By the time kids enter Pre-K, many schools require that they are potty trained. What are some of the best ways to make this transition? Le Bonheur Pediatrician Jason Yaun, MD, tackles this topic with his best advice.

Toilet training can be an exciting but difficult developmental milestone for both a parent and a child. It is a time when a child’s growing need for independence can conflict sharply with the pressures of parental and social expectations. This can in turn lead to power struggles and anxiety. Therefore, it is important not to push a child into toilet training and only begin when a child shows developmental readiness. A child has to be able to:

  • Sit, walk, dress and undress themselves
  • Be able to understand and respond to instructions
  • Have the appropriate desire, determination and independence
  • Your child can indicate first that he is going and then when he needs to go

It is important to have realistic expectations based on your child’s age. There is no right age to train a child. It depends on each child’s readiness. Discuss when to begin with your child’s doctor. Make sure that you do not begin during an illness or major life change.

First, get a potty chair and allow your child to become comfortable with it. Don’t pressure your child. At first just let them sit on it. Try taking a stool from your child’s diaper and put it in the potty so they can see where it goes. Don’t forget to coordinate plans with all caregivers. Ask your child if they need to go when they show signs and help them recognize the signs they need to go. Make routine trips to the potty. Make sure to put the child in loose fitting clothing that is easy to remove.

Setbacks or accidents are normal and to be expected. Consider your child’s progress or frustration and be prepared to encourage and reassure her at each step. Reinforce your child’s success each time and don’t punish them for mistakes. Make this experience as positive and natural as you can for your child. Remember, your child likely wants to be trained just as much as you want her to be trained. See your child’s doctor for any issues.