Potty Training: What Parents Need to Know About Potty Training Their Toddler

Potty training is a big step for a toddler. It marks the transition from babyhood into childhood. To appreciate what a leap this really is, parents must understand that it's about more than just going the bathroom in the toilet, it's about holding versus letting go—a step toward independence and self-control. In this article, we will explore what is involved in this transition and how to support your child throughout this crucial developmental step.

Potty Training Tip Checklist:

  • Take your cues from your child. When your toddler begins to show interest in the toilet is when you should begin potty-training.

  • Use storybooks about going the bathroom in the toilet to inspire your toddler to learn to use the bathroom like a big boy or girl. Toddlers look up to bigger kids and want to be like them. Although you'll want to inspire your child, never call your child a baby if he or she shows no progress or has a setback in their toilet training.

  • Generally speaking, boy potty training takes longer. My boys first showed interest in the toilet when they were around 2 1/2. By contrast, a girl we knew who was born one week before my eldest son was wearing training pants at only fourteen months. Always keep in mind that your child is an individual and needs to progress at his or her own speed. Toilet training must be child-led. Doing it any other way can lead to issues later on.

  • Talk to your child to help her recognize what it feels like when she has to go to the bathroom. Agree beforehand that when she feels the sensations you have helped her to identify, she will ask you to take her to the bathroom. This requires that you be responsive. If you're doing something, stop and attend to your child's needs. Doing so will help her achieve success at this important task.

  • Make your child's potty training experience positive and relaxing. Sit with her in the bathroom while she waits for her potty to come out. Talk to her, read her a book or sing a song. If she is able to go the bathroom, ask her how it feels to go poo or pee in the toilet like a big girl. If it is a false alarm, tell her that it's okay and assure her that you will accompany her to the bathroom again when she feels it is time.

  • Refrain from making judgments about bathroom sounds and smells. Going the bathroom is a natural thing. Don't train your child to be repulsed by what is normal. When adults plug their noses or embarrass the child, the toddler thinks that going the bathroom is a shameful, rather than a healthy thing.

  • Discuss the benefits of going the bathroom in the toilet. A wet or poopy diaper does not feel good against the skin and can cause a painful diaper rash. Going the bathroom will help your child become a big girl in the eyes of others. Bigger kids and adults will notice that she no longer wears a diaper.

  • Having an older potty-trained friend over to the house for a play date can help, especially if the child notices how her friend goes to the bathroom by herself. This will compel her to want to be more like her friend.

  • Purchase a potty chair for your child. Potty chairs are child-size and will dispel any fears of falling into the toilet or being flushed down the drain. Check out the two models below. One in an insert and one a potty chair.

  • If your child has a favorite doll, put diapers on it. A good idea is to buy the doll a doll-size potty seat, so your child can learn potty-training with her doll. As your child progresses and is able to wake up with a dry diaper, move to training pants and put a pair on the doll as well. When your child feels like someone else is going through this event with her (even though that someone else is imaginary), it may make her feel more relaxed.

Follow the tips above and add your own as needed. Know that your child may have an accident from time to time. If he or she has a serious setback after being fully potty trained, check out our article on potty training regression .

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About the author:

Laura Ramirez is the author of the award-winning book, Keepers of the Children: Native American Wisdom and Parenting . It is the only book that combines ancient native ideas (like true child stewardship) with heart-centered psychology to teach parents how to raise children to develop their innate strengths and unfold their spiritual nature. This book goes one step beyond the idea of creating emotional intelligence and turns parenting into a journey of self-discovery for child and parent.

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