Potty training 101: Take a seat please!

As a mother of two children – one who is potty trained and the other who isn’t, I understand that potty training is a huge milestone in the developmental process of children, and often causes a significant amount of stress for both the child and their parents. Here are some tips:

  • The range for normal potty training is between 2-5 years old.
  • Rather than stressing about potty training children based upon their age, it is important to take into consideration their developmental stage and readiness for potty training.
  • Some signs of readiness for potty training are: 1. the child can stay dry for periods of 2-3 hours at a time 2. the child shows interest in the potty or imitates the parent or another child 3.the child can follow simple commands such as pulling their pants down, wiping, flushing the toilet, and washing their hands.
  • There are many methods of potty training, each with advantages and disadvantages. Each child and family will respond to different strategies.
  • One thing to keep in mind is that potty training can often be a long process, up to several months, and it is important to not stress about it too much.
  • When parents become stressed about potty training, this can carry over to the child and make potty training more difficult.
  • Once you feel that your child is ready for potty training, start off by slowly introducing the subject to them through books and discussions. Your public library may have books for you and your child about potty training.
  • It may also be helpful to purchase a potty chair for your child or allow them to pick out their own potty chair.
  • Start off by having your child sit on the potty chair with their clothes on several times per day, maybe while you are using the bathroom, getting them used to the idea of sitting on the potty.
  • Then transition to having them sit on the potty without their diaper on and trying to go potty at the same time each day.
  • Once your child is able to go on the potty, begin making frequent trips to the bathroom, but do not punish them if they cannot go or if they have accidents.
  • Accidents are very common during potty training and should be expected for a while. Children tend to respond well to praise, so it is important to praise them each time that they are able to go in the potty.
  • Physical rewards such as stickers or candy are often offered, but are not always necessary. Words can go a long way, depending upon the child.
  • Once your child is dry consistently during the day, it still can be common for them to experience accidents, especially during times of stress or if they are too busy playing.
  • The birth of a sibling can often be a stressful time for children and some children may regress in potty training after a new sibling arrives.
  • Children don’t always stop wetting the bed at the same time that they are potty trained during the day. They can wet the bed for several months, up to years, after potty training.

For more information and resources on this topic, visit chw.org. Good luck!

~ Heidi Vanderpool, APN, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin Urology Clinic

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