Aug 11

Potty Training Challenge: Daycare (Part 1)

Potty Training DaycareYou might be hoping that your child’s daycare / nanny / babysitter will potty train your child for you.  On the other hand, you might be terrified that they will mess things up and cause setbacks in your training!


This blog is the first in a two-part series about daycare.  Part 1 is about working with your caregiver, and part 2 contains some tips to help prepare your child. 

Children need structure and stability.  They need expectations, consequences and rewards to be predictable.  You can’t change the rules of the game throughout the day or week and expect them to keep playing along.  Consistency is the key to any potty training plan, and it’s hard enough to be consistent when just one person is doing all the work.  Throwing a partner into the mix complicates things, and adding an outside care provider is an even bigger challenge.

In order to conquer the challenge of potty training a child who attends daycare, you will need proactive communication, and you will need to advocate for your child’s needs.

My recommendations here assume that you have laid some potty training groundwork before your child goes to daycare.  The common scenario is that the child has some successes but also still has lots of accidents and isn’t consistent yet.


Working With Your Caregiver

Before you begin potty training, speak with your care provider about their normal training approach.  Why?

  • Their experiences might help you improve your plan, or
  • Their policies might cause you to tweak your plan

If your son or daughter attends a daycare center, there are likely several more children in their classroom and the policies for training may be firm.  Don’t expect them to have time for one-on-one training with your children when there could be 10 or 15 other children to keep an eye on.

If you have a nanny or use friends or grandparents for care, things might be a bit more casual and flexible around potty training.  You may have more opportunity to influence things than with a formal daycare center.  Or you might find just the opposite, because someone else’s furniture or carpet are at risk of being peed on!

In either case, if you firmly disagree with their training approach or policies, look for areas where they might be willing to compromise.  Two important areas where I recommend a discussion:


1.  If Your Caregiver Requires Disposable Training Pants:

Some caregivers have a policy of requiring diapers or disposable training pants until a child is accident-free.  Some may allow underwear until 1 or 2 accidents and then revert to diapers or pull-ups.  Others may require diapers or pull-ups until the child can reliably initiate their potty trips on their own.  There are so many variations!

Potty Training - ProductsYou need to know that this may delay your child’s potty training progress, or cause regressions.  Read my thoughts on disposable training pants HERE.  A lot of parents who come to me needing help are trying to undo problems caused by disposable training pants.

I recognize that accidents are not sanitary for a caregiver that watches several children at a time, and bare bum or underwear may not be appropriate.  There are three alternatives that represent a good compromise (presented in order of preference):

  1. Cloth training pants.  My favorite cloth training pants and other potty training products can be found HERE.
  2. Underwear with plastic underpants over top
  3. Underwear with disposable training pants over top


All of these alternatives will allow your child to feel wet, and are therefore better than using disposable training pants or diapers, which wick away moisture so fast that children barely even know if they have peed.  When children don’t feel wet, or caregivers don’t notice small leaks, it gives permission for the child to keep doing what they are doing.  Many children will realize they’ve gotten away with doing what they’re not supposed to do, and this can derail training rather quickly as the potty is suddenly seen as optional.

If your caregiver allows underwear be sure to take 5-8 pairs to school each day along with lots of extra clothes, and even plastic bags for dirty clothes to be used in the event of an accident.


2.  If Your Caregiver Uses Scheduled Potty Trips:

Some caregivers have a strict schedule of putting children on the potty every 30/45/60 minutes, which is usually an attempt to prevent accidents.  This doesn’t teach the child that they are supposed to be listening to their body, and it keeps the bladder empty so that they don’t independently recognize the signs of needing to go.  In turn, this can result in a child that struggles to initiate their own potty needs.  I recently wrote a blog about this HERE.


If your child is easygoing, you might be okay.  If your child is persistent and independent, this approach can create stubbornness, tantrums and tears.  Putting a child on the potty when they don’t have to go is a recipe for the potty to become a battleground.  .

I would recommend that at daycare’s set intervals, the child be given a “dry check”.  This involves asking the child if they are dry, validating checking their underwear, and congratulating them if they are in fact dry.  If you are using stickers or treat rewards, follow with a reward.  This can be followed by a reminder to “let me know when you need to use the potty”.  I’m not against the child being prompted to potty before nap time or before an outing, but these types of prompts or forced potty visits should be minimized.


Ensure Your Approach is Clear

Let your caregiver know exactly what your potty training plan is.  I recommend making some notes and actually handing them to your caregiver.  Questions that should be answered in your notes:

  • Have you been doing a bare bum approach, using underwear, using pull-ups, etc?  What is the previously agreed approach for daycare based on your prior conversations?
  • Have you started training for naps/nights yet?  If you child has naps at daycare, be sure to cover how you would like naps should be handled.
  • What do you say and do for successes and accidents?  Is there a reward system in place (stickers, treats)?  Consistency at daycare would be very beneficial for the child.
  • How well has your child been doing?  How long does he/she generally go between potty trips?  If you’d like your child to be prompted      (reminded) about the potty, or for dry checks to be done, what is the appropriate time interval based on your experience so far?


potty training daycareTry not to present this in a way that suggests you know better how to potty train a child, or in a way that conveys an assumption that the caregiver will do things “wrong”.  I recommend saying something like “We started training on Friday and <insert child’s name>> is making good progress.  Consistency between home and daycare will ensure that <insert child’s name> doesn’t get confused.  I know how busy things are during the day so I thought I’d jot down a few notes for your convenience.”


