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Potty Training

Potty training is difficult for parents because it is the first thing that the parents cannot do for their child. The interest and willingness to potty train must come from the child.

I love to tell parents that there are two rules to know about potty training.
1.) The average child is potty trained at 3 years old
2.) The average grandmother remembers potty training at 12 months

Society puts lots of pressure on parents and children to potty train. Children who potty train early are considered smart. Potty training is overrated. I’d rather change a diaper in a parking lot than take a curious two year old to a gas station bathroom. There is nothing like watching your daughter fish a cigarette out of a urinal.

My second daughter was probably our youngest and easiest to potty train. She potty trained at 2 and a few months. I vividly remember loading mulch at a home improvement warehouse just after she was potty trained. She was strapped in her car seat when she told me she needed to “go”. “Go” of course meant if you don’t get me to potty in two minutes I will pee all over. I grabbed her and her brother, left the van half loaded and unlocked and ran to the back of the store. Everything turned out fine, but I remember thinking how much easier a diaper would have been.

We, like many first time parents, approached potty training with our first child too aggressively. We agonized over accidents and cheered our successes (and called the grandparents). We tried to force her to potty train to impress the relatives. We started our intense training we she was just 18 months old. We were certain she was “ready”. She was finally potty trained about a year later. Sure she was potty trained before 3 years old, but if we started later she probably would have finished at the same time.

After struggling to potty train child number one we approached our second completely different. We waited until he was two and a half years even to begin. He was a very verbal and willing 2 year old. If we set a timer for every two hours, he would willingly pee and poop on the potty. However, if we were distracted (which seems to happen a lot) he would pee on himself. He would sit in a puddle of urine and continue to play. We would get upset, but the accidents never upset him. In a moment of parenting brilliance, my wife put him back in diapers and told him to let us know when he wanted to potty train. About two weeks before he turned 3 years old, he declared himself a “big boy” and refused to sit in a booster seat (at the table), use thick handled silverware and to wear diapers. He did awesome. His first accident was five days into wearing underwear. We could not be upset about the mess, because he was so upset.

Today, we do not actively potty train children prior to two years old. It is not wrong to potty train before two, but most children simply are not ready. Children need to be verbal enough to express their needs and physically capable of wiping and washing their hands. Potty training should be relaxed. Parents should purchase a potty and a few potty training books to read with their toddler. We like the simply pottys( we use the baby bjorn potty). The pottys with as the lids can pinch and seem to create problems. The cushioned lids eventually crack and fill with urine.

As we prepare to potty train one of our children, we often talk to the child (during diaper changes) that someday they will go in a potty and be a “big boy”. We encourage our children to sit on the potty prior to baths and we require all our kids to at least sit on the potty before swimming in our pool. This before swimming potty training seems to work well as the little kids see our big kids go potty. We won’t dive into the world of underwear until the child shows interest on their own.

We often start potty training with treats. Our house rule is when the two year old goes potty everybody gets a treat. This encourages our bigger children and sometimes neighbors to potty train our two year olds.

Currently, one of our boys is two. While we encourage him to go potty periodically, we are very hands off. When he goes we often joke “He is ready to potty train!”.

Potty training questions

2 year old who likes to be naked

3 year old having accidents

Updated July 2010 by
Dr. Gordon, Windermere Pediatrician







gregorygordonmd.com is intended to help parents understand the needs and behaviors of children. The information presented in the site is the opinion of Gregory Gordon, M.D.and does not reflect the opinion of his partners. This website is owned exclusively by Doctors insights LLC. The advice in this site does not apply to all children. Always consult your healthcare provider for your individual needs.

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