Is it Time to Potty Train?

How to spot a potty-ready toddler and pediatrician pointers to get you started training.

Like many milestones with the Second Child, potty training seems to have taken me by surprise. I still think of my 20-month-old as a baby, and find myself completely shocked when, after he wakes up from a nap in his crib, I hear a very big-boy-sounding, “Mommy!” coming from his room.

My timeline for potty training my elder son was largely dictated by what all of my mom friends were doing with their similarly-aged kids and I remember approaching it with lots of preparation and anxiety. But with my second, who basically has one friend (I’ve been too busy taking care of two kids to make brand new mom friends), there’s been no rush or external pressure to initiate things like potty training, and so, it had kind of slipped my mind.

That is, until somewhat recently, when my “baby” started hanging around the toilet with a little more than passing interest. He’s become curious about the whole process – from unraveling ALL of the toilet paper to wielding the toilet brush like a sorcerer’s wand. And then, a few weeks ago, when I put him on the potty on a lark, he actually went Number Two! It turned out to be a one-time thing (beginner’s luck?) but I realize that, crap, it is indeed Potty Training Season.

I am now gearing up for a messy and exhausting period wherein I will be going through many a disinfectant wipe and even more tears, but luckily, I have a pretty handy weapon in my arsenal this time around: a super-chic and functional 3-in-1 potty from Übbi.  Not only does it look nice in my only bathroom (shocking), but it also transitions from a potty, to a potty training seat and cute stand-alone stool. 

Ubbi-3-in-1 potty

Another great weapon? Potty training pointers from a pediatrician. Dr. Tiffany Otto Knipe of Washington Market Pediatrics in Tribeca says the most important thing is to follow my child’s lead. 

“Really, this is one of the few things in parenting that it is better to be one step behind your child on – rather than ahead,” she says. “Let your toddler show you when he or she is ready. You may end up waiting longer than your friends to have a potty-trained child – but chances are, the process will be shorter, smoother and have fewer long-term negative consequences. It’s worth the wait, trust me.”

Below she offers a few more great tips to make your potty training a breeze:

Around what age would you recommend we start looking for signs of potty training readiness? And what are the signs?
This is an age of tremendous emotional and psychological growth for your child. Potty training encompasses many of the issues your toddler is sorting out now, including independence, self-regulation (mastery of his or her body) and social awareness. Most children are ready sometime around age 3 years. Some kids are ready at 2 and some not until 4 years. There is a huge range of “normal.” Often, first children take longer to train than their younger sibs – because the younger ones have their older sibs as models for their behavior.

In order for your child to be ready for using the potty, he needs to be able to sense the urge, know what that feeling means, then be able to verbalize the need for assistance or be physically capable of getting to the bathroom and taking care of business. The very first steps towards potty training involve your child knowing (and usually caring) when his diaper is full. Taking off the diaper, complaining or crying when it is dirty – those are all good signs! When your child starts to show interest in YOU or your spouse or his sib using the bathroom – that too, is a first step. Encourage him to join you in the bathroom. Let him watch and see what happens in there. Have Potty Parties! Get him his own potty to sit on next to you while you are on yours. Let him first sit with his clothes on and get comfortable with the seat. If he wants to sit on the potty with his clothes and diaper off – even better!

You can help facilitate your child making that mind-body connection by letting him run around naked (especially from the waist down). Summer time is an ideal time to do this – if you have a yard, you can let him run around outside naked. Then “accidents” are not so bothersome. They are simply a perfect way for your child to figure out how his body works!

Ubbi_3-in-1 potty

We’ve heard so many potty training methods. The “three day” one seems to be pretty popular. Are you a fan?
Don’t put pressure on your child – or yourself – by imposing time limits and structures on potty training. Follow your child’s lead. When he is ready to use the potty, he will.

Lots of kids seem to be OK when it comes to peeing in the toilet, but going Number Two seems to be the tough one. Any tips on getting your little one to poop in the potty?
This is more often an issue when potty training gets imposed on your child. Remember, you are following HIS lead. If he wants to poop in his diaper – let him. Then open up the diaper together, show him the poop and with his help, flush it down the potty. Let him flush and say goodbye to the poop. Kids often see their poops as part of themselves – and it may require a little ceremony to let it go. Go along with it. He will get the message eventually. Whatever you do, do not reprimand him for pooping in the diaper. If he is able to tell you he needs a diaper to poop in – you are more than half way there because: 1) he recognized the feeling/urge, 2) he understood what that urge meant and 3) he was able to verbalize the need for assistance. Now the only teensy hurdle you need to overcome, is getting the poop IN the potty. You can praise your child for what he DID accomplish, and remind him the next step for a Big Kid is to get the poop right into the potty.

What are your thoughts on using rewards (M&M’s, stickers) after successful potty sessions?
Positive rewards and interactive games are all great to use when potty training! Remember, there are lots of incremental steps that most kids need to take in order to be potty-trained – so praise each one. Don’t just focus on praising the “goal,” for example, when your child tells you he needs to pee and then does so on the living room floor. Try something like this: “That was great how you listened to your body and then told me you had to pee! Next time, let’s try to get the pee in the potty.” 

For boys, throwing some fruit loops or cheerios in the potty can be fun target practice and make peeing in the potty fun. Reward the successes, but never, ever, punish or reprimand the failures when it comes to potty training. Your child WANTS to be successful at this – really, he does! He WANTS to please you! But he is likely not going to do any of it until he is READY. On his own terms. Be patient. Your child is not going to kindergarten in diapers.

This information is meant only as a guideline, not as medical advice. It is important to discuss this topic with your child’s pediatrician.

Illustration by Miranda Bruce for Well Rounded NY.

This post was brought to you by Übbi who is giving away a 3-in-1 potty from Übbi to one lucky reader. Enter below! 

Übbi 3-in-1 Potty

Alexis Barad-Cutler

Alexis Barad-Cutler

ALEXIS BARAD-CUTLER is an Associate Editor and a frequent contributor to Well Rounded. A children's book author and essayist, she writes candidly and often humorously about the "stuff no one talks about in Mom Group" for sites such as Romper, Glamamom, Mommy Nearest, and other online outlets. You can read more of her work on website, or you can follow her on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

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