Adventures in Potty Training

By: Jennifer Goldsmith, CPNP-PC

Leaving behind diapers and wearing “big kid” pants is a huge step in the toddler years-both for the child and for their parents. Whether you are really looking forward to being done with diapers or dreading the challenge of potty training, there are a few things to keep in mind as you and your child make this big step together…

First of all, potty training is rarely an overnight process. Like building any new habit, the most important component is time. On average, children can take 3-6 months to be fully potty trained during the day and some children can take years to master staying dry at night. So give your child (and yourself) some grace and lots of patience as they learn to master this new skill. Try to enjoy the funny and silly moments that are bound to occur along this journey to being potty trained.

It helps to look for signs that they are ready to begin learning this new skill. Some things to look for are:

  • Following simple instructions.
  • Keeping a diaper dry for 2 hours or more.
  • Understanding the words used in the family about using the toilet and their body functions.
  • Trying to remove diapers or pants. For example they are able to pull them down or take them off.
  • Desiring to be clean and dry like requesting a diaper change or telling you they want a clean diaper.
  • Making the connection between the urge to pee or poop and sitting on the potty.
  •  Your child is roughly 24 months of age.

So you think your child is ready to begin this new adventure, the next question is which method is best?!

There are a plethora of opinions on how potty training should occur. Some common approaches to potty training that I stand behind include…

  • Allowing your child to follow you or an older sibling into the potty and observe how it’s done. The hope here is that your child may want to mimic what they see happening.
  • Talking and asking about the potty with your child. You can read and discuss the possibility of using the potty together with books or videos. This is then followed by practicing sitting on the potty every couple of hours. Setting a timer is helpful for this method along with allowing your child to drink lots of fluids for extra practice.
  • Rewarding your child for successful encounters with the potty. Every time the child sits and uses the potty they get a reward (either a sticker on a chart, small toy from a goodie box, or tiny treat like jelly beans). Positive reinforcement can make this less stressful for both of you and more exciting for your child.
  • The potty training “boot camp”. The thought here is that parents use a concentrated period of time (like a long weekend or even a week off work) for an immersion in training. Consistency is key for helping this method have long term results.
  • Gradually introducing your little one to the concept of potty training over several months. Having a potty easily accessible, and even to play with, can be helpful with this method.

Any of these techniques can work well for any child, but the leading experts in child development agree that using multiple methods is actually the most helpful for your child to become fully potty trained. I know this can sound overwhelming, but look at it like you don’t have to stick with just one method if your child seems to not be making progress. The beauty of potty training is that, as a parent, you get to know your child even more as they embark on a new adventure. Give yourself the freedom to adjust and use a combination of several methods specifically tailored to your child. You know your child the best, so the two of you will find a way to master this skill—and rejoice in your victory—together.

Until next time,

Jennifer Goldsmith

Parkside Provider, mother of two sets of twins, and queen of the laundry

  • Toddler