Time To Ditch the Huggies?

Dear Mamas,
When is the right time to potty train? I am definitely ready and I think she is too. How do I tell? She’s 14 months now.
Emma’s mom

Dear Emma’s Mom,

First of all, congratulations on being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel! It’s such a big deal for everyone when you can actually think about getting rid of the diapers. They never bothered me much, but it was great to know we could finally go somewhere without lugging all that stuff with us or wondering where we would be able to “make a change.”

It’s also such a milestone for your baby and no doubt you are starting to imagine her becoming more and more independent. Freedom beckons! All good stuff.

Here’s the deal though. As far as I’m concerned, it’s not something you want to rush. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking about waiting until your child is 7 years old — although believe it or not, that is becoming a rather questionable trend in some parts.

I’m also not a fan of the other extreme which involves beginning the process when the baby is an infant –we’re talking sometime between birth and 4 or 5 months old here. What’s up with that?  To each his own I guess, but I say minimize the stress and strain on everyone and do it when you know that your child can nail it pretty fast.

Sometimes, they literally tell you when they’re ready. My daughter strolled into the kitchen one day when she was around 20 months old, buck naked. I asked where her clothes were and she looked me in the eye and announced, “Mommy, no more diapers!” She wasn’t kidding around, either. She was daytime-trained in a couple of days.

But that’s a little unusual. The vast majority will be ready a little later than that. So unless you get those loud and clear signals that now’s the time, I recommend that you hold off until she’s in her two’s. She will be ready and able to be successful by then and if you are prepared to really zone in on the training you can expect her to have it down within a few days to a week.

Once the time is right, this program should get you there pretty fast:

1. Wait until your child is at least 2 ½ before you start trying. If she can keep her diaper dry for a couple of hours at least and can follow simple instructions she is probably ready to succeed — if you stay focused. But remember, she will still need sleep-time diapers for many more months.

2. Shop for the big-kid-cool underpants and the potty chair together. Make the mood celebratory and let her help to set it up so she is invested in and excited about the process.

3. Have her stick to underpants only (no pants or shorts over them) when working on potty training – makes hopping on and off the pot quick and easy.

4. Make sure you have LOTS and LOTS of underpants on hand. This is not the time to skimp.

5. Hang out at home and ask her every 10 to 15 minutes if she wants to go “try.”

6. Use stickers and small candy treats like M&M’s or Skittles as a special reward for each successful attempt. This works best since (hopefully) candy is NOT a regular part of her diet.

7. Once you start the training, switch to pull-ups only for sleep-time diapers. They are more like underpants and reinforce the idea that she is moving away from diapers.

8. If you end up later with a son, too, Cheerios make great “targets” for little boys to try to hit in the toilet as they’re working on their aim.

9. Once you have made the switch to underpants, be sure to carry a couple changes of clothes AND shoes with you for months to come. Accidents will happen and you don’t want to be caught empty handed.

10. Be supportive when accidents do happen. Remind her that she is learning how to do something new and is bound to make mistakes. Keep your tone light, don’t give up, and move on!

Good luck to you both!

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Ellen W. Schrier, LCSW, is a family therapist and the mother of three adolescent/young adult kids.

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2 responses to “Time To Ditch the Huggies?”

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