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Potty Training


I was asked by Jennifer, one of our Moms, about potty training. Since I get asked about that a lot, I thought it made a good topic for a post. I often tell parents who ask that there are basically two ways to potty train a child; the slow and easy way or the fast but difficult way.

The slow but easy way is to wait until your child shows an interest in wearing “big kid underwear.” These should be a REWARD for staying dry, NOT an inducement to get dry, which does NOT work. The only downside of this approach is that the motivation for the kids to stop wearing pullups is being teased by their friends (“you’re a little baby wearing diapers”) which is obviously painful and embarrassing to your child.

The fast but difficult way involves removing yourself from the diaper equation. A child over 3 years of age is perfectly capable of being dry at night. They are choosing to be in diapers or pullups because it’s the “hot line” to Mommy. They can commandeer your time and attention simply by saying, “I gotta go NOW.” SO, to force the issue, tell the child that you no longer do diapers (as long as they at least 3 years old) and that you will only help them if they go on the potty. This ONLY works, by the way, if you NEVER cave in and help them with pullups. Say to the child, “Here are the pullups, here’s the toilet paper, here’s where the dirty diapers go. Knock yourself out, but don’t call me for ANY help unless you want to go on the potty. I don’t do diapers now that you are three. I only will come help if you go on the potty.”

This works because the child is not attached to the pullups so much as attached to you and using the pullups to command your time and attention. From a young child’s perspective, NO ONE has EVER had enough attention, no matter how much they really get (and believe me, my patients typically get attention by the boat load). When forced to choose between you and diapers, a child will ALWAYS choose you, once they become convinced that you really mean it.

They will, of course, test you to see if you really mean it, but if you don’t cave, they likely will voluntarily switch over to “big boy underwear” within a day or so. I promise that this works IF you stick to your guns! Good luck!