Recently, my 2-year-old found the seat attachment my husband purchased for her, brought it over to me and said, “Sit.” She has progressed to saying “potty,” but always after she has already gone in her diaper.
These small steps are exciting — although I’m not quite ready to abandon the convenience of diapers, nor prepared for the inevitable accidents (I myself had a tiny bladder as a child).
“Children are ready for potty training when they can articulate that they want to go, know they are about to go, and want to sit on the potty to go,” says Dr. Goldberg. “Most often, they start having an interest before they are fully ready to proceed with potty training.”
“When they start showing an interest, have them watch a parent go to the toilet and flush. Then let them sit on a potty from time to time,” recommends Dr. Goldberg. Use either a small potty that sits on the floor or an attachment that goes over the regular toilet.
Rewards for sitting on the potty are fine but praise is one of your most powerful tools. Remember to compliment your child, regardless of success.
Dr. Goldberg encourages a low-stress approach to potty training. “Kids may seem ready and then get nervous about the process, losing interest for a while. That is OK.”
Pressuring a child to potty train is usually counterproductive. “When children and adults are stressed, they clench the muscles of the pelvic floor, making it difficult to go to the toilet,” explains Dr. Goldberg. “But when kids do this, they hold in their stool, which can lead to constipation.”
“If your child goes through a phase in which she no longer wants to sit on the potty, don’t pressure her to sit on it,” says Dr. Goldberg. “Make sure her diet is high in fruits, veggies and water, so that stools are soft and not painful to pass.”
“When it hurts to poop, kids don’t want to do it,” cautions Dr. Goldberg. “If stools are hard, painful or very large, talk to your child’s doctor.”
If your child has an accident, avoid drawing attention to it. Instead, have your child help with the clean-up process. Never punish or spank your child for having an accident, as this will lead to more accidents, constipation and psychological stress.
The other night, my daughter said “potty” right before she started making her poop face. Unfortunately, I didn’t get her on the toilet in time, but at least she’s starting to recognize the feeling of needing to go. We’ll pack extra clothes in the diaper bag and hope for the best.
Chelsey Koga is a digital producer for Sharp HealthCare and mother of a two-year-old daughter.