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Potty Training

One of the most exciting milestones for you and your toddler is potty training. Many parents face this right of passage with a sigh of relief (no more diapers!) and may even shed a nostalgic tear, for mommy's little baby is growing up.

Potty training is nothing if not an adventure. Like any other learned behavior, it takes time; so be patient and persistent, and stay relaxed. It should not be a crash course to just get your little one out of diapers, nor should it turn into a power struggle between the two of you.

The decision to start the potty training process should be based on your child's individual development and level of interest. Every child is ready at a different age, just as each child begins walking and talking at a different time. Signs that your child is developmentally ready for potty training include:

  • Understands simple requests

  • Imitates your toileting

  • Stays dry for at least three hours

  • Is able to verbally communicate other sensations, such as hunger

  • Is uncomfortable with a soiled or wet diaper; may try to push it off, or will tell you his or her diaper needs to be changed

  • Investigates his or her body

  • Shows interest in the toilet or potty-chair

The essential component to mastering the potty is your child's ability to feel and recognize the physical signs of impending urination or a bowel movement. Most children become aware of the need to urinate or have a bowel movement, and have the muscle control to regulate it, around 16 to 24 months. You cannot teach or force your child to develop these abilities earlier; this is one area where he or she is in complete control.

Involving your child in the process, and using lots of praise and positive reinforcement are the keys to successful potty training. The more your child feels like this is something he is accomplishing rather than something that is being forced on him, the more successful and easier the training will be.

First, teach your child the words for the body parts involved and the actions that take place. Knowing the words for the equipment and process will help your child become more comfortable with the idea and learn the skill. Next, let your child help you pick out his or her special potty chair. Let him sit on it at the store to be sure he is comfortable on it and the size is appropriate. Also, let your child pick out a package of "big kid" underpants that he can look forward to wearing one day.

Being aware of the signals that your child is about to have a bowel movement or urinate will help you intervene and get him to the potty before he goes. Signals to watch for include squatting, stopping play, retreating to a corner or behind a piece of furniture, or grabbing at his diaper.

Another way of encouraging your child to connect his or her body's clues with going potty is to place your child on the potty seat around the time when he or she usually has a bowel movement. Try keeping track of what time or times your child has a bowel movement during the day for a week or so. If you notice a pattern, try placing your child on the potty chair around that time every day, armed with an entertaining book, and wait as long as you, or your child, can.

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