Gerber Life Family Times --- News and tips for familes of all ages and stages of life


The First Steps to Potty Training

April 2003 Issue

Credit Card Fraud

Arbor Day--
Plant a family tree

The First Steps
to Potty Training

Sports, Kids
and What Parents
Should Know

Make That Snack
a Healthy One

Did You Know?

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Family Times Archive

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After two or three years of countless diaper changes and tons of money in diapers literally going in the trash, what parent isn’t hopeful for the potty training light at the end of the tunnel. The time, glorious as it may be, is loaded with its own possible frustrations for both you and your toddler. After all, using a potty takes effort and requires newly developed control of bodily functions that your child has never before had to worry about. Wherever you go, you will hear many different stories about potty training with variations on the right time, the right way and tips to help speed the process. For the inexperienced, here is a brief outline to help you get started.

Experts seem to agree that the right time to start depends on the child. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children under 12 months of age have no control over their bladder or bowel movements and little control 6 months after that. Between 18 and 24 months toddlers will begin to show signs of being ready but some may not be ready until 30 months or more. Signs of readiness include when your child:

Stays dry for at least 2 hours at a time during the day or dryness after naps.

Has regular and predictable bowel movements.

Uses words, facial expressions and posture that indicate he or she is about to urinate or have a bowel movement.

Can follow simple instructions.

Can walk both to and from the bathroom.

Can help undress.

Is obviously uncomfortable with wet or soiled diapers and asks to be changed.

Asks to use the potty or toilet.

Asks to wear grown-up underwear.


Once your child is ready for this new challenge, there are some additional things you can do to help the process. Consider using cloth diapers—cloth diapers allow your child to feel the uncomfortable wetness that also serves as an incentive to use the potty. Let your child sit on the full-sized toilet to help build familiarity with the feeling and process. Let your child see you using the toilet so they understand what happens in the bathroom. Make sure your child’s clothing is easy to get on and off (to help reduce the frustration level when they are trying to go on their own). Initially use a potty chair and keep it close to where your child spends most of his/her time. It’s much easier to have success if the urge hits and your child can take three steps to the potty instead of a long trek to the bathroom.

Don’t expect potty training to happen instantly—be extremely patient. Pass the time while your child is trying by reading or singing to them. Praise your child repeatedly every time they say they need to go and after every attempt, successful or not.

Remember that accidents will happen so never punish your child for an accident. Keep toilet paper within reach and if spinning the roll becomes your child’s pastime, crush the roll before putting it on the spool (it will be far harder to spin and loses it’s appeal to little hands). Finally, teach your child proper hygiene from the start. Show them how to wipe properly (remembering that girls should wipe from front to back to prevent transferring germs from the rectum to the bladder or vagina). Take this time to also instill the habit of thorough hand washing after using the bathroom.

Most children have bowel control and daytime urine control by 3 to 4 years. However, even if your child achieves dryness during the day, it may take months or years to achieve the same results at night. But there is hope: most girls and three-quarters of boys will stay dry at night by age 5. Just remember, patience will win out in the end.

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