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Cheat Sheet

Potty Training For Dummies

From Potty Training For Dummies by Diane Stafford, Jennifer Shoquist, M.D.

Potty training is an important step in childhood development. As a parent, you need to recognize the signs that your child is ready for the toilet talk, institute a potty-training process, keep that process going, and recognize when your child is almost there. Along the way, you need to make sure that your child knows potty-trianing terminology, be able to spot problems that need medical attention, and separate potty-training myths from reality.

Signs that Your Child Is Ready for Potty Training

Having a potty-trained toddler is a day every parent longs for, but you can’t rush the process. Wait for signs that your child is ready to tackle this big challenge. Watch for the signs in the following list; the first five are absolutely essential:

  • Stays dry at least two hours

  • Gets bummed by wet or messy diapers

  • Likes to please

  • Imitates and follows simple instructions

  • Walks and runs

  • Asks you for diaper changes

  • Tries to dress herself

  • Likes things in proper places

  • Knows potty lingo:

    Wet Messy or Dirty
    Dry Clean
    Pee Bottom
    Poop or BM

Potty-Training Steps in a Nutshell

Potty training can be broken down into steps, just like any other learning process. The first step is to choose a weekend to devote to getting your child potty-trained, one that you and your child can spend focusing on meeting the potty-training challenge. The following very broad steps outline the four basic tasks:

  1. Have your little doll teach her little doll how to use the potty.

  2. Do hourly potty-sits throughout Potty Training Weekend.

  3. Set up a Success Chart with gold stars or fun stickers for good tries and even minor successes (tiny trickles).

  4. Switch from diapers to training pants after your toilet-trainee has racked up a few successes.

How to Keep Potty Training Working

Potty training can be frustrating for both you and your toddler. Success comes when you keep your expectations realistic and your attitude positive. Use the tips in the following list to help make your potty-training time a success:

  • Take on a laidback attitude for the potty-training show. Your chickadee is the star, hitting her mark. You’re the coach/director/teacher.

  • Back off when your child gets feisty or "no-no’s" you.

  • Keep in mind that your toddler is new to the role but willing to be a winner. Just respect his learning curve.

  • Accept (and help your little miss accept) that she’s not going to be perfect right off the bat. She’ll drip and slip and miss — and that’s okay.

  • Laugh together, clap your hands — cheer your kiddo’s willingness to give it a try! Keep the praise coming, and don’t scold or criticize.

Five Potty-Training Myths

Potty training has a long, long history — the first babies on the planet were potty trained. In that long history, a lot of myths have sprung up, although many of the most prevalent seem to be modern creations. The most five common myths are debunked in the following table:

Myth Reality
Put your baby (12–18 months) on the potty and she’ll learn what’s up. The potty bowl may serve as a receptacle, but your child doesn’t understand what’s going on, so she won’t make true toileting a habit.
You’re the only person in the world who thinks that forcing potty training is a bad idea. You’re not alone. Some folks may tell you to push or punish, but most doctors and child development experts say no. Waiting until your child is ready is much more successful.
Your child’s life is ruined if you mess up his potty training. Unless you’re brutal or hardhearted, your child will survive just fine. But do keep the process low-key and let your child lead the way.
Potty training is always a time of conflict for you and your toddler. Not true! It can be a time of closeness and harmony with your trainee trying her best and you cheering her along.
Professional caregivers are experienced potty-trainers, so let them train your child. Most childcare centers have a one-size-fits-all approach that works for cooperative kids but flops with tykes who are hyper, balky, ditzy, or otherwise quirky.

Signs that Your Potty-Training Toddler Needs to See a Doctor

Potty training forces you and your toddler to focus on waste elimination — a normal yet often messy process. Sometimes, this focus on toilet habits can bring to light issues that need the attention of a trained medical person. Take your tot to the doc when

  • She hasn’t had a bowel movement (BM) in three days.

  • He strains when trying to pee or poop.

  • She complains that having a bowel movement hurts.

  • He says peeing burns or hurts, or his pee stream is intermittent

  • She pees very seldom (every eight to nine hours).

  • He has sudden urges to pee and pees frequently

  • She uses the potty regularly but has wet pants, too.

  • He has blood stains on his underwear.

  • She has frequent BM stains on her undies.

  • He’s five and still bedwetting.

Signs that Your Toddler Is Almost Potty Trained

Your toddler will eventually be potty trained, and maybe sooner than you expect if you can devote a weekend to the training process. Recognize your child’s small successes, and know that when you start seeing the behaviors in the following list, your child is nearly trained:

  • He tells you when he’s gone in his undies.

  • She goes to the potty chair, sits down, and tries.

  • He has racked up a string of successful potty trips.

  • She’s proud of her new, big-girl undies and likes them clean and dry.

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