Potty Training Overview

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The time has come. It’s time to potty train!

Take a breath and relax. It shouldn’t be a big deal. It will require time, planning, patience and understanding.  Just remember, you learned it, and your child will learn it too! This is an exciting milestone in your child’s development.

First things first – do your research. There are lots of resources, and lots of techniques, so you should realize that it will be a trial and error process. You know your child best, and together you’ll learn which is the best training method.

There is no perfect age to start, so don’t compare your child with others. There is only the window that opens when your child is mature enough in body and mind to learn this new skill. Your child will need the self-awareness to recognize when they need to use the bathroom and have the maturity to behave appropriately while sitting on the potty. If you think your child is ready, give it a try. You’ll soon know if the time is right, or if you need to wait a few more months.

Consistency is crucial. You’re teaching a new skill and you will want to reinforce successful behaviors so your child has a continued motivation to use the potty. Make sure everyone in the household is ready and willing to participate, as you may not always be around to facilitate at every moment of the day. 

Here are some common signals that will let you know your child might be ready:

  • letting you know when they need a change
  • Having a dry diaper for several hours
  • They hide to take a poop
  • Can lower their pants and diaper
  • Are able to sit and focus for a few minutes at a time
  • They Follow parents or older siblings to the bathroom
  • Express curiosity about the toilet

Make sure you have the tools you need for potty training success. PottyMD recommends a potty seat insert for an adult toilet, a step stool, and underwear you’ve helped your child pick out. Many families use a child’s potty seat, and it can be a big help. However, getting your child used to an adult toilet will really help with bathroom trips when you’re away from home and may not have access to a child’s seat. (Pack a folding travel potty seat for convenience.)

Other tools include children’s books on potty training to read together, a potty reminder watch or potty timer, and a progress chart to encourage and motivate good potty behaviors.

As you begin training, you’ll soon understand what motivates your child to the behavior you are trying to teach – your child may be self-motivated and not need any “rewards.” Others may be more successful with a little extra motivation – a treat, a sticker, or a small toy for simply sitting on the potty for 2-3 minutes.
Something to remember – diapers and pull ups these days are so good at absorbing wetness that children may not even know when they have wet. During potty training, you might consider skipping pullups altogether, and use underwear inside a diaper so that your child can feel when they are wet. Be prepared to have extra pairs of clean undies on hand for a few days or weeks.

Follow your instincts and be consistent yet flexible as you go. If one method isn’t working, don’t give up, just try something new. Common methods include boot camp potty training (2 to 3 days), naked training, and child-directed potty training. Every child is different, so don’t be afraid to change course.

The worst thing you can do during training is shame your child or criticize a failure. Remember, this is totally new for your child. Despite their best efforts, there will be times when they miss their body’s cues. Accidents should be no big deal. Your job is to help them learn and develop the confidence that they will do it right next time. It’s important that everyone in the family and any childcare providers join in with encouragement and positive reinforcement!

Some children have an easy time learning to pee in the toilet but a harder time with pooping. Be sure to talk with your pediatrician if this becomes an issue. There may be specific reasons for poop hesitancy that your child doesn’t know how to communicate to you. Together you can discuss possible causes and courses of action.

Nighttime wetting often continues until about age six even after daytime potty training is “complete.” Make good use of mattress protection! Encourage your child to go to the bathroom before bed and first thing when they awake in the morning to establish a healthy routine.

Remember to keep the process in perspective – it’s just potty training, it’s not a test of your skills or measure of your success as a parent. It’s a stressful time, but with your guidance and encouragement, your child will successfully master using the potty!
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