Q: My son is already 3 years old and we are still struggling with potty training. All of my friends and family have “words of wisdom” and “special tricks” that they share 
with me but none of them have worked. What do you recommend? – Sharon, Surprise
A: It seems like everyone has an opinion about this, and while most other parents offer up their advice to you with the most sincere intentions, often they just end up making the recipient of the advice feel like a failure. In my own experience, I have successfully advised many families through this “rite of passage,” yet when it came to my own kids, it was a bumpy road. There is no one method that is “right” or will work for everyone but here are some of the key fundamentals essential to have the best opportunity for a successful potty training experience:

1) Wait for your child to be ready

This process depends on your child being ready to potty train. If you decide to start training due to his age, starting preschool, or another outside motivation, chances are your child won’t be ready to start training when you are. Most children actually potty training anywhere from 18 month to 3½ years old.

2) Use the right words

Most toddlers/preschoolers are very literal thinkers. What you say is what you mean. So it’s very confusing when a parent uses the same word for multiple things. (For example, “let’s sit on the potty and go potty”). Choose words that you will use for the act of going “potty” verses the actual toilet name and your child’s body parts involved in the “potty” process. On a side note, be sure you are comfortable with your child yelling those words at the most inopportune time (in the checkout line at the store, in the middle of church, the list goes on).

3) Let your child know their body gives them a signal before they start going to the bathroom

Tell your child when you feel the need to go to the bathroom, and even put your hand over your bladder or bowels to show them where you feel the “signal” before you go have to go to the bathroom.

4) Your child should be able to pull their pants down on their own

Why? Because if you aren’t there and they can’t get their pants down on their own, they will have an accident by no fault of their own. Accidents where they cannot figure out what they did wrong can often discourage your child and can seriously derail potty training efforts.

5) Be consistent

The last thing to keep in mind is that potty training doesn’t happen all in one day, or two days, or even a week! Sure, the basic concept can be mastered in a couple days, but to expect them to go completely accident-free right off the bat is setting the bar too high. Most children can take 2 weeks to 4 months to go accident-free all week long.

Brie Hall, B.S., C.I.M.I., is the owner and parent educator of Baby Basics Parent Education. Visit BabyBasics4U.com or call 480-299-1154.

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