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Potty Training: Tips for Choosing the Best Approach

Potty Training 

There are so many potty training methods out there! Learning to use the toilet is an important developmental milestone - and it can be a real challenge to decide which approach will work best for your child. And successfully potty training boys can be different than potty training girls - both in method and timing. 

Potty Training Timing

Remember - each child is different. Most kids learn to use the toilet between the ages of 18 months and 3 years. That’s a big range! Some kids are ready early, some take longer, and that is perfectly normal. 

Potty Training Tips - Readiness

What’s also important to remember is that kids will signal when they are ready. Here are some of the signs to look for:

  • Can your child walk to and sit on a toilet?
  • Can your child pull down his or her pants and pull them up again?
  • Can your child stay dry for up to two hours?
  • Can your child understand and follow basic directions?
  • Can your child communicate when he or she needs to go?
  • Does your child seem interested in using the toilet or wearing "big-kid" underwear?

Best Potty Training Methods

Elimination Communication

Elimination Communication is gaining popularity in the US - but has been popular in many countries for centuries. This method is based on the idea that even babies signal when they need to eliminate. Watch for these signs, hold your baby over the toilet, and they will be trained by the age of two years.

Of course, this method requires lots of commitment early on, and may need a diaper back-up when out of the house. A major benefit, in addition to the early training, is the use of fewer diapers. Better for parents, better for the environment!

3 Day Potty Training

This method is becoming quite popular because of it's relatively quick results - at least when it works. It requires recognizing when your child is developmentally ready (see the signs above). It also requires your family to commit to at least 3 days where the entire focus will be on your child and the goal of using the toilet. 

The basics are: remove your child's diaper on Day 1 and let him or her go naked from the waist down. This will allow them (and you) to know when there are mishaps. Provide lots of fluids to encourage frequent urination. GIve praise and rewards for using the toilet. 

Be prepared - there will be accidents! Proponents of this method suggest playing games on the floor while sitting on a towel to make clean-up easier.

One resource for this approach is the book Oh Crap! Potty Training, by Jamie Kowacki. You can read more about this in our blog post How to Set Up Your Potty Training Toddler for Success with Underwear.

Child-centered Potty Training

Taking a slower, more child-oriented approach was first put forward by pediatricians Spock and Brazelton. This approach is still in favor with many pediatricians today. 

First, make sure your child is ready according to the steps above. You can start earlier, but your child may resist, or even regress if they are just not ready.

Next, follow these simple steps to ensure the potty training process goes smoothly and at your child's pace.

  • Decide on the vocabulary to use.

  • Ensure the potty chair and position are easily accessible. Allow the child to watch his or her parents use the toilet.

  • If a regular toilet is used, use a toilet seat adapter and a foot stool.

  • Encourage the child to tell a parent when he or she needs to void. Give praise upon success, even if the child tells the parent after the fact. Learn the child’s behavioral cues when he or she is about to void.

  • Encourage the child with praise. Do not expect immediate results; expect accidents. Avoid punishment and/or negative reinforcement.

  • Ensure the cooperation of all caregivers to provide a consistent approach.

  • After repeated successes, suggest the use of cotton underwear or training pants. Make this a special moment.

How to Potty Train Boys & Girls - Is There a Difference?

It seems that more people struggle with potty training boys than potty training girls. This could be due to the fact girls mature a little earlier than boys. If we expect our boys to use the toilet at the same age as our girls we may well set up ourselves, and our boys, for failure.

It's possible that pre-school expectations play a role. If a requirement is that all children use the toilet by a certain age in order to attend pre-school, this could be causing us to rush our boys before they are ready.

Potty Chairs - To Use or Not?

The child-centered approach recommends using a potty chair as a transition to the regular toilet. There are benefits to this - no loud flushing sounds, for example. No fear of falling in!

However, if we're out and about and nature calls, the only option may be the regular toilet. In that case, some parents have found it's more helpful to have used the toilet at home early in the process, so it seems normal and isn't scary. Of course, there is the alternative to carry your potty chair with you at all times - that's a rather big commitment!

And we recently saw a great suggestion from @megan_toddlershop on Instagram. When you must use a public toilet with an automatic flushing sensor - cover the sensor so the toilet doesn't suddenly flush and scare your child. I've been startled by that rush of noise and water - it's definitely something you want to avoid when your child is still training!

Training Pants or Underwear?

There are two schools of thought on this. One is that training pants provide an easy transition from diapers. They seem more like underwear, but catch any accidents.

Another option is to go straight to underwear - but look for undies with thicker fabric that can absorb a stray drop or two. One benefit of this approach is you can use "big boy" or "big girl" undies to incentivize your child to give up diapers. Many children want to be more grown up and this technique motivates them. 

Look for underwear that is also easier to push down and pull up. Fabric covered waistbands are often easier for little boys and girls to maneuver than elastics - which can be more snug.

If you are looking for undies for your potty-training child, we recommend you consider our Gracie Girls Briefs style or Nolan Boys Boxer Briefs. Our most popular styles, they are crafted from 100% organic cotton and perfect for your child's first underwear.


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nolan organic cotton boys boxer brief shop