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Posted on Wed, Nov 23, 2011 : 5 a.m.

Accidents are to be expected when toilet-training a toddler

By Ask Dr. K

DEAR DOCTOR K:

My son is almost 3 ,and I think he's ready for toilet training. Is there a "right" way to toilet-train?

DEAR READER:

Every toddler's readiness for toilet training is different. Some children might be ready at around 18 months; others not until 3 years of age or older. You'll need to match your specific approach to your child. But some general guidelines apply to most children.

How can you tell if your toddler is ready to be toilet-trained? Look for the following signs:

-- Being dry for two to three hours at a time during the day;
-- Having a relatively predictable pattern of bowel movements;
-- Being able to recognize and communicate when he has to go;
-- Discomfort at wearing a dirty diaper;
-- Being interested in using a potty seat or toilet;
-- Asking to use "big-boy" underwear;
-- Being willing and able to follow directions.

When you see several of these signs, start toilet training. Be patient and be prepared for setbacks. Once you've decided to start:

-- Get a potty, preferably one that sits on the floor.
-- Put the potty in the playroom. Let your child sit on it and play with it.
-- Move the potty into the bathroom.
-- Encourage your child to sit on her potty at least once a day for a few minutes while you sit on the toilet.

Boys should sit, too. It's easier for boys to learn to use the toilet while sitting down.

-- When you think your child may need to use the bathroom, ask him if he'd like to use the potty. If he isn't interested, don't force him.
-- If your child happens to urinate or have a bowel movement while sitting on the potty, be excited. If nothing happens, do not be disappointed or angry.
-- Don't rush to flush. Flushing is fun for some children but scary for others.
-- Remind your child to go every hour or two.
-- Expect accidents. Wetting and soiling accidents are a normal part of toilet training.

A friend of mine once told me, "Probably the most important accomplishment of my life was being successfully toilet-trained. And darn if I remember it." It is a big deal, but it's not something that a parent should worry about. It's going to happen anyway. It's just a matter of how smoothly goes the transition from diapers to underwear. These tips should help.

(Dr. Komaroff is a physician and professor at Harvard Medical School. Go to his website to send questions and get additional information: www.AskDoctorK.com.)

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