Aug 4, 2014

Dr. Gellner: Everybody learns to go to the toilet eventually, but when should you try to teach your child, how do you teach your child, and what do you do when there are problems? Potty training is what we're going to discuss today, I'm Dr. Cindy Gellner for the Scope.

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Dr. Gellner: Everyone knows potty training is when you actually have a child go to the bathroom by themselves in big boy or big girl underpants, and you don't have to deal with diapers anymore. But how do you know when your child is ready? And how can you get your child ready for toilet training? Well, the first thing I have to remind parents is don't begin training until your child is clearly ready. There are some kids that are ready at like 15 - 18 months, there's other kids that like "Yep, no, I'm two and a half, and I have no interest." Readiness just doesn't happen, you have to let your child be comfortable with the idea of going to the bathroom, and you can help them get ready by starting at around 18 months teaching them how their body works.

You know, you could have different words, you could say "Do you have to go pee?" "Do you have to poop?" Things like that. It's okay to use those kind of words with your child, because they know what it means. Use words that your family is comfortable with, and clarify that everybody does this, this isn't something that's special, everybody has to go, and its okay, they will learn. Don't refer to like poop or pee as like yucky, because then they're going to get turned off by the whole idea, and just feel like, "I don't want to have that stuff coming out of me, that's gross." You want to make it a positive experience.

You also want to make changing diapers pleasant so he'll come to you if he needs a diaper change, and say "Oh look, I see you went you know, in your diaper. Okay are you ready to be changed? Do you want to be dry now?" Change your child frequently, so that your child is going to prefer the dry diaper, because pretty much by the time they're two they don't want to be sitting in that stuff, they're like this is not comfortable anymore, I want out of this. They will start learning "Hey, I like being dry." Whenever they do come to you and say, "I need a new diaper, I pee'd, I pooped" then you say, "Oh, good job," lots of praise. Kids respond really well to praise.

Around 22-21 months, you can start teaching them about the potty, a lot of people will get a potty chair. The idea is for the toilet and the potty chair to be a privilege, "Big kids are doing it, you can do it, you're going to be a big kid soon." Have them come and help pick out the potty, make it their own special chair, they can even find one that's kind of plain and put stickers on it, or put their name on it so they know "Hey this is mine, and it's not anybody else's," and it just becomes something special for them. You can even have them watch an older toilet trained sibling use the toilet, so they realize "Oh, okay, well my older sibling is doing this, so he had to go through this, or she had to go through this, so I can do it too." Make sitting on the potty fun, and even if you just do practice runs where you're just sitting there, and you just say "Okay, let's go try and sit on the potty and you get some books, and some things like that to just have your child sit and be on the toilet, and understand this is how I go. And then you might notice as you're sitting there reading, it happens, then you get to have big praise, it's where you get to be a cheerleader for your child.

As they start learning how to use the toilet a little bit better, usually they're going to be around two, you can start reading books about the potty. There's several books, there's books for girls, and books for boys that talk about using the potty. So you can read those while your child is sitting on the toilet, and so they can realize "Okay, this is something to do, and I can do it." When they start doing it ca couple of times, then you can present them special underwear, you have no idea how exciting new underwear is to a child that is potty trained until you've actually potty trained a child. They see "Wow, I get new big kid underwear." It's an incentive for your child, "If I get out of diapers, I can wear this cool underwear, it's got my favorite characters on it."

So how long should you let your child sit on the toilet during these practice runs? You want to do the practice runs at appropriate times, normally about 30 minutes after your child will eat a meal, that's when their body wants to normally go. So that's a great time to say, "Hey, let's try to go potty." You can also be looking for those other little signs, the facial expressions they make, the grunting, the holding their privates, the pulling at their pants, the squirming around doing the potty dance. When they start doing those go "Okay. Let's try to go. I think your pee or poop wants to come out, let's go use the potty." Try sitting them on the toilet, and if after about a minute or so they're not quite sure if they want to stay there, that's okay, never force your child to sit on the toilet. But if he sits there for about five minutes, and nothing happens say, "You know what? That was a really good try, let's try again later." So don't let them stay on there for too long.

When your child does have success, that's when you get the treats, you can use things like an animal cookie, or they get a sticker for a successful trip to the potty, or even if they just try to go give them a reward, you can give them a big hug and say, "Oh, I'm so glad you tried." When your child does something really big like, when they walk over to the bathroom on their own, you don't have to look for the signs, they come up to you and they say, "I got to go pee," and you're like, okay, good they're actually getting this, and you and take them and you have a successful trip, that's when you can pull out the big rewards you know, like a matchbox car, or a new doll, or something like that. You don't have to make them really big rewards, but something that's significant for them that's inexpensive.

If your child is trying really hard to go, and just doesn't make it, and this happens. Kids no matter what age they are they can keep playing, and be like, "Oh I need to go to the bathroom, oh but I want to finish this game," whoops there's an accident. Don't reprimand your child, that's the one thing too, you can tell them, "Hey, I know it makes you sad that you weren't able to get to the potty on time. I know you like to be dry, you'll get better at this." Try to keep the negativity to a minimum, because you want to make this a positive experience. So change your child into dry clothes, and have them help you change into clothes, and just really try to say, "It's okay, we'll try again another time."

Pressure or force to try and make a child feel bad for having an accident can be completely unproductive. It can actually backfire, and you can lose all of those positive steps you just did.

Once your child is doing really well with the potty training, and they're actually going to the toilet about ten or more times spontaneously, they're not having any accidents in between, they're coming to you, they're saying they need to go, they're going by themselves without even telling you, and they come out and say, "Hey mommy, look I pee'd in the potty" that's when you can try to switch over directly to underwear and ditch the diapers. Always still use the diapers for like naps, and bedtime, and when you're traveling outside the home when they can't really just get to a toilet on time.

So what do you do if no matter everything you've tried, you've done the rewards, you've tried to be positive, you've really lost any hope that your child is ever going to be potty trained? Well there are some kids who are just resistant to toilet training. If your child is over three, and just won't sit on the potty or the toilet, ask your pediatrician about ideas, because most of us have some tips that we can come up with working with you and your individual child that's going to work for you. Almost every child is potty trained by age five, so by the time they're ready for school they should be in underwear, and doing well.

Toilet training is something that we've all done, and we've all been successful at, and it will happen, just keep positive, make it a fun experience, and let your child know what a good job that they are doing when they actually do go.

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