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Few developmental skills may be more exciting for a parent than your toddler’s ability to use the toilet. The days of stacking fresh diapers in the grocery cart, and dirty diapers any place you won’t smell them, are behind you. But how do we help kids reach this level of self-mastery? The child-oriented method is one approach that emphasizes the importance of your child’s interest in toilet training while minimizing any stressors surrounding the process.
Like any challenge, it begins with physical and mental readiness. In general, your child’s digestive system and bladder will have matured enough to control bowel and bladder movements by 18 months of age. It is usually not until after 24 months of age though that they will be able to understand how and why they should use this control. Once your child begins to express interest in toilet training, often by pointing at the toilet or copying a parent’s or sibling’s behavior on the toilet, it is usually a good sign you can start.
Tips to Potty Training
- Begin by teaching the vocabulary (pee, poop, potty) and how the body works. Explain that everyone makes “pee” and “poop” and clarify the body’s signals when you notice they have to do so- “Your body wants to make some pee or poop.” Point out when a sibling or pet is doing “pee” or “poop.”
- Then start teaching them about the toilet. I highly recommend the purchase of a potty chair. Encourage your child to sit on the potty chair with clothes on for fun activities, such as play, snacks, and watching television. Help your child develop a sense of ownership over the chair- their throne. After a week of sitting on the potty fully clothed, encourage them to sit on the chair naked. Then begin making the connection between elimination and the potty chair, you can demonstrate by throwing away feces from diapers into the chair or toilet (for easier clean-up). When they transition to the toilet, place a small seat and step stool to help them create the leverage they need for victory.
- Finally, a critical part is to provide praise or rewards for any cooperation or success. Free sticker or star charts and calendars can be found online by searching for “potty training chart.” Always avoid any pressure or battles which can make your child uncooperative.
The child-oriented method typically takes weeks to months to achieve mastery. You may hear about other techniques, some which can be quicker. The truth is, despite physicians and parents having addressed the topic for decades, there is no one-size-fits-all approach.
Like any aspect of parenting, as long as you stay positive, consistent, and engaged, you will be on your way to bathroom bliss.
Dr. David Deray was born and raised in Miami, Florida. He earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology at Florida International University before completing a premedical post-baccalaureate program at the University of Miami in 2010. He began his medical training at Florida State University, where he met his wife, Kristen. Together they moved to Columbus, Ohio to complete their pediatric residency at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, one of the largest pediatric hospitals in the United States. Following his Midwest adventure, Dr. Deray and his wife made the decision to plant roots in Houston. Dr. Deray joined Blue Fish Pediatrics in 2018.