The task of getting your toddler out of diapers can be both a blessing and a curse. The blessing part is obvious, but the curse is all the time and patience you have to devote to the process. Some parents find themselves thinking any of the following:
- Great, now my older child is going to feel neglected due to all the time I have to spend potty training the little one.
- I just wish I had some potty training help.
- If only there was someone besides me that could motivate my toddler to use the potty.
Then the light bulb goes off. Big brother or sister can help! There’s no need to make it official and grovel at the child’s feet as if they’re your last hope either. From my experience, as well as others (including Colleen Brunetti, M.Ed.—a potty-training expert, and editor of the Two Little Hands Potty Training Guide), older siblings are usually more than happy to help with potty training, as long as you follow a few tips.
5 Tips for Enlisting Potty Training Help from an Older Sibling
Don’t compare children to their siblings. Although a little bit of sibling rivalry can be healthy, it can cause regression in competitive toddlers who feel as if they can’t meet the expectations of both you and your older child. Remember that children will only potty train when emotionally and physically ready. If your child is struggling, it could be due to the fact that it is simply too early.
Don’t make the older child responsible for potty training your toddler. Remember that your older child is simply your potty training helper—you’re still the parent! Older children will feel badly if you make them feel like any setbacks are their fault. You’re still responsible for accident cleanup too!
Try to spend some one-on-one time with both your toddler and your older child, separately. According to clinical psychologist Thomas Phelan, kids cherish some alone time with just one parent because they get a break from sibling rivalry. Although this sounds easy enough, it can often be put on the back burner, so make a point to schedule it in. Some parents have “date nights” with their children, or take them out for breakfast or for ice cream. Try enlisting the potty training help of a spouse or grandparent who can take one child while you’re out with the other. This benefits both you and your child, not just with potty training. Many parents find themselves continuing this tradition for years.
If older children are okay with it, let them model how to use the toilet. Younger siblings often look up to their older siblings and are usually eager to copy them.
Celebrate successes as a family. Make it a family affair from start to finish. Getting older children involved in the excitement of successful potty training can provide toddlers with a sense of accomplishment. Don’t forget to praise the older sibling separately for being such a great role model.
If you find that an older sibling isn’t as eager to help with potty training as you had hoped, don’t get discouraged. They may come around eventually, or they may not. Every child is different. Don’t punish a child for not being interested in hanging out in the bathroom all day. I know I wouldn’t want to!
Additional Potty Training Resources: