As a pediatrician at Southwest Pediatrics, I see a lot of parents who are frustrated with the process of potty training their toddler. Sometimes, it’s because parents are starting the process before their child is ready.
The average age of a girl to potty train is 3 years old and the average age for a boy is 4 years old. A lot of grandparents will say that their kids were trained way earlier than that, but that’s because adults were “trained” to put their kids on the toilet every 30 minutes.
The goal of being potty trained is for the child to take ownership of the process and for the parent to be the very proud bystander.
How to tell when your child is ready
When a child can tell you that he or she has to go to the bathroom and it’s their idea, then you’re ready to try. But remember, the child should lead this process. You, however, get to set the ground rules to make the process easier for you. So, when your son or daughter says, “I want to use the potty,” you say “Great. We’ll give this a whirl but if you have more than three accidents in a day, we will put a diaper back on and try another day.” If your patience will only handle two accidents, then use that number.
The last thing in the world you want to do when your child is training is to say, “Wow, you had another accident!” because that will make your child ashamed and he or she will then be afraid to try, or will try too hard. You don’t want potty training to turn into a power struggle.
It’s frustrating if the child wets the bed. Before your child even starts training, you might say, “when you nap or go to bed, we will put you in a diaper until you are dry for 14 days in a row.” Have a big chart with 14 boxes that the child can cross off each time he or she is successful.
It also can be frustrating if your child wets the car seat. Before starting, set a rule that you will put your child in a diaper for car rides. When you get to your destination, you can find a bathroom and help your child put on underwear.
Finally, don’t start potty training if you’re approaching a big change in your life, such as you are about to have a baby or you are moving to a new house. The success your child has before the change may be lost due to the normal regression a child can have with changes.
If you have trouble any step of the way, your pediatrician is a great resource and will help you troubleshoot and encourage you through this exciting milestone of your child’s life.
- Patti-Marie Young, MD, pediatrician, Southwest Pediatrics
Dr. Young is one of five pediatricians at Southwest Pediatrics, a Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin primary care clinic located in New Berlin, Wis. Children’s Hospital has 17 primary care clinics located throughout Southeast Wisconsin. Call (414) 266-1660 to find a clinic near you.