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Potty Training: The Basics
by Rebecca Garland

One of the most challenging aspects of parenting a toddler is transitioning out of diapers and into the real world of toilets. There are countless books on the subject and many experts and parents have opinions on what works best as you try to teach your little one the basics of using the potty.

To beginning toilet training, there are certain criteria that a toddler needs to demonstrate. Age is not a major factor in beginning the potty training. In fact, some children are ready by the age of two and others aren’t ready until after three. There is no magical age. Girls tend to be ready a bit sooner than boys, but that is not always the case. You’ll know if your child is ready when he begins to show some of the following signs.

  • He’s aware that he is going potty and can recognize the sensation before actually going.
  • He’s interested in staying clean and wants a clean diaper
  • He wakes up from naps with a dry diaper
  • He goes to “hide” while making a dirty diaper
  • He knows the language and can tell you or show you when he’s ready for the potty
  • He expresses an interest in using the potty, whether or not he is successful when he tries
  • He’s willing to learn

While one of these signs might be enough to start the process, most parents wait until at least a few are evident. The more ready a child is to learn, the faster the process goes. That being said, potty training is much more of a spiral than a straight line. You spend most of your time regressing and then growing again rather than just plodding easily through it.

The Steps of Potty Training
Once you and your child are ready, it’s time to get started. The first step of training is to realize that potty training is not accomplished in a day or a week the way many books and experts claim. You can teach the basics in a day or two, but like any transition this major, the full training will take weeks, possibly months – and that’s only on using the potty during the day.

Learn the Process
The first thing to do is to help your child learn the process. Of course, the easiest way is to demonstrate exactly what going potty looks like. It’s important to include washing your hands and exactly how much toilet paper is necessary.

Older siblings or cousins are great examples, if they are willing, and watching other kids in childcare settings might speed the process along as well.

Once the toddler has the basics of pulling down pants and diaper, sitting, going, wiping and washing, you’re ready to move on. Most little boys start potty training sitting down and graduate to standing at a later date, although there are toddler training urinals available to start them in a standing position.

Getting There in Time

The hardest part of training is getting your child to the potty in time. There are many ways to accomplish this. One is to let the child run naked or in just underpants for the day so they are unhampered in their attempts to get on the potty. Other parents take their child to the potty every hour on the hour and push liquids in hopes of generating a result. Once your child is successful, celebrate and possibly reward him with a sticker or candy for his hard work.

Expect more than a few false alarms and accidents. Some kids are resistant or scared and might freeze up on the potty, but actually go next to it or in another room. Other kids can’t feel the urge with enough warning to get there in time. Still others don’t care about it enough to try. Each of these issues is dealt with in different ways, and rather than forcing the training on a reluctant child, many parents back off and wait a few more months for a more willing participant.

Settle In
The worst mistake in potty training is trying to force it. You can follow every step in the books, but if your child is not ready, it won’t work. Some toddlers react to pressure from their parents by refusing to cooperate, even if they are ready.

So, relax and settle in for the ride. Give him the tools he needs, but let him lead the way. Congratulate him on his successes and help him clean up the messes. It took almost six months to get your child from drinking only milk to eating almost only table foods, why should going from just diapers to just potty be any shorter or less involved?


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