The above advice relates to the dialogue you should have with your daycare.  Let me know what you think, and if you have any other great advice for parents that I’ve missed.  Stay tuned for part 2 of this blog which will have some tips to prepare your child for potty training at daycare.



Jun 30

Potty Training Judgment

We’ve all heard about the so-called “mommy wars”, or “mom-petition”.  Whether it’s breastfeeding / formula feeding, or cloth /disposable diapers, or co-sleeping, or making your own baby food, or feeding all organic foods….everyone seems to have an opinion on everything.  If you’re not doing what someone else is doing, then the assumption is that you must be ruining your child in some way.  The only possible result of all the competition and comparisons is to make some people feel like they don’t measure up.

© Olaf Schulz -

There is more than one way to parent a child, and just because we choose different paths or make different decisions doesn’t mean that one person is “right” and the other person is “wrong”.  No one “wins” at parenting, and things aren’t black and white.  Competing is like comparing apples and oranges.  We should all expend our precious time and effort on our own family, not on worrying about what other people are doing.

Potty Training Judgment

The judging and comparisons extend to the topic of potty training.  Recently I’ve had moms reach out to me for potty training help, and the following comments have been shared:

  • I’m starting to potty train my daughter at 20 months.  My mom friends all think I’m insane because it’s way too early, and that I’m going to damage her in some way.  My best friend asked why I’m trying to be faster and better than everyone.  I’m not!  I couldn’t care less when someone else decides to potty train.  I just think my daughter is ready, and so am I.
  • My 4-year old is still in diapers and I have failed at potty training several times.  Everyone says it’s my fault for being too easy on him.  He asked for diapers and I gave them back.  We canceled putting him in preschool because he wasn’t trained and wasn’t allowed to attend.  I want him to show me the signs he’s ready, and I just don’t think he’s there yet.  Why is everyone judging me?
  • My son seems to be ready to potty train, and he’s not yet two.  My parents watch him during the day while I work and said they will not follow my potty training plan because boys don’t train until closer to three years told, and I shouldn’t be trying so early.  My mom said I’m going to give him urinary tract infections and create a battleground over pottying.  Is she right?
  • I feel like a failure.  I have tried twice to potty train my 3.5 year old daughter and it’s just not working.  She’s so stubborn and independent, and I just can’t stick with it when she pees on the floor, because it makes me so angry.  I am dreading trying again.  Every time we’re out in public I feel like everyone notices her diapers and judges me.

It saddens me to hear from moms who feel like they are being judged negatively by others.  Potty training is a huge milestone in our children’s lives, and it can already be a stressful journey for many.  Adding pressure and judgment from others (friends, family, strangers) just makes everything worse.


One Goal — Many PathsPath to Potty Training

Always remember that potty training has one goal but many paths.  No two children are the same and no two family situations are the same.  We will all get there.  Try to ignore sideways glances and unhelpful comments from others, and keep on moving forward doing your best.

If I can help in any way with your potty training journey, don’t hesitate to ask.


Jun 12

Potty Training Reward Charts

For many parents, a reward chart is a desired piece of the potty training plan.  Some benefitsPotty Chart of using a sticker chart are:

  • Engaging visuals and characters may assist with the child’s interest the potty training
  • Earning stickers and placing them on the chart may be motivating for the child
  • You both have a visual tracker showing successes

A lot of factors will play a role in whether a rewards chart helps with potty training, such as age, temperament, interest in potty training, interest in stickers, etc.  Some children love to get a sticker and may find a chart really motivating, while others seem to have no interest at all, much to a parent’s dismay.  Keep in mind that you can use a marker or crayon instead of stickers to mark off the spaces if you like.


Here are a few things to think about when you’re looking for a perfect potty training chart for your child:

  1. What behaviors do you want to reward?Potty Chart - Winnie the Pooh
    • At the very beginning of potty training, it may be appropriate to include rewards for behaviours such as dressing/undressing oneself, flushing the toilet, washing hands, and trying to use the potty (even without any success).  It’s important to help your child develop all of the right habits and hygiene related to pottying.
    • Some parents decide to focus on just the key goals of potty successes (“I peed on the potty”, “I pooped on the potty”).
    • If you’re already having potty successes but your child doesn’t initiate, you can change up your reward system and reward chart to reward initiation (i.e. she tells you when she needs to pee).
    • Once a child understands what the potty is for and can use it successfully, I prefer to see the potty training plan shift from per-potty stickers and rewards to a focus on staying dry (using dry checks, and rewards for staying dry all morning or all day) and on child initiation of potty trips.
  2. What style of chart makes the most sense?  Some are set up with days of the week like a calendar, and others focus on the behavior without concern about the day.  You can keep using the same chart for several days, or you can use a new one for each day or each week.
  3. What characters, activities, vehicles, or shapes will your child be drawn to?  Thomas the Train, Dora, Diego, Hello Kitty, Mickey Mouse, Minni Mouse, Tinkerbell, Elmo, Cookie Monster, Winnie The Pooh, Disney Princesses, Spiderman, Toy Story, smiley faces, fire trucks, police cars, flowers, dinosaurs… the options are endless!

Free Printable Potty Training ChartsPotty Chart - Princess

Online you will find thousands of ready-to-print potty training reward charts.  With a little searching, you might find something that suits your needs.

Here are some sites that I like for free printable potty training charts:


Potty Chart Apps for Phones & Tablets

You may want to check out the available apps for your phone or tablet and use an electronic version of a “sticker chart” instead of using the real thing.  We all know that children love to play with our phones and tablets.  For some, your phone might be just the motivation your child needs to sit on the potty waiting for things to happen.  Alternatively, it can be provided as a very motivating potty reward when your child is successful.

Huggies and Pampers both have apps for potty training.  There are several others that I like much better:

  • Potty Time – created by the folks who do the Baby Signing Time series, this app has a story book, sticker chart, and is filled with engaging videos that have songs with great potty messages, like the importance of listening to your body.  Cute cartoon characters and a frog… how can you go wrong?  This is especially helpful for younger children who may not have potty words yet, as the songs teach the related American Sign Language (ASL) signs.
  • Potty Time with Elmo – this apps includes a narrated story, a reward chart with animated stickers, as well as puzzles and songs.


 Potty Charts Available for Purchase

There are lots of professionally packaged reward charts if you’re interested in purchasing something.  Some of the options include potty training tips and certificates as well.


Make a Potty Training Chart

The options for making your own charts are endless!  Get your creative juices flowing and prepare something on a poster board, on the computer, or using a chalk board or white board.  Allow your child to be involved by selecting colors, characters and stickers.  You could even put your child’s photo on it!  I’ve seen some great ones online, such as:

  • A railroad where stickers are placed along the way to a goal.  Once the child gets to the goal, he selects a prize/gift, which can be something small from a goody bag (dollar store items), it could be a bigger item, or it could be a trip to get ice cream with mom.
  • A garden of flowers, where the petals will be colored in by the child after each success.  Filling in a full flower (e.g. 5 petals) or the whole garden could result in a reward.


No matter which type of rewards chart and system you decide to use (if you decide to use one at all), be prepared to change things up regularly in order to continue making progress.  The reward system you use on day 1 may not be the same as what is required on day 5 or day 10.  Also, check out my blogs on common potty training challenges (initiation and withholding bowel movements).  Knowing what types of challenges you might encounter can help you plan accordingly, and will also help you recognize the issues early.


Jun 02

Guest Blog – Potty Training a Special Needs Child

Name: Shanda

Shanda is the first guest blogger on Potty Whiz!  With 4 boys, she has had a lot of potty training expertise, which she shares freely on a Babycenter forum.  In this post she shares some tips that might help other parents of special needs children.


Thank you for this opportunity to write. I was asked to be a guest writer about my journey potty training my autistic son, who also has ADHD, SPD (sensory processing disorder), and a communication disorder (among other diagnosis).

Potty training him was something I didn’t relish doing. Being autistic meant that his expressive language was more advanced than his receptive language – and he only had 5 words at the time. Sooo – you can imagine my reluctance to start. Not to mention, potty training my oldest was a stressful and horrible experience that I didn’t look forward to repeating.


My biggest weapon in potty training my son (I’ll refer to him as J) was chocolate!  He is very motivated in anything by chocolate. So I bought a Potty training M&Msbig 5 pound bag of plain M&Ms. Because of his ADHD, he is very easily distracted, and will not focus on any one thing. So this made it necessary to give very frequent reminders to him. I literally had him check his underwear every 3-5 minutes. It was exhausting, but by the end of day one, he was putting his hand on his underwear, then holding his hand out for the M&M. Many times when he did this, his underwear had slight wetness to it. I then took him to the toilet.  Because he had virtually no words, and even less comprehension, I used virtually no words in training him. Actions speak MUCH louder than words, and this true in this instance. My sentences to him were at most 3 words long. For example at a dry check I said, “dry?” then I put his hand on his underwear. If it was indeed dry I’d say, “Yay, dry!” then give him an M&M. If he was wet, I’d say, “no, wet…potty.” Then we ran to the toilet. With children with a speech delay, you want to model their sentences. Meaning if they only have one word sentences, keep yours to 1-2 word sentences.

Learning to Relax

At the toilet, for the first day or so, I had to hold him in place because he was always wanting to play with different things in the bathroom at such a rapid rate, he couldn’t hold still just to pee. Plus it takes a bit for children to learn how to relax and release. J wasn’t going to learn this by running around trying to play with anything he could. This resulted in him being unhappy, he didn’t want to sit still. I “forced” him to sit still. Once he released a tiny bit, I cheered and hugged him and gave him a few m&ms. Then I pointed at the toilet and said, “more?”. Luckily “more” was one word he did have. Like I said, chocolate is very motivating to him and giving more M&Ms for the release was the ultimate reward. He figured out real quick that it was better to get a small handful for putting his pee in the toilet, then just one for keeping his underwear dry. So by the end of the second day, he was running to the toilet to put his pee there. With children who can’t talk, it is more than enough to have them show what they want by their actions. He was “telling” me he had to go by running to the toilet.

Potty Training - iPadPoop Training

Poop training was a little harder just because there aren’t as many opportunities to learn. Again, actions speak louder than words. I took him with me when I pooped, and I overdramatized pushing. Then I pointed at it and said, “poop.” I had my husband do the same, and I also had him watch his older brother poop. Then every night, I had him sit on the toilet. It is common for children with ADHD and autism to prefer electronic devices for games. So I handed him my husband’s Nintendo DS, and he was content to sit for 20 minutes or more. I just went about getting his older and younger brothers ready for bed. Sometimes we were lucky and he’d poop, other times there was no success. If he produced, I gave him a bigger treat, like starburst or a sucker and his M&Ms, plus a sticker to put on his poop chart. His SPD meant that he had diarrhea more often than not. This meant for very messy accidents to clean, but also made it easier for him to poop, so I’m not sure if it SPD was a help or not, lol.

