Thanks for your FB suggestions to post today about potty training. (I’ll post about anxiety on Monday.  I’ll also take a look at the other suggestions.) Thanks to everyone who put in requests!


I am a pediatrician and mother. I am supposed to love all things kids. But I am here to tell you that I HATE potty training. Everything about it is awful. I hate cleaning up “accidents.” I hate the panic that arises as you hear your child announce: “I need to go potty!” when you’re sitting in traffic or in a store without a bathroom. Knowing that I have to potty train my youngest still is already causing me anxiety–I’ll cover this one next week.

I wish I had a magic bullet or one sure-fire, easy way to do tell you how to potty train, but the longer I am in this business of motherhood and doctoring, the more I realize that it is really child-dependent. Here’s what I know:

Many quick “methods” exist out there promising success. You’ll hear from your neighbors and read online about all the success they had, which only makes you feel bad about your own failure. But take heart. When it came time for me to potty train my first child, I decided to become well-versed in all the methods. I decided I was making a “career investment.” First, I needed to know about all the methods so I could educate my patients on them, and I figured it may help me potty train my own child. My son was exceptionally bright (no parental bias). He was showing “interest,” and I was determined he was going to be potty trained at 20 months. I now die laughing at how naïve I was. I tried the sticker charts, the prize baskets, trial runs, the cool undies, reasoning. I even bought a Potty Scotty (it mortified my husband), and which my child figured out would pee by pushing the leg, and he too was offended by it. They ALL failed. In the end, I had to wait for my kid to be ready.

How do you know your child is ready to potty train?

  1. Your child is interested. He talks about the potty. He wants to sit on the potty. He wants to watch you go potty. He wants to flush the potty. Etcetera, etcetera.
  2. Your child can physically get on and off the potty.
  3. Your child can pull his pants and underwear up and down.
  4. Your child is dry for hours at a time (rather than having a little bit of pee in the diaper at all times).
  5. Your child likes some “alone time” to go the bathroom (the child will often hide in the corner to poop, etc.).
  6. Your child can verbalize the need to go.
  7. For most kids this is between the ages of 2-3 years.

Once you’re pretty sure your child is ready, get set, and go for it. Go to the store together and choose some super cool character undies. Then ceremoniously put them in the drawer. The next day (and every day thereafter) ask your child, “Are you ready to wear big boy undies today?” (or big girl panties?). When your child says “no,” put on the diaper and don’t make a big deal of it. One day, your child will say “yes.” When that day happens, be prepared to go for it. Remind your child that there is no peeing on “McQueen” or “Elsa” or else he or she has to wear diapers again. If and when your child has an accident, put him or her back in diapers and say that you’ll try again tomorrow.

Don’t potty train if:

  1. You’re about to have a new baby (otherwise, your child will just regress right back into diapers).
  2. You’re about to go on vacation (who wants the mess/hassle).
  3. You’re in the middle of moving (give your child a chance to adjust).

The Super Stubborn Child

Every so often I encounter a very stubborn child that just simply doesn’t want to potty train. They can, but don’t want to do it. This is the very-verbal-practically-reading, 3 ½ year old that says, “No, I don’t want to use the potty. I want to wear diapers.” I get a kick out of these kids. These kids are ready; they are just trying to out-smart you. If you’ve got one of those kids, you need to figure out what speaks to them and motivate properly. My second child was one of these kids. For 2 months previously, I asked her daily if she wanted to wear big-girl panties and go on the potty, and she said “no.” I told her daily that on her 3rd birthday she had to wear big-girl panties if she wanted to have a party and be a big girl. The day of her birthday, she cried, said “no, I want to wear diapers.” Then she reluctantly put on her panties for the party and never had an accident!

Good luck!