Help with Potty Training:

Advice from Doctor Williams Sears
child sitting on potty training toilet next to a stuffed bear

Isaac and I are in the throes of potty training.

Actually, I shouldn’t say “throes,” because our experience has not been painful or agonizing or difficult in any way. (No, I’m not trying to rub it in.)

I have never looked forward to potty training. At Isaac’s 18-month well-baby check-up, I asked his doctor if I had to start potty training him. To my relief, she said, “No.”

“Wait until he’s ready,” she told me.

I felt like she essentially let me off the hook, and I was glad she did. I had no desire to start potty training at 18 months when I knew there was a good chance he wouldn’t actually be potty trained until he’s 3. I did not want to spend 18 months fighting with my kid, bribing and cajoling him to use the toilet.

Instead, I did nothing.

Well, what I thought was nothing.

I let him come into the bathroom with me when I went, let him throw a little piece of toilet paper into the toilet when I did, let him flush. As soon as I’d sit down, he’d ask me, “Mama pee pee? Mama poop?,” and I would answer accordingly.

For about a month, Isaac’s been telling me when he needs to have his diaper changed.

“Mama, I pee pee.”

“Mama, I poop.”

That’s a big step toward potty training readiness, I know, but I still made no action to get him to use the toilet.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, Isaac said to me, “I poop,” and he pointed to the bathroom. I said, “You need to poop?,” even though I knew he had just gone 10 minutes before.

Still, he steered me to the restroom, took off his shorts, removed his diaper, and sat down on his potty seat.

Then he peed.

I was so excited I jumped up and down and gave him a high five and a hug (after we’d put a diaper on, of course). But he didn’t go again that week.

The next week he told me, “Mama, I pee pee,” and he led me into the bathroom, took off his shorts and diaper, and sat down on the potty.

Then he POOPED.

Again, I was ecstatic. I was also convinced, finally, that it’s time to start potty training. To me, that’s not much more than asking Isaac every hour or so, “Do you need to go potty?” Sometimes he says yes and sometimes he says no. Sometimes when he says yes he only sits on the potty for 12 seconds before he says “All done!” But I don’t care. It gets him used to the potty and understanding that’s where he’s supposed to go when he needs to go.

I also looked up some potty-training advice from my favorite child development expert, Dr. William Sears. He’s an advocate for natural and holistic practices, and I generally trust and agree with what he writes in his books and on his website,

Potty-Training Advice from Dr. Sears

Here’s some of what he says:

“Let baby watch you go potty and explain what you are doing. Girls naturally do better in the bathroom classroom with mommies, boys with daddies, but same-sex training is not crucial.

“If baby has a friend in training, arrange for her to watch what her friend does. If baby is in daycare, her teammates may show her a trick or two.

“Little legs dangling from big potties tighten rectal muscles making defecation difficult. Be sure your baby’s feet rest comfortably on the floor, or on a footstool if he prefers the adult potty.

“Play the pick-a-potty game. Take baby to the toy store with you and let him pick out his own potty chair. Toddlers are more likely to use the potty they choose.

“Teach your toddler words for his body parts and for their actions. Putting a label on what baby does makes any developmental skill easier.

“Help baby make the connection between what he feels and what he needs to do. When baby shows about-to-go signs, interject a reminding “Go potty” as you usher the willing baby to the potty.”

He offers a lot more advice on his website, and I’ve found much of it very helpful. I’d also love to hear from moms who’ve already potty trained their children as to what worked best for them.

Categories: Infant/Pre-School, Little Ones