Potty training tips

Sep 12, 2012 at 10:00 p.m. ET

Toilet learning doesn't have to be intimidating or frustrating. The road to a smooth transition from diaper to potty is paved with patience and consistency. Find out how to make the process more terrific than terrifying!

Toilet training basics
Potty training

Wait for the tipoff

This is not a time to worry about keeping up with the Joneses. Each child gears up for toilet learning in their own time — usually between about 18 and 36 months of age. A tot who is having regular bowel movements, keeping a dry diaper for an hour or more at a time, showing awareness of their bodily functions, and who can follow a few instructions, is probably good to go!

Set the scene

Beginning toilet learning right after a move to a new house or just before a vacation is not an ideal scenario. Calm at home will ensure your child is in the right frame of mind, and consistency is key to establishing a potty routine.

Learn the lingo

Communicating with your child is an important element in achieving success as you teach the ways of the toilet, therefore you must decide on consistent terms to use — both for body parts and functions.

A little preparation

Fun books and DVDs about potty training definitely make the idea more intriguing to tots and may help you with awkward explanations. If you're comfortable, a parental demonstration of how to use the toilet is great too and may prove inspirational.

Potty perusal

Pick a sturdy, first-rate potty that won't topple over easily (some kids like to get up on it, turn around, look inside, then sit back down — repeatedly). A potty that tips or slides around too much may scare your child off. Let your child make the throne his or her own with fun stickers! Some tots will show interest in using the "big" toilet; in this case, a potty seat accompanied by a stable footstool will fit the bill just fine.

Starting line

Allow little ones to sit on the new potty with their pants or diaper on at first if they prefer, then begin having them bare their bottom for a sit-down once in a while. By all means let your child go naked for periods of time if possible (kids' bladders aren't known for giving much notice). Try putting your child on the potty at times when you expect they might typically go, such as first thing in the morning, after a meal or if you see them making "that face".

Be positively patient

Be patient if they want to get off the potty, go in their diaper or training pants or if they have an accident on the floor; this is definitely a learning process. Give them positive feedback for recognizing the signs or for trying to make it to the potty. If you find they have little staying power on the potty, try having them sit on it while you read one of those fun toilet learning books, or watch the potty DVD! Make a big deal of successes — some parents even give small rewards — but be sure that relapses don't feel like big letdowns in comparison.

Negative vibes

Toilet training can be awesomely frustrating, but bringing any kind of negativity, such as scolding or nagging, into the process will only up the stress factor for both of you and may deter your child from continuing to participate. If you sense your child just isn't ready, take a break for a month, then begin again.

Suggested resource for additional information on potty training: What to Expect: The Toddler Years, by Arlene Eisenberg, Heidi E. Murkoff and Sandee E. Hathaway, B.S.N.

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