Night Training

Night training was pretty easy with him. He hated wetting the bed, and hated worse having to be awake while I changed his bedding out. After about 4 nights, he stopped wetting the bed and held it all night. I night trained him at the same time as day time. Once we switched to underwear we stayed with underwear. Otherwise he would have gotten mixed messages and it would have prolonged training.

The hardest part about potty training an ASD, ADHD, SPD child is schedule changes. None of these conditions allow for easy transitions in schedules. But combine all three, and it is downright Hell when his schedule is changed. So once he was potty trained, it took about a year for him to stop having accidents on the weekends. Just having Daddy home from work was enough to be considered a schedule change. When he had these accidents, I implemented the 10 practice runs. This was not meant as a punishment, but to build his muscle memory. His accidents occurred in two places, in the kitchen and at the top of the stairs. To this day, he runs the same path as our practice runs from these places to the bathroom! Even now, three years later, when he has a major disruption to his schedule (like when we went out of town last fall) he has accidents.

It is certainly not the easiest task potty training a special needs child, who can’t communicate, but it is doable. He was 28 months old when I started potty training him. He was pee trained in about 7 days, poop trained in 4 months, night trained in 4 nights. It takes being extremely vigilant, consistent and patient.

May 26

Potty Training Challenge: Child Doesn’t Initiate

Potty Training Challenge: This series of blogs will cover some common challenges that parents run into with potty training, such as withholding bowel movements or urine for long periods of time, or a child that does not initiate potty visits (only going on a parent’s suggestion).


Potty Training Challenge #2: The Child Doesn’t Initiate

pottywhiz.comSo you’ve been potty training for a little while, and things are going pretty well.  Your child uses the potty regularly and successfully.  She said goodbye to diapers and has a drawer full of princess and Dora underwear that she loves and tries to keep dry.  A few accidents here and there are expected for most children, even if your little trainee has been using the potty for a few weeks or more.  You used rewards for the first couple of weeks but have now phased them out and she didn’t seem to mind.

You only have one problem: she goes when you tell her, but she never really initiates on her own.

Potty training is not completed until the child is recognizing the signals their own body is providing and getting to the potty without a parent being the “trigger”.

An expert view from Dr. Barton D. Schmitt in Contemporary Pediatrics, March 2004:

Toilet training can be considered completed when a child uses the toilet or potty on his own with no reminders from his parents.


It’s normal to depend on reminders and parental prompting early in the process, but at some point you need to let your child be in control.  Some children turn potty training into a battleground because they want that control early on, while others are happy to go to the potty when you tell them.   Personality and temperament can play an important role here.

Here are some common reasons that your child might not be able to initiate.

A) Your Potty Training Methodpotty training countdown

This is one area where your potty training method can be playing a role.  Did you use a potty training schedule, where you put your son or daughter on the potty every 30, 60, 90 minutes?  Did you try the timer method, where you set a timer and if they don’t go you set it again for half the time, and so on?  Did you hang out in the bathroom with your child on the potty for 30 minutes at a time, reading books and blowing bubbles?  These types of training methods don’t teach the child that they are supposed to be listening for their body to tell them when it’s time to visit the potty.  I would argue that the parent is more trained than the child.  These methods tell the child that YOU (or the timer) are in charge of potty time, and you are in charge of their body.

Some children will naturally progress from here, and start initiating on their own relatively easily.  Others will need some help.  I actually prefer a training approach that doesn’t start out this way at all, because then you don’t have to “undo” the problem that it causes.

B) Over-scheduling

www.pottywhiz.comSome parents don’t use the methods described above but still find themselves with the same problem, but for a different reason.  You may have avoided scheduling your child’s potty visits and only provide prompts at normal times in your routine, such as before nap, before leaving the house, and before bath time.  Inherently there is nothing wrong with this; children need to learn that there are certain times in our routines that we all visit the bathroom.  But if your schedule is extremely busy with several outings a day, then you might be telling them to “try” or putting them on the potty 3-6 times per day.  Most children don’t use the potty more than that.

If your child is prompted to use the potty more regularly than necessary (i.e. before the bladder is full), then she will never know what a full bladder feels like.  She will also never get a chance to recognize the need to relieve herself, because you are always keeping her bladder half-empty.


C) Use of Diapers / Disposable Training Pants During Awake Times

Some children are doing great with potty training, but due to long road trips or daycare, they are put in diapers or pull-ups.  This won’t hurt your potty training progress with every child, but more often than not I’ve seen this cause a huge regression.  One type of regression might be constant frustrating accidents, where the child no longer cares to get to the potty in time.  Another type of regression is where the child still uses the potty pretty consistently but no longer communicates their needs, and you feel like you have to “put” him or her on the potty.

This is all very logical.  The child has gotten the message that the potty is optional.  If it’s okay to use a pull-up when on a long car ride, or at daycare, then quickly the child will learn that going wherever/whenever (whether in a pull-up or underwear) is much easier than listening to your body and using the potty like a big kid.

Prevent these issues by using cloth trainers, plastic underpants over underwear, piddle pads and a variety of other products to appease daycare or protect car seats in the event of accidents.  My favorite products can be found here.

What Can You Do?

