seat like you and I do.
But we forget that several steps—both forward and back—need to happen before they reach that goal. That’s why we need to praise them not only for the times they pee and poop on the potty, but for the progress they’re making.
Maybe your toddler had an accident, which you might see as a setback. But he looked at you in shock and admitted, “I think I peed.” While he still soiled his underpants, praise him for acknowledging that he had peed, which is a step above not saying anything at all.
Learn what to do when your 4 year old poops in pants and doesn’t care.
5. Model the behavior
A fantastic way to show your toddler what he should do is to model it yourself.
Even if you don’t take him with you to the potty, you can still announce that you need to go. Even better: explain why you think you need to.
For instance, you can say, “I drank a lot of water. I’m going to the bathroom to go pee.” Or “I feel a tingle in my bladder. Looks like I need to pee!” You’re putting words into your physical sensations, and showing him what to do should he feel the same.
Trying to convince your toddler to tell you when he needs to use the potty can be challenging. Even if he’s potty trained, he may only be using the potty with your diligent reminders and not out of habit. How can you encourage him to be more aware of his bowel movements or at least let you know he has to go?
One important strategy is to rush him to the bathroom the minute you spot an accident. This will help him tie the behavior to the action that needs to happen. Look for telltale triggers that can clue you in that he’s about to pee or poop.
Stick to consistent language, using the same words to help him know how to better communicate his needs. Praise the progress he has made, and not just the ultimate goal or perfection of using the potty.
And lastly, model the behavior by announcing when you need to use the potty, which can encourage him to do the same.
Rest assured, your toddler will not only let you know he has to potty, but will do so on his own—all without having to take him every 45 minutes.
Get more tips:
- 6 Signs Your Child Is Not Ready for Potty Training
- Potty Trained Toddler Having Accidents on Purpose? Here’s What to Do
- How to Potty Train a Toddler (Without the Power Struggles)
- What to Do When Your Toddler Won’t Poop on the Potty
- The Real Reasons Your 4 Year Old Won’t Poop on the Potty
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Maria Castillo says
How can I help my 5 year old son to use the toilet. He has a bit of a speech delay and really communicate when he needs to go. How can I make this easier for him and I? Any good tips are welcomed