Potty training isn’t easy. It can be a special challenge when there is a sibling in the house, whether it’s a newborn baby or an older brother or sister.
But it’s not all bad news. Sometimes an older sibling can set a good example of how to use the bathroom. After all, what toddler doesn’t want to emulate his big brother or sister? Use this to your advantage, encouraging your little one to watch their big sibling’s potty rituals, even going so far as to have them sit on their own potty when big bro or sis is going to the toilet. Celebrate when either child is successful so the child-in-training gets to share in the spotlight.
An occasional accident and even some regression is a normal part of the meandering potty training journey. When there is a newborn in the house, your older child may revert to being the baby once again to get your attention, explains Emily Rittenberg, mother of two and founder of the Rochester Parenting Coach.
“When we potty trained our older son, our youngest was a newborn. Going potty was an additional way to reinforce and celebrate him being a ‘big boy,’” she says. It worked for him, but she notes, “Some potty training regression is normal when introducing a new baby to the family (or any other major life transition), so don't be alarmed if potty training ends up taking a little longer and has some ups and downs.”
Rittenberg suggests celebrating the positive, such as telling you when they have to go, trying to go, pulling their pants up/down by themselves and washing hands. Be warm and caring when they have an accident.
Clinical psychologist Bobbi Wegner knows that having a new baby in the house can be an adjustment for the entire family, especially a potty training child who is “working to figure out if they are a baby or a big kid.” She potty trained two children with a new baby in the house. “Not ideal but totally workable with the right attitude. The parents' role is to provide structure, guidance, and positive reinforcement. And that includes accepting accidents and bouts of regression during major life changes, which is totally normal.”
“Our son would say ‘I'm a big boy!’ and then be found lying in the baby's Moses basket, which totally represented what he was working through: ‘Am I a big boy or a baby? Which one do I want to be?’ Ultimately, it worked best when we stayed patient with him and didn’t force it.”
It was much easier, she said, to train her youngest child with two big brother role models, says Wegner. “They practically potty trained her by just doing their usual business,” she recalls. “Quite honestly, I would have preferred to wait until a little later to do the training, but our daughter was ready and interested because she had been watching her brothers, so we had to strike while the iron was hot! As the baby of the family, she happily responded to the ‘what a big girl’ applauds, and the training was pretty quick.”
So treat each of your children as individuals and celebrate each of their own personal milestones, including potty training. Good luck!