Doctors’ Notes


Potty Training

Recently I’ve begun to entertain the idea of potty training my 23- (almost 24-) month old daughter. Santa Claus brought her a Disney Princess potty seat for Christmas, and I hoped the new potty seat would be so enticing that she would sit on the seat and immediately start pooping and peeing. VOILA! My daughter would be potty-trained!

That was definitely wishful thinking on my part. Potty training has proven to be one of the most challenging experiences I’ve faced as a parent thus far.

Step One

The first step in potty training is to look for signs from your child to determine if he/she is ready to begin the potty training process. Remember — despite what Grandma, Aunt Claire, or your sister say – there’s no “magical age” to begin potty-training your child. Take your cues from your child to assess readiness. Here are some signs to watch for:

  • Does your child hide behind the couch or go into a closet to have a bowel movement?
  • Does your child show an interest in the potty or ask to “go on the potty”?
  • Has your child begun asking to have her diaper changed or ask to wear pull-ups or underwear?
  • Has your child begun telling you or indicating “pee pee” or “poo poo” BEFORE he actually goes?
  • Does your child stay dry for longer than two hours at a time, wake up dry from naps, and have a somewhat predictable bowel movement schedule?
  • Is your child able to follow simple, verbal directions?

If your child exhibits any of these signs, it might be a good time to go ahead and give potty training a try.

Step Two

The second step in the potty training process requires a decision: a small potty seat that fits over your actual toilet seat, or a potty chair? The decision is totally up to you.

Some advantages to the potty seat include: one less transition, because your child is already sitting on the “big potty,” no clean up (bonus!), and your child can help pick out a fun potty seat theme (i.e. Sesame Street, Disney Princesses, Cars, etc.).  The downside, however, is that some children are frightened by the “big potty,” so a potty chair may be less intimidating to them.  Again, the decision is up to you and what works best for your child.

 Pull-Ups vs. Underwear

The next question is also up to you: pull-ups, or underwear? In my opinion, either is fine. Some parents decide to transition from diapers to pull-ups for awhile. Some have their child wear regular, cotton underwear during the day and a pull-up at night. Other (more ambitious) parents make the switch to regular, cotton underwear for their child to wear day and night.

Whatever you choose, a word of caution: be prepared for accidents. Always have a change of underwear/clothes on hand, a spare set of sheets available, and a good carpet cleaner if needed.

A Potty Routine

Get your game face on — it’s potty time!

Start a potty routine with your child. A good way to ease your child into potty training is sitting him/her on the toilet before bath time. Give your child a book he/she likes to read while you’re running the bath and see what happens. If you’re highly motivated and want to go for it and get it done, put your child in cotton underwear and have your child sit on the potty when he/she first wakes up and every 1-2 (waking) hours thereafter for about 3-5 days. Encourage your child to alert you when he/she has to use the bathroom. Some parents find it helpful to offer rewards (such as stickers, M&M’s, a new toy, etc.). Again, do what you feel comfortable with, and what works best for you and your child.

The Potty Process

Remember, potty-training is a process; there’s no right or wrong way to go about it. What works for you and your child may not work for someone else. Be patient with your child. Offer encouragement (without being overbearing) and praise. Don’t try and force or pressure your child to go on the potty, and never punish him if they refuse to use the potty or have an accident.  Be consistent with the “potty routine,” and after what’s sure to be many ups and downs throughout this process, your child will become a pro at pooping and peeing on the potty.

* A personal potty update: So my daughter really enjoyed using the potty for about two weeks.  Anytime I would ask if she wanted to “go on the potty,” she would answer me with an enthusiastic “yes!” She even pooped and peed on the potty several times. I was so excited and felt she would soon be a “potty pro.” But I couldn’t have been more wrong. Lately, she could care less about the potty, has become completely disinterested, and refuses even to sit on it. I’m currently working on acceptance, and reassuring myself that it’s okay, because she’s just not ready yet. I remain confident that her time to shine as a “potty pro” is yet to come.

* I’d also like to encourage you to share/post any funny toilet training stories or tips/tricks that worked well for you and your child throughout the potty-training process. We can use the comments below as a kind of Kids Plus Potty Training library…!

Katie LaMendola, a former Kids Plus provider, is a Family Nurse Practitioner