Potty Training 101

by Lilly Gordon

little girl on potty chairParents anticipate potty training as the milestone that will take us from diaper duty to a modicum of freedom. We know we will still have clean up little spills, wipe bums and do laundry twice a day until the little gaffer gets the hang of things; yet we clamor towards that small light at the end of the diaper genie that seems to signify a tiny morsel of freedom.

There are so many tidbits, articles, methods and products related to potty training that parents can get easily overwhelmed and confused. What is the best potty seat? When is it time? Why won't my toddler stop having accidents? Potty training time can be scary for parents and children, but there are some basics to get you on the way to kissing those dirty diapers good-bye for good (not literally of course).

Ready, Set, Go!

Knowing your child is ready to start potty training is the start of your journey. The general rule of thumb is if your child is between 18-24 months old, they have the basic motor skills to start. That doesn’t mean they’re ready, however. Every child's maturity level is different in this area and kids do not like to be rushed!

Here are some signs to look for:

  • A general bathroom schedule -- regular bowel movements and diaper changes
  • Is anxious or excited to use the toilet
  • The ability to get their own pants on and off
  • The desire to wear underwear
  • Your child knows what "poop" and "pee" are
  • A general dislike of dirty diapers, feeling dirty and wet
  • Dry periods of several hours at a time –- nap time is a good indicator

If your tyke is showing any of these sign, he or she may be ready to try the potty.

Potty Paraphernalia

As is true with the baby product industry on a whole, there are dozens of different potty-related products to help your child through this monumental task of saying good bye to the nappies once and for all!

Potty Dolls: These dolls can help your child learn the basics of potty training while at the same time give him or her the chance to show the doll how to do it. This may give your child the little smidge of responsibility that is necessary to get them doing it on their own.

Potty Seats and Potties: There are several different kinds out there -- chamber pot style, potties that turn into stepping stools, potties that congratulate kids when they're through, and simple potty seats that fit over a regular toilet. Heck, they even make travel potty seats for those on the go! The best potty seats and potties are comfortable, easy to use and easy to clean. Beyond that, if your kid will sit on it you've won a small part of the battle.

Potty Books and Computer Games: Yes, potty paraphernalia even consists of computer games featuring popular kids' characters talking about "potty time," as well as books for your child to read up on your new favorite subject.

Potty Etiquette

Everyone has their own best way to potty train in mind when they start. Some people have smooth sailing while some start to see the good side of diapers. The biggest virtue of potty training is patience. Your child will get the gist of it. Reward systems are popular, but the best reward is for your little one to receive a big hug and a celebratory kiss or yes the fabled potty dance, so they can see how important it is that they learn this skill.

Negative, frustrating or angry reactions or punishments are a natural response to accidents but they will NOT help your child achieve his or goal. It is normal for kids to have accidents for about six months after they start. Most baby stores sell products that can take the edge off of "oopsies" including:

  • Training pants: Cotton lined waterproof underwear that hold in the wetness and remind kids they have to go.
  • Crib and bed pads: For nap and night time bed protection, until they get the hang of things.
  • Dry Seats: Place these inserts in car seats and strollers for travel protection.

Potty Training on Hold

If your child is having a rough time and constant accidents, it is time to put the training on hold. This can be a difficult decision for Moms and Dads, but necessary. Some kids don't want to use the potty until they are around four years old, and although this is frustrating for parents, remember, every child develops an individual rate (never compare your child's learning to anyone else's). Getting into a power struggle with a toddler over bathroom habits never does any good.

The bottom line is your child's happiness and developmental well-being. Whether you choose to reward, dance or just let them run around naked for a few weeks, your child will get the hang of it. Hang in there and remember, your little one will not be wearing diapers to high school. They'll get it, eventually!

Lilly Gordon is a freelance writer and web publisher. She is a wife, mother of two and self-proclaimed expert on Canadian Baby Stores.

Copyright © Lilly Gordon. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org.