Toddlers are typically ready to learn to use the toilet between 2 and 4 years of age. Just like crawling, walking or sleeping through the night, potty training is a learned skill that can’t be taught in one day. Rather than focusing on a specific age, you should begin potty training when your child shows multiple signs that they’re ready.
Signs of readiness include waking up in the morning with a dry diaper, telling you when they’ve soiled their diaper, removing their soiled diaper and clothing, showing curiosity about your potty behavior, understanding potty-related words and showing interest in using a potty chair or toilet.
Signs your toddler isn’t ready: Demanding their diaper be put back on after you remove it, being resistant or hysterical to the concept, unable to remove their own pants, can’t follow simple directions such as “sit on the potty” or “please flush.”
If you’re looking for easy-to-follow instructions and getting the job done in the shortest amount of time, then the three-day method is for you. There are many variations of this approach, but the concept is the same.
First, clear the calendar for 72 hours and remain at home on potty training lockdown, then ditch the diapers (but really just hide them because they are still going to be needed for naps and at night). Next, let your child be naked from the waist down. Give him lots of liquids and take him to the toilet every 15 minutes.
When he goes in the potty, you can reward him. When he goes on the floor, clean it up and move forward without punishment.
“I’ve seen the most success in potty training when parents take a weekend or three days to completely focus on it,” says Taylor Pettit, a lead preschool teacher at the Goddard School in Ladera Ranch.
For parents who prefer not to follow a textbook method, consider buying a potty chair and underwear once your child shows interest, and give them lots of reminders and encouragement.
Once you put your child in underwear, don’t turn back (other than naptime and bedtime). It is beyond confusing for toddlers to go back and forth.TAYLOR PETTIT
Introducing a potty traning doll that can pee is also an effective approach. Pettit thinks rewards are also key and that it’s important to praise children even when they simply try to go. “I am a believer in rewarding, offer a sticker chart, marshmallows or even M&M’s,” Pettit says.
When you’re not using the three-day method, you can take time to allow kids to practice. Have your child sit on the potty when they wake up in the morning and before and after naps and bedtime. Consider sticking with diapers or pull-ups at night.
“A lot of families don’t understand the difference between potty training during the day and night,” says Michelle Donaghy, a certified Gentle Sleep Coach in Orange County. “The bladder has to grow to a certain size to hold enough liquid at night and a hormone from the brain has to start being secreted in order to tell the bladder to hold it. You can’t really train for that,” she adds.
Consistency is key. “Once you put your child in underwear, don’t turn back (other than naptime and bedtime). It is beyond confusing for toddlers to go back and forth,” Pettit says.
Educate yourself and your little one. “Oh Crap! Potty Training: Everything Modern Parents Need to Know to Do it Once and Do It Right,” and “Potty” are helpful books, and “Potty Power” is an insightful DVD.
Keep your car stocked with a Kalencom 2-in-1 Potette Plus or OXO Tot 2-in-1 Go Potty for Travel. The PottyEZ Child Adult Toilet Seat is a great alternative to stand-alone toilets, which can get in the way at home.
Lastly, have a sense of humor.
For a more personalized approach, The Potty School in Costa Mesa offers packages that include an online assessment of your current situation, phone or Skype consultations and specialized instructional videos for specific needs including training multiples, sensory issues, speech delays or autism.