As you’ve been learning about how to potty train your child, you’ve probably read a lot about rewards and DIY incentives that can encourage them such as sticker charts, certificates and even calls from their favorite Disney character. For many kids, rewards like these can be effective in encouraging them on the potty training journey. But one part of your role as potty training coach that you might not have given as much thought is what words you’ll use to praise your toddler.
As you think about how to start potty training, search for specific language that points to actions your child will take. Be sure you know how to praise your child in a way that fits their particular personality too. Start with this quick assessment quiz to find out your child’s potty personality. Then find the right tone and some sample encouraging phrases here:
- Eager-to-please. These kids do well with praise. Make sure to comment positively on your child’s progress and enjoy the potty discussions your child initiates. Remember that if your child has this personality they want to please you! Let them know that they do. When praising them, try phrases like these:
- “Way to go! You pulled your Pull-Ups® training pants down just like I pull down my underwear when I need to use the potty.”
- “I’m so proud of you! This is the first day you didn’t wear a diaper.”
- “You washed your hands just like I asked you. Great job.”
- Shy. Shy kids are likely to feel most comfortable using the potty where there’s an established routine such as at school or in their homes. They’re less comfortable in new settings. Shy kids often feel pressured when we pour on the praise too heavily. So keep your comments short, sweet and specific to their accomplishments — no matter how small. And if they get discouraged even after a compliment, it’s time to give them a break from the potty training. Here are a few things you can say:
- “Great job wiping today.”
- “You washed your hands really well.”
- “Nice job peeing in the potty.”
- High-energy. Kids who are high energy do well with extra incentives including praise. Experiment with the kinds of praise your child responds well to, and tailor your comments to their preferences. You could start by trying statements like these:
- “That’s a whole day with no potty accidents! You have definitely earned a high five.”
- “You pooped on the potty for the first time. What a Big Kid!”
- “You took a break from playing to try going potty. Smart idea!”
- Cautious. Toddlers with a cautious personality keep track of their progress and expect you to as well. Make a potty progress chart together with lots of fun stickers and little trinkets to mark progress along the way. As you’re tracking progress, use some thoughtful, specific words of praise too such as:
- “You ran to the potty as soon as your belly started feeling a little strange. Great job!”
- “You’ve earned a sticker every day this week for peeing in the potty. I’m so proud of you!”
- “Great job pooping in the potty!”
- Free-spirited. Showing your free-spirited child how the Big Kids use the potty is great motivator as they’re generally outgoing and will welcome the chance to interact with a big brother, big sister or cousin. These kids often need an extra dose of motivation too, and praise tends to be really effective for them. Keep words like these in mind:
- “You stayed on the potty until the pee came. Good job!”
- “You remembered to flush this time. Way to go!”
- “You remembered to wash your hands without me telling you. Way to go!”
With the right words in mind, now it’s time to practice finding the right balance of praise — so your toddler feels both independent and like you’re proud of their accomplishments. It might feel a little strange at first to say things like “Hooray! You got all your pee right in the potty” out loud. So take a few minutes to stand in front of the mirror and try it out. Sure, you might giggle at yourself a little the first few times. But potty training is supposed to be fun, after all!
Keep the positivity going day by day, and this journey can be a great one for both you and your child. Once you start to use specific words — pointing to individual actions your child has taken — you’ll find there’s so much to celebrate each day, from making it to the potty on time to trying out a new toilet when you’re running errands. Celebrate each moment together. And give yourself some positive words of praise too. You’ve earned it!