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November 3, 2013

Tips for potty training

Potty training: it's an extremely popular topic in most every parent's life at some point and also in nearly every general pediatrician's career.

There is really no one specific right way to potty train your child. Grandmother's advice probably has sage elements. Every book, column, and blog on it probably has some accurate elements. Most good advice usually shares some basic fundamentals.

  1. Recognize that different types of training occur at an uneven pace — this allows for unpredictability and then, in turn, for parental frustration.

  2. Children are often "extremely proud of the product that their bodies have created-expecting praise and admiration, not displeasure" and are reluctant or even anxious at the thought of letting these products go. (Healthychildren.org AAP) I decided to provide this direct quote, especially since you may not believe me on this one! But really, start to talk to a toddler about their stool in as objective a manner as you can muster and you will be truly amazed at the variety of response regarding how it's made, how it comes out and where it goes when you flush the toilet.

  3. Keep bladder and bowel training separate at night. Nighttime bowel training occurs more naturally and easily; bladder control occurs much later, often years after daytime continence is achieved. Setting appropriate expectations reduces parental frustration.

  4. Toilet training has been likened to mastering how to drive a car with manual transmission. Really. First you have to locate the parts. Then learn how to feel when it is time to shift gears. Then do this smoothly while releasing on the clutch pedal up and down. Your toddler needs to master a task just as complex.

  5. When making a plan, recognize some key developmental milestones. Increase your child's body awareness at a leisurely pace. Recognize if your child can make plans and then carry them out. For instance, between her second and third birthday, you may see how she plans to solve problems such as how to get a shovel from another child at the sandbox, or how to get an extra piece of candy from you. If she can plan how to get her object of desire, maybe she can plan how to stay dry without diapers and go to the potty chair. Bottom line: Is your child ready? There are perils in potty training children when they are not ready — it may delay the overall timeline. So, ask if your toddler is interested in the potty chair, can undress or dress herself a bit, can follow simple instructions and wants to wear big-kid underwear.

  6. Be positive. A general pediatrician's mantra here: Avoid all negativity and all actions that even remotely resemble punishment. Rather: praise, praise, praise.

  7. Be consistent in your plans, your rewards and your overall reactions. Yet, at the same time, reevaluate as needed to see if your plan from two weeks ago still applies as your child enters another developmental stage.

Talk to your pediatrician if upcoming predictable stressors such as a baby on the way or an anticipated move will make potty training more difficult. Also, discuss if your child has medical problems, including constipation that may often interfere with parental expectation of the potty training timeline. Hopefully, these tips will help you in your parental trek. And for those who have completed this parental milestone — congratulations! If you've completed this parenting milestone, what potty training tips worked for your child?