Potty Training Help for Toddlers

Help make your toddler master of her porcelain throne with these tips from a local pediatrician.

Does your tot get disgruntled when his diaper’s wet? Does she show interest when mom or dad takes a bathroom break? Your child may be ready for his own plastic perch, says Dr. Bridget McArdle with Henry Ford Hospital – Sterling Heights.

“If they’re pulling at their diaper, or they’re saying, ‘Mommy, change me,’ or if they stop an activity and recognize that they’re going,” she says, chances are you’ve got a willing participant. Such behavior’s typical of toddlers ages 18-24 months, but “there’s no hard and fast rule in terms of when a kid is ready.”

For those who are, try McArdle’s top tried-and-true potty-training practices.

Schedule sessions

“Maybe pick twice a day and work on it for an hour or two,” McArdle says. Set a timer and say, “We’re going to take this hour and try to go every 15 or 20 minutes, and just go sit on the potty and see what happens.”

Reward participation

Reward even those times that aren’t a slam dunk. “Whether it be a sticker or a stamp on their hand or an M&M,” she says, give positive reinforcement. When they do score, “You kind of want to make a big deal of it. Not over-the-top praise, but say something like, ‘Oh, such a great job!'”

Take baby steps

Help kids get comfortable on that seat, first. “Let them just sit on the potty with their clothes on.” Have them watch mom and dad, noting, “This is how mom goes on the potty” or “Look what mom made in the potty.”

McArdle recommends parents start boys sitting on the seat. Once they want to stand like daddy, “Give them something to aim at,” like their favorite brightly colored cereal.

When getting ready for bed, limit the drinks. Keep outfits simple – layers can feel like a straightjacket to a child with a full bladder. And make sure all caregivers are on the same potty-training regimen, she says.

Avoid these things

Don’t push. If your child is resistant, try again in a month.

“Accidents are going to happen,” adds McArdle. Don’t make a mountain of them. “Say, ‘Oh, it’s just an accident. Next time we’re going to put that in the potty.'” If you punish or show disappointment, they may regress or try to hold it, which can cause medical issues, she says.

If the child’s “been trying for six months, is over 4 years old and is still not able to potty train, then it’s not a bad idea to see a pediatrician.”

Illustration by Mary Kinsora


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