Timeout with Nanny Robina: Potty Training Advice for Parent of a Three-Year-Old

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My three-year-old is still wearing training pants and doesn’t want to use the potty. I tell her that I’ll give her a coin for her piggy bank if she uses the toilet. She’s had many accidents and sometimes she is able to tell me she has to go pee. I have to take her to the bathroom after she’s been drinking a lot. Should I continue doing that and have her wear underpants all day? She does know sometimes…but I wish she was more independent like her older sister who is almost five years old.

First off, give the kid a break. Maybe she’s just not ready to be pottytrained.And stop comparing her with her big sister. Every child is different. Some books say that potty training can start as young as 18 months, but from my own experience, very few children’s bladders have matured enough to potty train before two and a half years. So let’s find out if she’s ready.

Look for these signs:

• a dry or just-damp diaper between a three-hour gap
• needing privacy to pee or poop
• the ability to follow instructions.

If she’s showing these signs, you can start. First, write down any little accidents and the time. Second, treat accidents with reassurance. You don’t want her to feel badly when they happen. Say, ‘It’s okay. Let’s try to make it to the potty next time. Now let’s clean you up.’ Your notes will show you a pattern of accidents and then you’ll be able to aim your potty training around those times. Stay at home for two or three days and let her run around with just a T-shirt on.  (Summer is an ideal time to begin potty training.)

Getting started – Day ONE:
• Have a potty near by.
• Stay with her, chatting or reading a book.
• Have her sit on the potty every 15–20 minutes for three to five minutes – no longer.

Day two:

• Put her on the potty every 15–20 minutes.

Day three:
• Don’t place her on the potty.
• Ask her if she needs the potty so she can begin to identify the feeling of a full bladder.

Potty training requires patience and no comparisons. No two children are the same and that’s why we love them!

Published March 2010

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