Many parents look forward to the time that they can get their child potty trained and not have to buy and change diapers anymore. Their initial excitement may go down a little once they realize that their child isn't going to get potty trained after just a few trips to the potty.
Although there are techniques that promise to have your child potty trained in just three days, most kids take several months to a year to become fully potty trained, depending on how old they are when they start.
To help the process go as smoothly as possible, parents should:
- make sure their child is actually ready to start potty training before they begin
- learn to avoid common potty training mistakes
- be prepared for some potty training accidents, regression, and problems
Baby Potty Training
Although many parents start potty training when their toddler is between 18 months to three years old, some others are getting started much earlier, when their babies are just two, three, or four months old.
With this technique of baby potty training, you try to learn and anticipate when your baby will have to urinate or have a bowel movement and then have them go in a potty chair, the toilet, or outside. You also try to give your baby signals that he can associate with going on the potty.
Although not for everyone, baby potty training is how children are potty trained in some non-Western cultures that do not rely on keeping their kids in diapers.
Potty Training Tips
Parents often ask when they should start potty training. Unfortunately, there is not a simple answer, such as always starting when your kids are 18 months or two years old. Instead, parents should start potty training when their child is ready.
Waiting until your child is ready makes recognizing signs of potty training readiness one of the most important parts of potty training.
These signs of potty training readiness can include:
- staying dry for at least 2 hours at a time
- recognizing when your child is about to urinate or have a bowel movement
- being able to follow simple instructions
- telling you when he has a bowel movement
- being uncomfortable with dirty diapers and wants them to be changed
- asking to use the potty -- it sometimes helps if he has older siblings or friends of a similar age who are already potty trained
- asking to wear regular underwear
- being eager to please -- is out of the "no" phase and likes to do things for you
Other potty training tips that can be helpful include that you:
- make sure your child is interested in using the potty before you get started and as you continue, as some kids quickly lose interest after an eager start
- give your child a lot of praise for any successes, which early on in potty training, might be that he just sits on the potty chair for a few minutes
- understand that how often your child wants to use the potty might vary from a few times a week to every few hours depending on where you are in the process
- treat potty training accidents lightly and never punish or get mad at your child for an accident
- avoid starting potty training during a stressful time in your child's life, such as a move or around the arrival of a new baby in the house
- keep your child in diapers or pull-ups until he shows signs of staying dry for long periods of time or is regularly using the potty
- move to regular underwear once your child is using the potty regularly, since if they stay in diapers or pull-ups too long, it might actually decrease your chances of success if it doesn't bother them to be in a diaper that has absorbed their accident
If your child is in day care, it can also be helpful to find out what their plan is for potty training and to start at around the same time and using the same methods.
Potty Training Problems
No matter how well potty training is going, you can expect to have some problems. These usually relate to having unrealistic expectations.
Although there are some true potty training problems, such as potty training resistance, which usually means resistance to ever wanting to start potty training, most other "problems" are actually normal, including:
- expecting potty training to be easy because your other children were quickly potty trained
- expecting potty training to be easy because your child is so advanced in so many other areas of his development
- not wanting to start potty training before age three years
- not having bowel movements on the potty, even though he will use the potty to urinate
- not being potty trained or fully potty trained at age three years -- about 25% of children aren't fully potty trained until after age three years
- not wanting to use the potty when in public places or away from home
- not staying dry at night once your child is well potty trained during the day -- bedwetting really has nothing to do with potty training
Before you start trying to fix your child's potty training problems, talk to your pediatrician to make sure it really is a problem and isn't just a normal part of the potty training process so that you don't create a real problem.
If your child isn't interested in potty training or loses interest once you have begun, it is usually best to back off for a month or two and then try again. Or simply be much less aggressive with his training, perhaps just trying to use the potty once or twice a day.
Nathan J. Blum, Bruce Taubman, and Nicole Nemeth. Relationship Between Age at Initiation of Toilet Training and Duration of Training: A Prospective Study. Pediatrics, Apr 2003; 111: 810 - 814.
Toilet Training. American Academy of Pediatrics. 2009.