You Can Lead a Child to the Potty…

You know how the rest of the saying goes don’t you?
You can lead a child to the potty, but you can’t make her pee.

This is essentially my philosophy on potty training and highlights what I believe our role is as parents when potty training is concerned. Ultimately, the decision is up to our children. What we can do is be their ever gentle guide and personal cheerleader.

So, when I received a recent e-mail from one of my readers regarding potty training, I was more than happy to share some potty training tidbits.

Her daughter is two years old and has shown some interest in using the toilet. She dislikes being wet and is able to let her mom know when she has poop or pee. Mom wants to know how to go about potty training and if there are any techniques she should be employing.

I generally shy away from any one “technique” or “how to” guide when it comes to potty training. The reason is, I feel that readiness is key and tailoring your approach to you child’s unique personality and temperament will garner the most success and the least frustration.

It sounds like her daughter is starting to display some of the readiness signs, so let’s talk about what it means to be “ready” for potty training.

Signs that your child may be ready to use the potty:

  • Your child likes to mimic you and has started showing interest in using the potty.
  • Your child can help dress and undress herself. This is key when you have a fiercely independent 2.5 year old who wants to “do it myself”.
  • Your child can tell you when she has to go pee and poop.
  • Your child has started staying dry for long periods of time. It’s a great sign if your child consistently stays dry during nap time.
  • Your child takes pride in her independence and thinks Dora underwear is the greatest thing ever!
  • Your child is starting to pass the “no” phase and is more amenable to “yes, I do want to use the potty!”

Generally, children start displaying these readiness signs between the ages of 2 and 3. However, every child is different. Release yourself from thinking there is a magic number for potty training. There isn’t. Even though a study done in 2009 found that the months of golden opportunity seem to lie between 27-32 months of age, I have to say, if your child isn’t displaying any readiness signs…well you’ll just be banging your head against the wall.

Wait until your child is ready…really. My daughter was ready by age 2.5 and my son at 3.5. Both achieved potty training success within one week because they were simply ready.

Okay, so now your child is ready…here are some tips for the process:

  • Take frequent and consistent potty breaks.
  • Find the right potty for your child. Some children like the seat that sits on top of the regular toilet, some do better with their own little potty.
  • Keep it low pressure. Celebrate success and never punish accidents.
  • Let your child run around sans diaper or underwear. This allows them to stay in tune to their bladder signals. Expect some dribbles.
  • Remember that success does not happen overnight. Also, nighttime dryness typically takes longer to achieve.
  • Some children remain hesitant to poop in the potty. Don’t make it a big issue. Let her have that pull up for poop time. It won’t last forever. Reward charts work great in this situation. Just remember to take it one step at a time.

Okay, so you’re about to embark on this potty training journey with your child. Let her lead the way. If frustration starts to build, don’t be afraid to take a break and come back to it in a couple of weeks. Just remember to keep the big picture in mind. Your toddler won’t be donning diapers forever. Keep it light, fun, and celebrate her success.

Did you or are you facing any potty training obstacles with your child? What worked or what questions do you have regarding potty training?

**Submit your parenting or health related question to mommamd4two(at)aol(dot)com. I feature a question or topic every Wednesday. If you don’t have a question, but have a topic you’d like to see me cover, please e-mail me or leave a comment. **

19 Responses to You Can Lead a Child to the Potty…
  1. flyrish
    May 18, 2011 | 9:22 am

    These are great tips! What's tough is my son will be starting preschool in September that requests that you at least start the potty training process. He will be 2.8 and I'm not sure if he'll be ready. He has pooped in his little potty once after a bath, but he says "no" every time we ask him if we wants to try sitting on the potty since then, so we are not pushing it. Hopefully he starts showing more signs of readiness at the end of summer. Yikes.

  2. Kristin
    May 18, 2011 | 11:35 am

    So my 20 month old told me she had to use the potty twice and pooped one time and peed the other. Gasp! This is too early, right? What do I do?

  3. The Zany Housewife
    May 18, 2011 | 12:20 pm

    My daughter (who is almost 2.5 yrs old) requests the toilet for bms but hardly ever if she needs to pee (she used to pee more frequently so I don't understand the change). She loves her toddler toilet but we're thinking of upgrading to a child's toilet seat. We ask her often if she needs to use the bathroom and give her a lot of social praise when she's done it. At this point, I don't know what more we can do to get her progressing.

    To Kristin's comment above: I don't think it's too early (in my opinion) since my daughter starting using her toilet at the same age.

  4. Barbara Manatee
    May 18, 2011 | 12:51 pm

    I never thought potty training one kid would be harder than twins while juggling an infant – but no luck here! My twin daughter was trained by 28 months and her brother was working on it well but not fully trained until about 32 months.

