Your Complete Potty Training Guide

Fifty-five tricks, tactics, and true tales from the potty training trenches.

Is Your Child Ready and How to Deal With Pitfalls

5 Ways to Know Your Child Is Ready

Are diaper-free days just around the corner? Most kids show an interest in the potty sometime between the ages of 2 and 3. It's time to give toilet training a try if your child displays two or more of the following signs, says Diane Stafford, coauthor of Potty Training for Dummies.

  • She's interested in watching you use the toilet and helping you flush.
  • He's uncomfortable in dirty diapers and wants them changed.
  • She regularly has dry diapers in the morning or stays dry during naps.
  • He lets you know when he needs to use the potty.
  • She begins to develop a predictable peeing and pooping schedule.

4 Potty-Training Pitfalls and How to Deal

Pediatrician Mark Wolraich, M.D., editor of American Academy of Pediatrics Guide to Toilet Training, gives advice on overcoming some common stumbling blocks.

  • Pitfall: My child will use the potty but refuses to flush.
  • Solution: Most kids go through a developmental stage when they don't like to see a "part of themselves" disappear, so they resist having their bowel movements flushed down the toilet, Dr. Wolraich explains. "That's probably what's
    happening—but don't make a big deal of it." The fix here is simply to remain patient. This too shall pass, and your toddler will be flushing in no time.
  • Pitfall: We've had accidents in the car, but we don't know whether we should put her in diapers for outings.
  • Solution: Switching back and forth between diapers, disposables, and underwear is confusing for a child. Keep it
    consistent at home, at day care, and on outings. When you head out with a toddler who is still learning to use the toilet, keep a portable potty in the back of your car; that way, you can always make an emergency stop if necessary. And don't forget to take her to the bathroom as soon as you reach your destination and once more just before you head home.
  • Pitfall: My son has been using the potty for about a month, but now he's saying that he wants to go back to diapers.
  • Solution: Take a good look at what's happening in your household. Because potty training is one of the last developmental skills that 2- to 3-year-olds master, it's often one of the first that regresses when something such as a new sibling disrupts the child's routine, Dr. Wolraich says. If your tot is having accidents on a consistent basis, use diapers for a while until he's ready to try again. Many kids take a few steps backward, but that doesn't stop them from reaching their goals.
  • Pitfall: My daughter will pee in the toilet but won't poop there.
  • Solution: "You need to watch the situation closely," advises Dr. Wolraich. Your child could be constipated, or maybe she was constipated within the last few weeks. If it hurt her to go to the bathroom that time, she'll probably be scared or reluctant to go again. If the problem persists, talk to her pediatrician.

2 Things to Say (And 2 Not to Say) After an Accident

Say This: "It's okay. Accidents happen!" Encourage your tot by letting him know that "mistakes" are perfectly normal and acceptable, and that everyone has them.

Don't Say This: "I told you that we don't go potty in our pants anymore!" Since he just pooped or peed in his pants, this statement isn't helpful.

Say This: "Let's clean up. Someday you'll go in the toilet!" Here, you're reinforcing the idea that she will succeed at using the potty eventually—and that's something she really needs to hear, especially after an accident.

Don't Say This: "You're too big to wet your pants!" You can see (and probably smell) the unmistakable evidence that she's not too big to miss the potty boat. These words will shame and embarrass your child rather than empower or encourage her.

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