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​Potty email series - Issue​​​​1234​

​Potty Training - Is Your Child Ready?

Are you eager to get your little one ​potty trained?

Thinking about how much easier (and economical!) life will be with no more diaper duty can turn even the most laid-back parent into an obsessive, aggressive potty-training drill sergeant. And that stinks.

Potty training should be a positive, rewarding experience for you and your toddler, so don't let unrealistic expectations (starting too soon/pushing too fast/insisting on immediate success) clog up the process.

You can help ensure everything flows smoothly by first taking a moment to determine if your child is even ready for potty training. To measure your child's "readiness," look at these behavioral skills and developmental markers:

  • Age
    In our experience, most children become successfully potty trained between the ages of 2 and 3. There are some children who are able to learn earlier due to their physical and cognitive maturity but, in general, most aren't ready until they've blown out at least two candles on their birthday cake. Other indicators include having good motor skills, being able to walk from room to room, being able to pull pants up and down, and getting to the bathroom independently. Also, girls tend to be successfully trained earlier than boys, and older children tend to be trained faster.
  • Bladder Control
    Your child should already be staying dry for several hours at a time, urinating about four to six times a day, and completely emptying her bladder. If she is still wetting a small amount frequently (seven to ten times a day), it may be best to wait.
  • Language skills
    It's important for your child to understand what you say. He should know what you mean when you use words like "wet," "dry," "pants" and "bathroom." Also, he should be able to express his wants and needs to you.
  • Instructional readiness:
    Your child should be able to understand and follow simple instructions, such as "Come here, please" and "Sit down." Just as important, she should be cooperative when following these requests. If she resists or throws frequent temper tantrums, you may want to hold off.
  • Bladder and bowel awareness:
    Your child may indicate that he's aware of his need to potty. This awareness can often be communicated through actions rather than words - making a face, assuming a special posture like squatting, or going to a certain location in the house when feeling the urge to go. Such self-awareness can be a positive signal your child is ready for training.

Teaching Activity

Toddler See, Toddler Do

Another good way to gauge your child's readiness is to monitor her reaction when you model the behavior. Take your child to the bathroom when you go. As you model how to go "number one" and "number two," watch to see if your child pays attention. Does she ask questions that show a basic understanding of what's going on? Can he answer basic questions about going potty? By modeling the behavior, you can see how engaged and prepared your child is to learn. In addition, it's also helpful if dads model for sons and moms model for daughters when possible.

A word of caution - this one's not for the squeamish. We 're talking about going to the bathroom here, after all. One of the best things you can do to get your child to learn a new skill is to model the behavior. In this case, we're talking about going to the bathroom and letting your child observe you when you go. Do your best to banish any thoughts of modesty, and let your child see how simple and mundane going to the bathroom really is. Dropping your pants. Doing your business. Proper wiping technique. Washing up afterwards. These are all things you take for granted, but your little one needs to know. Throughout the animal kingdom, offspring learn by observation; proper bathroom technique in humans is no different.

Social Skills

Following Instructions

Your child needs to know how to follow instructions. Potty training involves multiple steps, including getting to the bathroom, removing clothes, wiping, flushing and washing.

To learn and do all those steps successfully requires following instructions. It's also a must-have skill when the occasional accident happens. You'll need your little one to listen and learn so the accident can be cleaned up quickly and future mishaps can be avoided.

Following instructions is a simple four-step process that will be useful throughout your child's development - not just when potty training.

Here are the steps to the skill of Following Instructions:

  • Look at the person - Tell your child that looking at the person makes listening easier.
  • Say, "Okay" - Explain how saying okay or nodding yes means you understand what the person said.
  • Do what you've been asked right away - Doing the task immediately makes remembering what to do easier.
  • Check back - When the task is done, let the person know you did what was asked.

Preparing Your Child for Potty Training

If you think, but aren't certain, your toddler has the ability and understanding to start potty training (see our previous email regarding the behavioral skills and signs to look for), don't plunge right in without first doing a little prep work.

Remember, potty chairs and toilets may be unfamiliar or look scary to your child and cause some degree of stress. To relieve any anxiety and set your child up for success, follow the "P":

  • Parent modeling
    As described in our previous email, allowing your child to go with you or your spouse to the bathroom and see how to use the toilet properly (modeling) is a learning opportunity. It's a chance for your child to see what will be expected of him. Like anything else, kids learn a lot by watching others.
  • Potty chair
    Give your child a chance to get used to and comfortable with the potty chair. Set it out and let her sit on it, name it and put stickers on it. Let her know it's her special throne, and it's not for Mom or Dad.
  • Practice
    Provide time for sitting on the potty chair. This is "play" practice, so your child can keep his clothes on (although it may be a good idea to test how well he manages to pull down his pants and underwear). Just be prepared for the possibility that he may do a little "method acting."

Teaching Activity

Positive Pep Talks with Some Practice

Plant the seed for why going to the bathroom properly ​is so important before plopping your little one on a potty chair and saying go. Do some pre-teaching in the days leading up to potty training to help ease your child into the process so the situation is more familiar and less alien. Also, have daily pep talks about potty training. Congratulate your child on becoming a "big" boy or girl who's ready to learn what other "big" boys and girls do. You also might want to use children's books (some feature popular characters from Sesame Street) to show how potty training is done. Anything you can do to get your child excited will get you off on the right foot.

In addition, use your chats to have your child practice how to dress and undress, specifically, pulling pants and/or training diapers up and down. It's a great time to reinforce this important step for going to the bathroom. The more preparation you do at the beginning, the more success you'll have at the end. And as always... be enthusiastic and make it fun!

Social Skills

Asking for Help

Another way to set your child up for success is to teach her how to ask for help when she needs to go to the bathroom. This skill can reduce the number of messy accidents you have to deal with inside and outside the bathroom. Of course, the ultimate goal of potty training is for your child to go without you. But until she has successfully mastered the skill, you can boost her confidence and ease any uncertainty by letting her know help is available if she simply asks for it.

When it comes to asking for help, teach your child to follow these steps:

  • Look at you - Mommy or Daddy.
  • Ask you if you have time to help
  • Say - "I need to go potty."
  • Say - "Thank you for helping."

Asking for help is a fundamental skill and one that serves all children well during the training ​process and as they grow older and start school.

Coming up in Issue 3

Let's Get This Potty Started


Prime the Pump


Managing Stress

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