The fix for this problem is relatively easy in theory: hand your child control of potty visits.  In reality, this can be a frustrating process, because in the short term it can result in more accidents than you were having before.  Sometimes it takes 2 steps backwards to go forward again on the right path.  Try not to view accidents as a sign of failure or lack of readiness.  In order to initiate, your child has to learn what a full bladder feels like, hold the right muscles, get to the potty in time, and then relieve herself.  These are several steps that require practice and patience.

Let the child know that she is in charge of her body.  Her amazing body gives her a signal before it’s time to pee or poop.  She has to listen to that signal, stop what she’s doing, and hustle to the potty before it’s too late.  If she has an accident, see if she can finish on the potty.  Be sure to let her know that it’s okay she had an accident, but she needs to help clean up the mess, and change into new clothes.  This isn’t a punishment, but a natural consequence (just like wiping up spilled milk is a natural consequence for knocking over a cup at the table).  Give her a hug and let her know that she can try again next time.

You may find that a full bladder leads to a full release / full accident several times.  When the bladder is very full and the muscles release, it can be hard to stop it.  As infants, our children peed in small amounts and very often, never holding for long periods and then releasing.  Listening to the body’s signals was not part of the process, so this is all new and requires complex workings of several muscles and the brain.

It’s not the number of accidents that will determine if you’re on the right track – it’s the size of the accidents.  You want to see the accidents getting smaller and smaller, indicating that the child is controlling the flow and able to finish on the potty.  Once she is able to stop peeing and finish on the potty, the next step in muscle control is being able to prevent the accident and get to the potty in time.

When you’re working on training your child to be the initiator, I recommend limiting “routine” potty vists to no more than 2-3 a day (e.g. before bed, before going out, etc).

This can be a quick fix for some families and be a long journey for others.  Once you conquer this hurdle your child will be officially potty trained!


May 20

Potty Training Challenge: Withholding Bowel Movements

Potty Training Challenge: This series of blogs will cover some common challenges that parents run into with potty training, such as withholding bowel movements or urine for long periods of time, or a child that does not initiate potty visits (only going on a parent’s suggestion).


Potty Training Challenge #1: Stool Toileting Refusal (Withholding Bowel Movements)

Potty training can be enough of an adventure without a child that withholds their bowel movements.  This can be extremely agonizing for parents and often leads parents to go back to diapers so that the child can comfortable relieve him/herself.  In turn, this can make it even more difficult to get rid of the diapers.

This blog is all about poop!  Here are some of the most common reasons for withholding bowel movements, and tips for parents.

A) Constipation

If your child experiences constipation and painful stools on the potty while potty training, he/she may relate the pain to the potty, and avoid the potty next time it’s time to poop.  This causes a vicious cycle: holding poop in the bowel too long causes it to dry out, which can cause constipation, which can cause painful toileting and more withholding.  It can be difficult to break the cycle.

Potty Training ConstipationSeveral studies have tried to determine if constipation causes stool toileting refusal (STR), or vice versa.  In one study of 380 children, phone interviews were done with parents during the toilet training process.  Approximately 24% of children in the study developed STR, and in most cases it was reported that the child experienced constipation and painful defecation prior to the onset of STR.


B) Age of Potty Training

Another study showed that STR was more common when children were being trained at a later age.  Experiences with my own children and those of families I have assisted with potty training seem to support this theory.

For a long time it was believed that early toilet training could result in refusal to go to the toilet. Taubman published a conflicting result, reporting that children who were late to start toilet training were more likely to refuse.


C) Negative Terms & Embarrassment

Between 15 and 24 months of age, a child becomes much more self-aware and is capable of feelings of embarrassment. A child may start to hide when passing stools.

One study attempted to determine if parents referencing poop as “stinky” or “yucky” played a role in children withholding bowel movements.  One group was directed specifically to avoid using any negative terms about defecation, and another group received no such direction.  The children whose parents avoided negative words and terms had shorter episodes of STR and completed toilet training earlier.  It seems that children felt ashamed of their eliminations when they were told that they were stinky, and as a result tried to prevent future bowel movements.

Several common potty training methods recommend a pre-training period where you tell your child that their poop is “gross” or “yucky”.  Please do not follow this advice.  I have had families approach me for help after having major issues of STR.  In several cases, pediatricians have recommended embarrassing the child about the fact that they still use diapers and shouldn’t be a “baby” anymore, which caused significant potty training setbacks.  I cannot stress enough how harmful these approaches can be.  It is harder to undo a potty training issue than to prevent it in the first place.

What Can You Do?

1) Diet

When you begin potty training, your child’s diet needs to be watched carefully.  Plenty of high fiber foods or even a fiber supplement (talk to your doctor) are recommended to prevent constipation.  Our favorite high fibre foods to prevent constipation are:

  • apricotspotty training high fibre broccoli potty training high fibre pear
  • pears
  • broccoli
  • green peas
  • pumpkin
  • artichoke
  • lentils

2) Age of Potty Training

In my experience and based on the results of several studies, younger children (20 months to 2.5 years) are less likely to withhold.  If potty training can be completed before children reach an age where experimentation, independence and stubbornness take hold, STR is less likely to be an issue.

3) Avoid Negative Terms About Elimination

Everybody poops.  Sure, it’s not pretty, but telling your child that their bowel movements are “gross” or “yucky” will likely not assist with your potty training experience and may cause significant setbacks.  In moments of frustration, take a big deep breath, think positively, and choose your words carefully.  Ensure that everyone who interacts with your child during potty training is on the same page about words to use, and those words NOT to use.  Also, remember that children should never be punished for accidents during potty training.



