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Starting the potty training stage for toddlers

Many parents are eager to start the potty-training process, but it’s important to be in tune with your child’s readiness. Here’s behavior to watch for that indicates your child can tackle the toilet.


1. Acknowledging the potty

The very first step towards potty-training is having your child understand when he’s going to the bathroom. He’ll start telling you when he’s going or has gone. He’ll want his diaper changed immediately because he recognizes that he’s uncomfortable. Then you could start introducing the concept of the potty. For example, after he’s gone in his diaper, discard it in the toilet and help him flush!

2. Well, hello potty

Before you bring your child in contact with the toilet, it may be useful to think about getting a child’s potty seat. One idea is to create a colorful, fun potty out of construction paper and post it next to the actual potty, so that she can associate the drawing with the real thing. Ask her if she would like to use the potty before bath time or after a nap. If she refuses, remain positive and say, “Okay, maybe next time!” If she is excited, follow through with the process.

3. Big kids go potty

Once your child sits on the toilet — or even if he just tries — praise him enthusiastically. If he actually goes, giving him a reward such as a piece of candy is one approach but also encourage him after he’s done by clapping, saying things like “Good job!” and “Big boys go on the potty!” (How much encouragement is enough? Check out this article by parenting expert Elizabeth Pantley for tips.) Make sure he flushes and washes his hands with special soap (Kandoo is always a favorite).

4. Signs of readiness

Potty-training could take about, on average, eight weeks — but this is highly individual. What’s just as important as waiting for your child to show readiness is that you pick up on behavior demonstrating that your child might not be ready. Once she sits on the potty, if she doesn’t get down to business and starts fiddling with the toilet paper, whining or even crying, for example, then it’s time to wait a few more weeks before you start again. (Find out more about the signs of potty-training readiness here.)

5. Ditching the diapers

As the concept of using the toilet becomes more prominent, set your watch every hour and encourage your child to go frequently. Associate certain times of day with going to the bathroom — first thing in the morning, before an after nap/rest time, after lunch, before bed and so forth. And make sure that as a parent, you’re frequently and noticeably using the bathroom as well.

6. Potty pointers

Don’t succumb to pressure, and don’t pass pressure on. Although your friends may be potty-training their children or have a child who they say “self-trained at 18 months” — don’t feel as if your child is not as advanced because s/he lacks the physical readiness to use the potty. Remember, your child must be physically independent in addition to being emotionally ready. Some kids, too, need to decide that the benefits of being a “big kid” and wearing underwear outweigh the convenience of diapers.
The best advice overall is to stay positive and enthusiastic — both for you and for your child — and remember what parents who have been there say: “Don’t worry — she’s not going to go to college in diapers!”

More potty training tips:

Is your child really ready to be potty trained?
What to do when your child isn’t interested in learning to use the toilet?
How much praise should you give your child when potty training?

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