Potty Training and Your Toddler

My precious little toddler turned two last month and, like many mothers, I had mixed emotions. I absolutely love the independent, amazingly smart person she is becoming…but I do miss my little baby too. I’ve heard that this is typically the time when parents get baby fever again, although I’m not quite there yet. I think it’s the thought of doing it all over again that gets me. The sleepless nights, the bottle washing and, not to mention,  double diaper duty!

That’s right, I said double. At my daughter’s second birthday party, I actually had three people ask me if she was potty trained yet. She’s only two! While I admit she’s a very bright toddler, the potty has been no party up to this point. We’ve tried it, don’t get me wrong. We purchased a potty, and have even gotten her to use it a few times, but we’re still a long way from being officially potty trained. Being a working mom, I still haven’t mastered the perfect balance of home life and daycare. We try to keep things as routine as possible. Her eating times and nap times are the same, but I guess we’re missing the potty times completely. She’ll use the potty for us on the weekends and then the weekdays are a whole other story. Up until her birthday, I had just marked it up to being too young for the potty. Our friends and family at the party offered their success stories of children being trained at 18 months or helpful tips to potty training triumph. While I appreciated it all, it only made me feel like a potty pooper. Potty trained at 18 months? I must be the worst mother ever! Did I mention that I’m a little dramatic sometimes?

I did feel a little better after chatting it over with my husband later that night, but the thought that we were doing something wrong still bugged me. So the following week, at my daughter’s two-year checkup, I brought it up to her doctor. As always, he assured me that this was perfectly normal. He did say that it is sometimes harder for children of working parents since schedules and consistency are key. He also reminded me that even though we may be ready to potty train, the real issue is if she is ready. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says this is the most common potty training mistake.

“As parents, we are constantly setting limits and controlling our child’s universe to maintain safety and to provide structure in their lives,” says Andrew Garner, M.D., Ph.D., FAAP, American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). “But even the best of parents cannot make them sleep, eat, or eliminate when we want them to! Successful parenting is all about setting developmentally appropriate expectations and then providing enough positive reinforcement and modeling to motivate and reward them.”

So how do you know when your child is ready for the potty? The AAP says that although there is no set age to begin potty training, most children start to show an interest between the ages of 18 months and 24 months. Some children are not ready until they are 2 1/2 years old, however, so they suggest letting your child’s reactions be your guide.

Signs that your child is ready include a desire to use the potty, the ability to help dress and undress himself, the ability to follow simple instructions, and a desire to wear “big kid” underwear. To get the ball rolling, the AAP recommends the following training tactics:

Decide what words to use to describe body parts, urine, and bowel movements. It is best to use proper terms that will not offend, confuse or embarrass anyone.

Pick a potty chair. They are logistically easier for a small child to use because there is no problem getting onto it, and a child’s feet can reach the floor. If you use a child-size seat attached to an adult toilet, make sure you provide a stepstool to support the feet so he can push down during bowel movements.

Help your child recognize signs of needing to use the potty. If he lets you know after the fact, suggest that next time he let you know before wetting or soiling his diaper.

Make trips to the potty routine. If you notice the telltale signs, take your child to the potty. Explain what you want to happen.

Encourage the use of training pants to help your child feel proud. Let her know that wearing big kid undies is a sign of growing up!

Be prepared for accidents. It may take weeks, even months, before toilet training is completed.

So my two-year-old isn’t potty trained yet, but we’re working on it. As with all of my new parenting experiences thus far, patience and consistency are the real keys to success. And to all the other parents out there in the same boat, good luck and happy pottying.

Categories: Little Ones