Benjamin Franklin was right: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.

Unfortunately a lot of parents don’t know about this issue until they run into it themselves.  Do a friend a favor… share this blog and help prevent potty training issues before they happen!

May 12

Potty Training & The Dreaded Public Restroom

I hate them, you hate them, but they are a necessary evil.  I recommend that sometime, very early in your potty training journey, you venture out into the world and have your potty trainee use public bathrooms.  The longer you put it off, the harder it can be for your child to be comfortable using them.

Parents seek out help online every day saying “I’m scared to leave the house with my potty training child”, “I don’t know how to deal with accidents in public” or “We haven’t left the house for 3 weeks and I don’t know how”.  And is it any wonder…


Picture this:

You enter a cramped stall with your toddler, disgusted with the sticky floor and wet toilet seat.  As you cover the seat with toilet paper your toddler is peeking under the stall wall at the neighbor.  You finally get the seat covered, and get your toddler’s pants down, but he is fighting you every step of the way.  He says he doesn’t have to pee, but you know he needs to go, as just a moment ago he was doing his usual “pee pee dance”.  You pick him up and balance him on the toilet while he is squirming, and you’re trying to calm him down.  “Please pee for mommy, and then we’ll go have some lunch”.

Just as he’s finally settling enough to be able to relax and release, the toilet in the neighbor’s stall flushes, scaring your son who is now tense and upset.  Suddenly the toilet you are using auto-flushes and now your child is crying.  You abandon the mission, knowing this is just not going to happen.  Hopefully he can hold it a bit longer, or there’s going to be an accident to clean up.


A lot of moms have been there and it’s not fun.  Unfortunately the next time you try to take your toddler to a public restroom, he may not even want to go in the door, never mind get on the toilet.  The first few experiences are important for making your child feel safe and secure.


It’s important to set yourself (and your child) up for success right from the start.  Try my 3P’s of Public Restrooms: Planning, Practice and Products.


Planningpotty training

Do you know of any malls or restaurants in your area that have family restrooms?  These usually have a little more space, allowing mom and dad to be in there together with the child(ren).  Trust me, extra hands will be helpful, especially the first few times.  There may also be nursing areas, diaper change stations, bottle warming stations, and small toilets for children.  My local malls and my local Ikea had good family restrooms, and so this is where the majority of our outings were when we were early in potty training.  The best thing about family restrooms is that there is no one in the stall next door – they are usually a separate room unto their own.


Family restrooms are also helpful for me as my youngest is very sensitive to loud noises, especially if they are sudden.  I avoid restrooms with those high speed automatic hand dryers.  The regular dryers are fine, but those super-charged ones that have your hands dry in 3 seconds scare him.  Keep this in mind, as you don’t want anything to startle your child.  Even a flush from a stall next door can make a toddler cry and suddenly have public bathroom fears that are hard to get over.


Also in the “Planning” category, you will want to pack a bag with all of the essentials.  In the early days you may find yourself packing much more than you need, but preparation reduces stress, and you’re new to this so you want to be prepared for anything.  Think about changes of clothes for accidents, wet wipes (travel size or in a Ziploc bag), a seat insert if you’ll need to use the big toilet (so your toddler doesn’t feel like he will fall in), and a bag to separate wet clothes from your other items. Early on I used my diaper bag to carry everything, and later downsized to a much smaller bag.



Start small to build confidence, both for you and your child.  Take short trips away from home before you conquer longer trips.  I recommend 30 minutes for a short errand, and then head back home.  You may want to pick a more intimate venue for your first trip, such as a small coffee shop instead of WalMart.


Potty training public washroomBefore your practice run, try to coax your child into using the potty before leaving the house.  Don’t force it.  Say “everybody pees before leaving the house.  Mommy has to pee”.  Take the lead, and hopefully your child will follow.  The first few outings should be flexible enough that once your child pees you can leave right afterwards (versus being tied to a tight schedule and suddenly your child is having a bad morning).


In the car, make sure your child knows that they are not to pee in the car seat, and they need to tell you when they need to go.  Avoid diapering a potty training child for convenience when you’re going out.  Basically this tells the child that you do not trust them, and that pottying is optional.  For some children, doing this a couple of times doesn’t cause a disaster, while for others it completely derails potty training.  Instead in recommend lining the car seat so that you don’t have to remove the entire cover in the event of an accident (great carseat “Piddle Pads” are made by Diono, Kiddopotamus, or Summer Infant).  If you are really against an accident in the car seat or while out and about, try a plastic or nylon cover over your child’s underwear, or use disposable training pants on top of underwear.  Both options allow your child to still feel wet and know that they had an accident.  See my blog on disposable training pants for more information about why these should be avoided if possible.


Every time you are out, visit the restroom first.  You essentially want to introduce your child to the restroom and make sure he/she knows that there is one nearby for when they need it.  Children pick up their cues from us, so we need to model the behaviors we want them to exhibit.  It may help for you to use the public toilet, without also asking or pressuring him/her to give it a try.  This may help your child feel comfortable that it’s safe.  You may have to do this multiple times before they feel comfortable.


Once you have a few successful outings under your belt, you are ready for anything!

Products to Try

There are some products that can make outings and public restrooms a little easier on both of you.  After a lot of trial and error and some wasted money, I came across several products that I love and still use today.  Here are my favorites.  You may want to give some of them a try.



