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If you're like most parents who are still monitoring their two-year-olds' pee pees and poops, you're
looking forward to potty training your toddler and moving closer and closer to a diaper-free
household. And who could blame you? In addition to being expensive and messy, diapers may
even serve as daycare roadblocks. So, it's in everyone's best interest to get the job done sooner
rather than later...
Understandably, however, you may be unclear on best method for potty training toddlers and may
even be completely clueless. If so, don't worry - none of us was born knowing how to potty train
children (it's definitely a learned skill) and you can get reliable help for real-life experts... like me.
I've been potty training toddlers for the past thirty years and have witnessed firsthand what
approaches and techniques work best. I have also counseled hundreds of parents along the way
and conducted extensive research in order to learn what pediatricians, child therapists, and other
And although potty training methods vary widely there are four basic approaches. The first is,
what I call the "let-children-teach-themselves." Widely used in the United States, it is based on a
belief that potty training is a developmental skill that cannot be "taught" - much like walking,
talking and eating solid foods. In other words, children will be potty trained when they are ready.
End of story.
To be perfectly blunt, this is hooey, and in my opinion has far more to do with parental
preferences than it does with sound scientific theory. Simply put, this "method" requires little or no
preparation and easily fits into busy lifestyles. Why? Because parents aren't doing anything! Yes,
they may introduce their children to the potty, but that's about it.
As a result it usually takes 1-6 months longer to potty train; often interferes with childcare
opportunities because these toddlers are that much older when they're trained; diapers are
needed longer, so parents waste money; and it's more difficult to potty train these toddlers
because their behaviors are more entrenched.
The second method for potty training toddlers is one that is not commonly used in the United
States and practiced mostly in developing nations. I call it the "potty-train-babies" approach.
Parents using this process, hold their infants over the potty to catch their eliminations. It's based
on the theory that babies will gradually learn to signal before they urinate or have bowel
movements. And while there is scientific evidence that supports this theory and it certainly puts an
early end to diapers, it is extremely impractical for most families. Why? Because it requires an
extreme level of attention and commitment from parents, grandparents, babysitters, and anyone
else who comes in contact with the babies. Also, as you might expect accidents are
commonplace so time and energy spent cleaning up can be onerous. In other words, this is
definitely not potty training made easy!
The third basic approach is the "practice-makes-perfect" method; over time parents introduce
their children to the potty and conduct regular teaching sessions with them. The system is based
on the belief is that toddlers will eventually "get it" and transition from diapers to pull-ups to
Again, in my opinion, this method sets parents - and children - up for failure for three major
1. The vast majority of parents cannot remain consistent over the extended period of time this
requires (i.e. practice sessions must be frequent and regular in order for this to work). Also, you
should be aware that this is a slow and circuitous road to a diaper-free world, so be prepared to
hunker down for the long haul if go this route.
2. Using pull-ups and/or diapers during the training process sends complicated mixed messages
to toddlers and severely hampers the potty training process
3. Children are learning to use the potty at their parents' initiation, not their own! That's not the
objective here... the goal is to potty train toddlers, not parents!
The fourth basic method for potty training toddlers is the accelerated approach. Although there
are many different techniques used within this fundamental mode - some good, others not - I do
recommend this method.
Here is a quick overview of an accelerated method which combines time-tested, wholesome
behavioral modification techniques within a positive, nurturing and emotionally supportive
o Before potty training toddlers parents assess their developmental and chronological readiness
o One parent (or teacher) commits to potty training process for 24-48 hours and sets up a one-onone teaching environment and prepares carefully in advance.
o The potty training teacher follows specific step-by-step instructions, which are designed to
accelerate the potty-training process
o Potty training is accomplished in much less time than traditional methods and provides a
wonderful bonding experience for parents and their children.
In the end, however, how you potty train your child will be a personal decision based on your
lifestyle and preferences, and regardless of which method you choose, it's important to keep the
following in mind...
1. Toddlers have a profound and earnest wish to grow and master new skills, even though they
may act as stubborn as mules! Children want to be potty trained, even if they don't show it!
2. Normal, healthy toddlers between the ages of 18 and 27 months should be physically and
developmentally ready for potty training. If you have any concerns regarding your child's
readiness, check with his/her pediatrician.
3. Parents who have a well-thought-out and workable plan - and execute it properly (this is a big
one) - are far more successful (i.e. their children are potty trained faster, less stressfully, and
more completely) than those who do not. Period.
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