The very idea of potty training strikes fear into many parents' hearts, but it doesn't have to be a messy battle (although having a good carpet cleaner on standby never hurts). We asked three real moms—a popular country singer, a reporter, a pediatrician—for ways to help toddlers achieve potty training success, without the tantrums and tears.
Jo Dee Messina, acclaimed country singer, mom of two and blogger at The Fumbling Mom:
"My first son was potty trained by the time he turned 3, but our second baby—now 6 months old—arrived right around the same time, and my older son regressed a bit. Needless to say, these little boys generate a lot of laundry. I swear there is not enough detergent in the world to handle my kids' laundry needs. What's been most helpful in getting my older son back on track—and keeping the laundry pile under control—has been to take potty training back to square one. For us, this means taking our oldest to the restroom every 45 minutes, like clockwork. Once on the toilet, I give him a book so that he's not anxious to get up right away. So far, working patiently with him in this way has helped him to stay dry during the day."
Jennifer Borget, television news reporter, photographer and blogger at Baby Making Machine:
"I handle potty training battles with a deep breath and a big cup of patience. It helped to treat it like a process, and less like a challenge. I trust we'll come out on top sooner or later. (It's not like my daughter's going to head off to college wearing diapers… ) Bribery has also helped us along—princess-themed underpants got my little girl excited to use the potty, instead of apprehensive about leaving diapers behind.
"Be prepared, from the outset, for many psych-outs. I think toddlers just love seeing us all run around like crazy in order to find the nearest toilet wherever we are. My daughter will giggle the entire way and only let out a fart once we reach our destination. I try to see the humor in it, too. When she actually does pee or poop, I clap like a maniac. Either way, we're making it a positive experience, and I can see my daughter making progress as a result."
Melissa Arca, M.D., F.A.A.P, pediatrician, mom of two, writer, and blogger at Confessions of a Dr. Mom:
"Do your best not to engage in any potty-training battles. Toddlers will naturally resist too much pressure, or any perceived negativity from their parents. Try not to get boxed into thinking your child 'should' be potty trained by a certain age, too. Each child will reach this milestone at his or her own pace. Relax, keep it low key, and go with the flow. If your 2-1/2-year-old shows absolutely no interest in using the potty, it will be worth your while to wait until he's ready. (Trust me.) You'll know it's time when he begins telling you when he needs to pee or poop, can pull his own pants up and down, wants to do some daily tasks independently and—ideally—shows some interest in using the potty like a 'big boy.'
"Once you've started potty training—whatever method you choose—stay positive, and don't punish accidents. Keep the big picture in mind: your child will become potty-trained, but this has to be her accomplishment to own. If it's more important to you than to her, your efforts may backfire. Keep in mind that nighttime dryness may occur much later than daytime potty training. This is normal. Also? It may take longer for your child to go poop in the potty. This, too, is a normal process. Gently encourage, support, and follow your child's lead on this one. Soon enough, though it's hard to believe now, the diaper days will be long behind you and you'll wonder what all the fuss was about."