Wednesday, June 22, 2005

When should you start potty training?

By Victoria Miller

One of the many milestones in your baby's life will be learning to use the toilet. But potty training can be frustrating for both you and your child-- especially if you try to push your child to do it when he or she is not ready. So how do you know when your baby is ready to be potty trained?

Is your child between the age of 2 and 3 years old? Does your child tell you when he/she is wet? Does your child wake up in the morning with a dry diaper or Pull-up? If you can answer yes to all of these questions, then your baby may be ready for potty training.

Many parents make the mistake of forcing the potty training issue on a child who is clearly not ready. Some three year old children just aren't ready to be potty trained. If you start potty training too young (I know a mother that started her daughter at 18 months) be prepared for a long and grueling ordeal. Your child must first understand the concept of potty training. If he or she is content sitting in a wet diaper without telling you about it, then he/she is probably not ready.

Other things to consider:

-- To pull up or not to pull up? Many parents start out by using Pull-Ups or Easy-Ups, which are basically just absorbent underpants (very diaper- like, but they pull up and down like underwear). Some children do great with Pull-Ups. Others, like my daughter, fare just as well by going straight to real cotton underpants. Because the Pull-Ups are so absorbent, many children will treat them just like a diaper-- they may not feel discomfort when they are wet. Start out by buying a bag of Pull-Ups and some real big girl or big boy underwear. Many parents like to use both-- and Pull-Ups/Easy-Ups are great for overnight accidents.

-- A portable potty or a potty ring. If you have the space for one, a portable potty is a great way to train your child. Potty rings (which are inserts that you place on your regular toilet) may be a better solution if you lack space or have multiple bathrooms. Look for a fun musical potty or a potty ring that has characters like Blues Clues on it.

-- A book or video about potty training. Children learn well through visuals, so you may find that an aid like a book or video will help your child to understand the concept of potty training. "Too Big for Diapers" by John E. Barrett and "Potty Time" by Bettina Paterson are two popular books that may help you.

-- A reward system. A chart with stickers and a small treat are great incentives and rewards for your child. After he or she uses the potty, put a sticker on the chart (you can buy or make one). After your child earns a few stickers, reward him or her with something special like a favorite snack or a small toy.

Remember, no two children are alike. Don't panic if your child's third birthday is near and he or she is still not potty trained. Your child will let you know when he or she is ready to use the potty on a regular basis. All kids eventually get potty trained!

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