Potty Training your Child

Potty training is a big step for your child and you. Timing and patience is everything. 

Potty training success depends on physical, developmental and behavioral milestones, not age. Many children show signs of being ready between ages 18 and 24 months. However, others might not be ready until they're 3 years old. There's no rush. If you start too early, it might take longer to train your child.

There are a few questions you can ask yourself to see if your child is ready. 

1. Can your child walk to and sit on a toilet?

2. Can your child pull down his or her pants and pull them up again?

3. Can your child stay dry for up to two hours?

4. Can your child understand and follow basic directions?

5. Can your child communicate when he or she needs to go?

6. Does your child seem interested in using the toilet or wearing "big-kid" underwear?

Tailor your approach to your child and let your child's motivation, instead of your eagerness, lead the process. Keep in mind that accidents are inevitable and punishment has no role in the process. Plan toilet training for when you or a caregiver can devote the time and energy to be consistent on a daily basis for a few months.

Here are 5 tips to help make potty training a success.

1. Decide which words you're going to use for your child's bodily fluids. Avoid negative words, such as dirty or stinky.

2. Place a potty chair in the bathroom and encourage your child to sit on the potty chair in clothes to start out.  Use simple, positive terms to talk about the toilet. 

3. Have your child sit on the potty chair or toilet without a diaper for a few minutes at two-hour intervals, as well as first thing in the morning and right after naps. For boys, it's often best to master urination sitting down, and then move to standing up after bowel training is complete. Even if your child simply sits there, offer praise for trying — and remind your child that he or she can try again later.

4. When you notice signs that your child might need to use the toilet — such as squirming, squatting or holding the genital area — respond quickly. Help your child become familiar with these signals, stop what he or she is doing, and head to the toilet. Praise your child for telling you when he or she has to go. 

5. After a couple of weeks of successful potty breaks and remaining dry during the day, your child might be ready to trade diapers for training pants or underwear. Celebrate the transition. Let your child return to diapers if he or she is unable to remain dry. Consider using a sticker or star chart for positive reinforcement.

Nap time and nighttime training

Typically this takes longer to achieve. Most children can stay dry at night between ages 5 and 7. In the meantime, use disposable training pants and mattress covers when your child sleeps.

Accidents will happen

Don't scold, discipline or shame your child. You might say, "You forgot this time. Next time you'll get to the bathroom sooner." Be prepared to keep a change of underwear and clothing handy, especially at school or in child care.

If your child resists using the potty chair or toilet or isn't getting the hang of it within a few weeks, take a break. Chances are he or she isn't ready yet. Pushing your child when he or she isn't ready can lead to a frustrating power struggle. Try again in a few months.


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