Other tips

  • Children that are used to a potty and now need to poop on a real toilet might have an issue with the splash.  There’s no water in their potty, so this is a new experience.  Try throwing some toilet paper in the toilet first as a “landing pad” so that there is no big splash.
  • Some children don’t like their legs hanging from a big toilet and need their feet firmly planted in order to poop.  Try squatting down in front of the child so he/she can put their feet on your thighs.
  • Stash some stickers or post-it notes in your bag or purse.  You can use them to cover the automatic flushing sensor so that the toilet doesn’t randomly flush and scare your child.


I hope you found my 3P’s of Public Restrooms helpful.  Have I missed anything?  What tips do you have to make public restroom visits easier?


May 06

Potty Training Boys

There is a lot of talk about the fact that boys take longer to potty train than girls. Does science back up the anecdotes you hear? Several studies show that on average, boys are ready to train later than girls, and take longer to train than girls. In one study in Wisconsin in the 1990’s, parents submitted weekly surveys about their potty training experiences with a total of 126 girls and 141 boys. Girls achieved nearly all toilet-training skills earlier than boys, including successful completion of training. Other studies have shown similar results.

Before I discuss some of the common theories why this might be the case, I think it’s important to remember that every child is different. Some boys take to potty training very early and very quickly, and some girls take years to be trained. It’s important not to go into potty training with preconceived notions about how your child will do. Just because you were trained early, doesn’t mean your child will. Just because your husband was in diapers until he was five years old, doesn’t mean his son will be the same. And your son just might be trained faster than your daughter. You never know! My children didn’t follow these generalizations, and yours might not either.


In this blog I will discuss a few theories about why boys take longer to potty train than girls.

Mom and son

1) Mom Is The Primary Trainer

Most of the time, mom handles a lot of the potty training duties. In the book Toilet Learning, Alison Mack says that boys may take a little longer to get the idea when they aren’t spending a lot of time with a same-sex role model. Girls have the advantage of observing someone with the same equipment. Boys might struggle to connect with a role model that is different.

2) Boys Don’t Sit StillBoys playing

Others feel that potty training delays are due to the fact that, generally speaking, boys are more active than girls (how many boys will sit and have a tea party with their stuffed animals for 45 minutes?) It’s difficult to convince a child in constant motion to sit on a potty and wait for things to happen. It’s boring, it requires sitting still, and it’s not fun like doing a swan dive off the couch.

Successful potty training also requires listening to your body and stopping what you’re doing to answer the call of nature. Boys may find it harder to stop playing and get to the potty. This might make accidents more likely, and it might make parents more likely to get frustrated and put away the potty for awhile and try again later.

3) Confusion: Standing Up vs. Sitting Down

Boys can pee in two positions, where for girls there is just one. Standing up to pee adds another level of complexity. For some children this ends up being a distraction and can negatively impact his ability to learn the basics. It can also mean you need to clean the bathroom more often if your son ends up experimenting with his new-found fire hose.

Note that bowel movements and urine tend to come at the same time, and understanding and controlling the different muscles for each can be confusing. When some children “hold”, they tighten all muscles, and when they “release” they push using all muscles. Because of this, standing up can complicate things.

Boy playing4) Boys Don’t Mind Being Dirty/Wet

There is a theory that discomfort with being dirty/wet comes earlier for girls than boys. Discomfort with wet or dirty diapers is a factor that may make training easier. On some checklists, it’s a sign of readiness to look for.

5) Developmental Milestone

Some feel that this milestone is just like many others that girls have a tendency to do earlier, like talking. In addition, advanced language skills might make training easier as you and your child are better able to communicate with each other.


If you are looking for ways to improve your son’s potty training success and timeliness, and feel there is some validity in these theories, try the following:

  • Involve a male role model as much as possible in the potty training process
  • Make potty time fun and different, with special toys and activities that your son likes that are only available when he is sitting on the potty
  • Some children want privacy while using the potty. Others like the one-on-one time they get with a parent when they are trying to relax and wait for things to happen. Experiment with what works best for your son.
  • Teaching your son to use the potty sitting down to start might be a logical approach that emoves the confusion and potentially has him trained faster. Once things are going well, provide the option of standing up. If you want to train sitting down first, make sure role models in the house aren’t modeling the standing option. Your son will be sure to want to imitate, and then you may have trouble getting him to sit.


I can’t stress enough that children are all unique. There are no one-size-fits-all rules… just generalizations and theories.


What do you think? What have your experiences been with potty training boys versus girls?


May 03

Potty Training Tips (2)

As promised, here are some more potty training tips that you may find useful.


Setting the Stage

Start watching potty-related DVDs or using potty Apps (Elmo and others) to help generate interest well before you start asking your child to “try” the potty.

  • My children didn’t really like the Elmo DVD but a lot of kids love it! There are lots of others too, so try a few until you find one that your child really enjoys.
    •  “Look… Elmo uses the potty. Good job, Elmo!”
  • Our favorite with my youngest was “Potty Time” by the folks who make Baby Signing Time. It’s really well done with engaging songs and characters that have great messages (listen to your body, your body is amazing, celebrate successes, help clean up messes, stop what you’re doing and RUN to the potty when you need to go, etc).

