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7 Doctor-Recommended Potty Training Tips

Girl using the toilet while potty training

Potty training can be a daunting task — for little ones, the transition to underwear isn’t easy and may come with a fair share of tears. Whether you’re new to the potty training scene or  looking for new tips for a second, third or even fourth go-around, we’ve got you covered. Lance Goodall, MD, UnityPoint Health, provides his seven potty training tips in hopes of making the experience better for both you and your child.

1. Only Start Potty Training When Your Child is Ready

If you’re wondering when to start potty training, Dr. Goodall says some good signals include when your child is waking up dry or just generally showing interest in the potty. While there is no certain age to start potty training, Dr. Goodall says it’s best to start before preschool begins. He says all kids are different when it comes to readiness, but there isn’t a big difference between boys and girls. Also, if you start potty training, it’s OK to back off later.

“When the child is refusing to go, or showing resistance, or when parents are beginning to get frustrated, it’s OK to return to diapers or pull-ups and try again when the child shows more interest,” Dr. Goodall says.

2. Never Punish a Child During Potty Training

Dr. Goodall says it’s best not to punish your child if he/she has an accident. Potty training should be a positive experience. He says you need to understand that kids will have accidents, especially at night and that’s OK. Keep in mind they are trying their best.

“Patience, patience, patience. Some kids are very stubborn and will test their limits while others truly cannot help having accidents. Encouragement and support for your child are key!” Dr. Goodall says.

3. Set a Potty Schedule and Stick to it

A potty schedule likely means taking your child to the bathroom every 20 or 30 minutes. It’s best to clear your schedule during these days so you and your child are at home in a comfortable environment and won’t need to use unusual restrooms. 

“Take time to notice a child’s signs of needing to go – like the potty dance or holding themselves,” Dr. Goodall says.

4. Try Potty Training Rewards

A few potty training reward ideas include treats, stickers, small toys or even “big kid adventures” or a special date with mom or dad.

“If treats help a child understand the process, I don’t think it’s harmful as long as it’s in moderation. For example, a small handful of M&Ms or even a fun cereal they enjoy,” Dr. Goodall says.

Potty training sticker charts are another popular option, but Dr. Goodall says they aren’t for every child. For the kids who do well with this method, try the sticker chart for a week and then reward the child with a small toy or big kid adventure after the week is complete.

5. Use Proper Anatomy Terms

Dr. Goodall says it’s OK for a little girl to see her father using the bathroom and for a little boy to see his mother using the restroom.

“It’s not confusing. It is actually a great time to explain the difference between boys and girls using anatomically correct terms,” Dr. Goodall says.

A good potty training tip for boys is that it’s best to begin teaching them to use the potty sitting down, instead of standing. Dr. Goodall says once the child has a firm grasp on potty training while sitting, then you can transition the child to standing.

6. Make Sure You Have All the Proper Supplies

When you make a trip to the store to buy a potty seat, you’ll notice there are a lot of options to choose from.

“I prefer the potty seat that goes on the actual toilet. But, if your child is scared of the toilet, then a floor potty chair is just fine,” Dr. Goodall says.

Also, don’t forget to get some new underwear. Dr. Goodall suggests you let your child pick out which ones he/she likes best.

7. Make a Bedtime Routine

“Parents should stop liquids at the same time every day, usually two hours before bedtime. You should also encourage the child to use the potty immediately before bedtime,” Dr. Goodall says.

Staying dry at night can be very difficult for a child. Dr. Goodall says if there is a family history of bedwetting, the child could wet the bed into their early teen years.

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