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Parenting 101

Potty Training 101

Help Your Child Achieve This Important Milestone

March 01, 2011
For many parents, just the thought of potty training makes them squirm uncomfortably. However, the process doesn't have to be toilsome. This process marks an important milestone in your baby's life and will leave him with a new sense of accomplishment and independence.

Although some claim that babies can be trained at age one or even younger, most pediatricians agree that baby's lack both the physical ability to hold their urine and bowel movements and the mental ability to make the connection between the need and the act until they are much older. "Under 12 months, babies have no conscious control. It's a connection between the bladder and the brain that is not yet fully developed in a young child," says Dr. Rachel Greenfield of Circle Center Pediatrics." "Every child is different, but the most common ages to begin potty training are from around 18 months to age 2 ˝."

"This can be a controversial issue as different parents believe different things," adds. Dr. Quinn Bensi of the St. Vincent Physician Network. "The process is often lengthy and if [parents] begin too early, it can actually take much longer."

Dr. Bensi recommends that parents take the cues from their child and lists certain signs that parents should look for that will indicate that their child is ready to begin the potty training process. Signs include:

• The child is able to stay dry for up to 3-4 hours at a time.

• The child awakens from his/her nap with a dry diaper.

• Bowel movements have become predictable and occur at basically the same time every day.

• Dirty diapers irritate the child and he indicates he would like to be changed.

• The child begins to hide or look for a private spot to have a bowel movement.

"Your child should also have a developing vocabulary and be old enough to become excited about the process," adds Dr. Bensi.

If a child is resistant to the process, it's common for parents to become frustrated. However, it's important to remember to remain positive and give your child his space. "If a child resists, it's best to just lay-off," says Dr. Sarah Hill with Riley at IU Health Methodist. "Give it a month and always remain positive. There is no room for negativity in the process or it will not work."

Pediatricians agree that a rewards system is often a good idea, however most recommend that you keep the rewards small, such as a sticker or a story. In addition, "the reward needs to be immediate [after a successful potty training moment] and should be accompanied by lots of praise," says Dr. Bensi.

"Know what motivates your child," adds Dr. Hill. "Know what makes your child proud and excited."

The majority of children master potty training by their early 3's. However, If a child is 3 ˝ to age 4 and is still resistant or not showing the usual cues, it may be time to consult your pediatrician. "There could be many factors involved," says Dr. Greenfield. "There could be constipation or perhaps a bladder infection that is making the process painful."

For others, it can be a normal part of the process for a child to master urinating in their potty, but take a little longer for bowel movements. If this is the case, your pediatrician can recommend methods for taking the process gradually and making it a less fearful experience for your child.

Occasionally, an older child who has been potty trained for months, or even years, may revert and begin having accidents on a regular basis. "Regression is normal and can be caused by anything," says Dr. Bensi. "The bladder and bowels can be emotionally triggered." There can be many factors involved and it is a normal occurrence for children experiencing some sort of major change in their lives such as beginning a new preschool, a new sibling being introduced to the household, a divorce, a new home or even an illness. Often the parents—who are also going through a change—can begin to feel frustrated. Again, it's important to remain positive and not punish the child. Negativity will only prolong the process. Once a child falls into a routine, it does not usually take long for them to feel more comfortable and secure and resume their previous toileting habits.

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Rebecca Todd is a freelance writer and the author of the book "What's the Point?" Visit her at rebeccatodd.wordpress.com.

Tags: Parenting, Toddler

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