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Potty Training: Tips, Tricks & Tools

It's really OK if it takes longer than expected

Oh, potty training: That mostly-stressful-always-necessary rite of passage. For some kids, the transition comes naturally. Those kiddos are ready to get out of diapers. For others, it’s a struggle. They simply don’t grasp the need for a big boy or big girl potty.

So how do you approach the process and make the most out of the experience for your kids (without scarring them)? We spoke to Janelle Traylor, family nurse practitioner at the pediatric urology clinic at Children’s Health in Dallas, about the tips, tricks and tactics that you need to know.

DFWChild: At what age should potty training start? Is that a flexible thing?
Janelle Traylor: The age is very flexible; we don’t like to put a true stamp on the age. We usually like to look at when the child individually shows signs they’re ready to start potty training. If we had to put an age, we’d say somewhere between 2–4, but that depends on the child. Every child is unique.

DFWChild: How do you encourage your child to start potty training if he or she isn’t interested?
So, we usually say if they’re not interested to hold off for a little bit until they get to school age and then we really try to push them to potty training. But for the toddlers (2–4), we really say to just wait until they’re ready.

DFWChild: What are some signs that they’re ready for potty training?
JT: If you see them starting to pull down their pants, or when they can say they don’t want to be wet anymore, or they start showing you, that’s when we really encourage them.

And be mindful that your child [needs to be able to] sit on the toilet or a potty chair—don’t try if they’re too small. Plus, kids who have any kind of developmental delays tend to take a little longer. If they don’t train until they’re 4, that’s OK.

DFWChild: How long does the process typically take?
JT: Some kids train as fast as two days, others may take up to six months (especially if they’re not ready). So we don’t like to put a time on that, it’s really a range.

DFWChild: What if you start to see regression when you thought your child was through the process? What should you do?
JT: We like to use our three Rs:
1. Make sure they’re regular. Make sure they’re going to the restroom consistently, every hour to two hours during the day time for the younger kids and every two to three hours for the older kids;
2. Record it: Keep a calendar that will show how frequently they’re going to the restroom;
3. Relax: When they do go to the restroom have them relax. Sometimes kids are really busy playing or they don’t like to spend a lot of time in the bathroom. So just having them relax while they’re in the restroom gives them time to really empty their bladder; that helps them a lot.

DFWChild: Any general tools, tips and tricks to help make potty training easier on Mom and Dad?
JT: We like to use the Potty Watch; that basically is a watch that has a timer on it that reminds kids to go to the bathroom every couple of hours. That’s really helpful for the kids who get busy or distracted.

We also see parents get really nervous because there’s that stress from the preschool to get their kids potty trained by the age of 2 ½ to 3-years-old, so we just try to remind them that every child is unique and to relax and let them take their time. Some kids don’t potty train until they’re 5 or 6, and that’s OK.

What tips and tools helped your kids get potty trained? Tell us at editorial@dfwchild.com.

This article was originally published in July 2020.

Image: iStock