Reward System

Figure out what motivates your child and build a reward system. Be ready to change it up regularly though, because once training starts, tweaking the plan ensures that you will keep making progress.Potty Chart

  • There are hundreds of free printable sticker charts online to choose from, buy a good one online (Amazon has lots), or make your own.  Use motivating characters that your child loves. Note that some children just aren’t interested in sticker charts (even if they were an avid-lover of stickers yesterday) and you may need a back-up plan.
  • Some other reward ideas include treats (doesn’t have to be sweets), small new toys (or bowl/basket they can choose from), TV time, playing with phone/tablet while sitting on the potty, a trip to the park after staying dry all morning, special phone calls to grandma after pooping on the potty, etc.
  • You may have to be ready to reward different behaviors on different days. Here is what I mean:
    • Once you reward peeing on the potty, for example, some kids start to give you tiny tinkles in exchange for an M&M. You don’t want your child peeing every 5 minutes for a treat. You need to encourage them to have a full release at each potty visit, so change it up and make sure you’re not being manipulated.
    • Most sticker charts have spots to put stickers for peeing and pooping on the potty. If your child does those things with no issues, but can’t stay dry in between potty visits, you need to adjust your reward system. Set the expectation that the child needs to stay dry between potty visits, and reward dryness after random “dry checks”.
    • In the early potting training days, any little tinkle on the potty should be rewarded, even if 90% of the release went into underwear or onto your floor. Reward the fact that they finished on the potty. This wouldn’t be called an “accident” on day one, you should consider it a success. But after a couple of weeks of an active potty training plan, where a child regularly uses the potty but sometimes still has accidents, this would definitely be considered an accident and should not be rewarded.

Modeling Desired Behaviors

Some potty training books and plans recommend the purchase of special peeing doll to help a child understand bodily functions and how the potty is supposed to be used. The functionality is good and modeling the desired behaviors works great for some children. Go this route if you want, though my advice would be to to skip the expensive doll, but still utilize the “modeling” concept.  Does your child have a favorite stuffed animal or doll?  Why not involve them in the training plan?Use a doll to model potty training

  • Make or buy a small pair of underwear for the doll or stuffed animal. I spent 20 minutes and $2 sewing stuffed bear underwear from fabric that my son picked out at the store. When your child gets their underwear, so does their doll or stuffed animal! It’s a very exciting day for everyone!
  • On day one of potty training, have the stuffed animal or doll pee and poop on the potty. Pee can be a drugstore syringe of water or apple juice. Poop can be prunes. A little “sleight of hand” and your child will think their favorite stuffy or doll just used the potty! Have them give hugs and high 5’s, and help flush and clean up. Now it’s their turn to give the potty a try! Be forewarned – some kids want to have their whole collection of stuffed animals use the potty. Having your child “teach” them to use the potty is absolutely valuable, so encourage it on a regular basis.
    • “I think dolly needs to pee! Let’s go!”use a teddy bear to model potty training
  • When my children were pee trained but still not 100% consistent with poop, the favorite stuffed animal would make reappearance and use the potty to generate some interest and excitement. It formed a good reminder, without me being a nag.
  • If your child uses the potty but doesn’t initiate, again, use the doll or stuffed animal.
    • “What’s that bear? You need to pee? Okay let’s go! Thank you for listening to your body and telling me you have to pee!”

Well, there you have it… another collection of tried-and-true detailed potty training tips. I hope you found this blog useful. Let me know what you think!




May 02

Potty Training Tips (1)

Here are a couple of ideas from “been-there-done-that” moms that may speed your child’s learning and acceptance of the potty and the idea that he/she will soon be giving up their diapers.

The Countdown

At least a few days (but preferably weeks) in advance, do a countdown to the day when your child finishes using diapers and becomes a bigpotty training countdown boy / big girl.  Some mental preparation before the “big day” is helpful so that your child knows what is coming

  • Say things like “only 5 diapers left!  Tomorrow the diapers are all gone and you’ll get underwear!  This is so exciting!”
  • Make a point of discussing that you, grandma, older siblings and visiting family/friends (e.g. nieces, neighbors) wear underwear and put pee and poop in the potty.  Everybody does it, and soon your little one will be part of the club!
  • Have the potty or potty seat available for regular discussion, inspection, and dry runs (clothed).  Your child can sit every time you use the bathroom, before bath time, at the same time that you do diaper changes throughout the day.  This ensures they are comfortable with it.  If they can sit in just a diaper, that’s even better than clothed.  If they are willing to sit naked before getting in the bath, great!
  • Quiz the child.  “Soon you’ll be a big boy.  Where are you going to put your pee and poop?”

Show & Tell

potty training toilet paper 2

Has your child ever seen what poop looks like?  If not, know that some children are scared when they see poop for the first time, and it causes them to reject the potty or withhold.

Poop is not a pretty thing, so you can’t really blame them.  But we need to find ways to make the child more comfortable.  Preferably this happens before you start potty training and before they make their first poop in the potty and get scared by it.

  • If you have been cloth diapering and putting their poop in the toilet for quite some time, you probably don’t have this problem.  The child has probably seen what poop looks like, and knows that it goes in the toilet.
  • If you have been tossing dirty disposable diapers into a Diaper Genie, the child may never have seen what poop looks like.  I would recommend for 2 weeks before starting your potty training plan, to actively show children what poop looks like
    • Option 1 – when they poop in their diaper, show it to them, tell them it goes in the toilet, and have them help flush it
    • Option 2 – when you use the toilet, don’t be afraid to show your child your poop.  I know, it sounds gross. Tell them you feel better after pooping, have him/her give you a high-five for putting your poop in the toilet, and ask if they can help you flush.

I hope you have found these tips helpful.  I appreciate any comments you have.  Stay tuned for more potty training tips tomorrow.

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