Potty Training: A How-To and When Guide

It may seem like you’ve just gotten the whole diapering thing down, mastering the quick change on the go, and now it’s time for potty training.Take a deep breath, prepare to be patient, and realize this is a new skill for both of you. There will be accidents, and you’ll need to bring along extra clothes for a while, but take a few minutes to learn a few tips, and the learning curve may be easier to handle than you think.

There’s No Rush

It really doesn’t matter when your friend’s child started to use the potty; every child is different, and that goes for brothers and sisters as well. A race to the potty benefits no one, and can lead to anxiety and frustration for both you and your child as you each try to understand what’s wrong.There isn’t anything wrong; it just may be too early for your little one.There’s a lot of thought processes that go into the act of using the potty.

Not as Simple as it Seems

It’s been a very long time since any of us had to put any thought into our bathroom habits. It’s just something we do. Simple, right? Not really. Learning the proper steps in your head takes time. Let’s think about it.

Knowing That Feeling

At 12-18 months, your child will begin to recognize that feeling of fullness, or urge to void their bladder or bowels.1 As a parent, it’s your job to reinforce that awareness of the feeling as well as the body parts used to accomplish the task. How many parents have you seen watching their child’s concentrated face as they stand a little ways away, and then ask, “Are you pooping? Do we need to change your diaper?” Giving voice to what’s happening gets your child thinking along the same lines. When I feel like this, I have to poop. Give your child the words and the language to use and understand.2 In this, as well as everything parenting, consistency helps.


Knowing the Potty

Between 18 months and two and a half years, your child realizes that feeling and makes a connection with the potty, fostered by your positive reinforcement. “Oh, you peed in the potty! What a big girl!” But you’re not done yet. Step One: recognize the feeling. Step Two: remembering the potty. Step Three involves a decision to act on the feeling. And you can help here as well with the decision. “Time to use the potty. Let’s go.”

Taking Action

By two and a half to age three, your child will start having the skills to put the steps together successfully. She will have the memory capacity as well as some verbal skills to work toward accomplishing the task at hand. Continue to cheer her efforts and make light of any accidents along the way.

Timing is Key

Most children are so entranced with the world around them that they are reluctant to leave to use the potty. Playing is so much more fun, and it’s difficult to get the timing just right, and ignoring the urge can lead to accidents, and that’s okay.3 There’s a tremendous amount of work that goes into developing this new skill. Give it time.

Stacking the Deck for Success

What can you do as a parent, other than encouraging and praising? Think simple and fun. Get a book and an anatomically-correct doll. If your daughter is learning how to use the potty at home, a dress minus the tights and underclothing can save a few important seconds while she’s working the whole timing issue out. Got a little boy? Squirt a few drops of dish soap in the toilet bowl and let him try a little target practice and bubble-making. During these potty-training days, skip the suspenders and zipper fly jeans; make everyone’s life easy with pull-on pants. Remember, seconds count!

Be Patient

Potty training takes time and lots of hands-on from you as a parent. When your child is ready, plan to spend a little extra down time working on this skill. Be a good role model; take the time to let your child see your good hygiene habits such as washing your hands after using the restroom. As a parent and a pediatrician, I know it’s a struggle to find enough time for everything on your plate. Don’t rush this one; it’ll take longer in the end if your little one isn’t ready. As always, if you have questions or concerns, we’re here for you. Parenting is a team effort, and we’re happy to help out the coach.

About the Author:
Dr. Suzanne Cooper joined the Greenwood Pediatrics team in 1994 and currently job-shares with Dr. Connie Giarratana, allowing her to spend time with her two children as well as yours. A native Denverite, Dr. Cooper is a graduate of The University of Colorado School of Medicine, happily living just a few miles from her childhood home.

  1. Choosing a Potty — American Academy of Pediatrics
  2. Potty Training Tips — Greenwood Pediatrics
  3. When Should I potty train? — The Mayo Clinic
Posted: 12/17/2017 3:42:17 PM by Deb Braun | with 0 comments
Filed under: 18, a, and, between, Dr_Suzanne_Cooper, half, months, potty, Potty_Training, the, time, to, Toilet_Training, two, use, years

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