    My youngest is already 28 months and is terrified of the potty. He loves to talk about it and flush it but will NOT sit or stand near it. He tells us when he's stinky and sometimes when he's wet but refuses to use the potty at all…

    not pushing it but definitely wondering when he'll change his mind! 😉

  5. Katherine
    May 18, 2011 | 2:07 pm

    I had such wildly different experiences potty training my two boys. My oldest potty trained quickly and easily. The second, not so much, even though we waited until he was three, and acting like he was ready. The technique that finally worked – letting him go bottomless!

  6. Stephanie
    May 18, 2011 | 2:28 pm

    My son was so easy to potty train because the idea of peeing standing up was awesome to him. He was totally out of diapers before 2 with the occasional accident at night.

    Well now he just turned 6 and he has "accidents" almost every night! Its not a new thing.. its gradually increased throughout the years. We limit fluids, remind him to go, etc… His dr recommended night time "big kid" pull ups which we complied with because he would be devastated every night for feeling bad that he had bedwetting.

    Dr said it will go away but its so hard to imagine that it is this "normal". Any thoughts anyone?

  7. Laura@OutnumberedMom
    May 18, 2011 | 2:31 pm

    I love the spirit of "You can lead a child to the potty" — celebrate HER success. I'll never forget my pediatrician saying to me, "It has to be important to HIM for some reason. Until then, it won't really matter what you do." And it was SO true. The pedicatrician also said to me, "I guarantee, he won't go to kindergarten in diapers…" And he didn't.

  8. Janie
    May 18, 2011 | 5:33 pm

    WIll keep these tips in mind when my turn to potty train comes. I have actually introduced my 18 month old to the potty but she'll have none of it just yet.

  9. Melissa (Confessions of a Dr. Mom)
    May 18, 2011 | 9:24 pm

    @Kristin: I would certainly follow her lead and let her use the potty if she is motivated and lets you know. However, she is a bit young and I wouldn't expect too much at this point. At her age, it is mostly about the novelty and getting used to the idea. She will do it when it's convenient and fun for her. Not sure it's quite time yet to ditch the diapers…but you know her best :)

  10. Melissa (Confessions of a Dr. Mom)
    May 18, 2011 | 9:28 pm

    @Stephanie: From what I'm understanding, it sounds like your son was never dry at night. If so, he (like many other children) have bedwetting that they will outgrow. I wrote about it here, When to worry and when to just let nature run its course. Good Luck!

  11. Cheryl D.
    May 18, 2011 | 10:14 pm

    Potty training with my daughter was awful! It took years for her to be somewhat successful. And that was after starting the process at 3!

  12. Adriel (The Mommyhood Memos)
    May 19, 2011 | 5:31 am

    My son is nowhere near potty training yet, and I used to wonder if he would ever care. He would seriously run around in a wet/pooey diaper all day and not be bothered in the slightest. (Thankfully that's where a responsible mommy comes in!) But then just two weeks ago out of the blue he pointed to his diaper and said *something*. He was telling me that he had pooed! I was so proud of my little pooper and greatly encouraged that one day, he too, will be potty-trainable. LOL. Like I said, we're a long way off (and I'm fine with that) but at least I now have hope that he *slightly* cares about his own comfort and bodily functions. Though he still *usually* doesn't notice/care, at least it's a good start! :)

  13. The Red Humor
    May 19, 2011 | 9:21 pm

    I love this post. Too bad my daugther thinks the potty is a perch for half naked story hour.

  14. TheBabyMammaChronicles
    May 20, 2011 | 11:00 am

    Thanks for the post. I'll have to keep these things in mind whenever Kaia is ready.

  15. Liz
    May 20, 2011 | 12:27 pm

    Oh, Lordy can I tell you you are SO right! It totally has to be child led! I ask Maddie about sitting on the potty and she says, "No tank oo." Even if I offer a cookie, she still doesn't care. She also doesn't care to be wearing a filled-to-the-max-with-pee diaper.

  16. Hello! I'm Kate.
    May 20, 2011 | 7:43 pm

    We've been there for a while–but I'm just letting him make his own calls on it. He asks to go to the bathroom & we just hang out in there but he just sits on the toilet. I figure he'll go when he's ready. In the meantime, I'll just be waiting!

    Great post! Potty training seems to be on all of my bloggers friend's minds these days!

  17. Lady Jennie
    May 26, 2011 | 12:40 pm

    I feel so much pressure getting my son ready for school in Sept. My first son wasn't ready til 3.5 and my second is going to school at under 3. He is still showing no signs of being ready.

  18. Tasha
    January 24, 2012 | 5:33 am

    My daughter is 18 months old, and she has shown many of the signs listed above. In fact, she’s even gone pee in the potty. The only thing she doesn’t do is pull down her own pants. I fear I may be jumping the gun, but I’ve also been told that there is a little window at 18 months, and I don’t want to miss it!

  19. amber nicklas
    August 22, 2013 | 10:25 am

    My son is 25 months and goes potty every hr when I take him for a week now…should I continue this..when will he be able to tell me he has to go???