The most common order for potty training is bowel control first, then daytime bladder control, and, later, nighttime bladder control, but all children do not follow that pattern. If your child has bowel movements at a regular time most days, you may have him trained in that department long before you try for bladder control; some parents try with good success when their children are about 18 to 24 months old.
A good time to try for a child who is not regular is about 30 minutes after a meal. Sit with your child for a few minutes, perhaps reading a book as you wait, but only as long as the child is willing. Be prepared for your child to feel proprietary about his feces, and be careful not to imply they are dirty or bad in any way. Some children are upset when their feces are flushed away, and some are frightened of the flushing noise. If your child is one of these, you may decide to flush only after he has left the bathroom.
One reason some children have trouble managing bowel control is that they are constipated. Constipation is not so much a matter of infrequency of bowel movements (having as few as three or four normal movements a week is perfectly natural for some children) as it is of hard stools that are painful and difficult for a child to pass. Discomfort makes a child hold back and compounds the problem. To help a constipated child, decrease his intake of milk and milk products and increase whole grain and dried fruit in his diet. Prune juice is helpful for a child who will drink it. If constipation continues, see your doctor for advice.
Summer is the best time to start potty training, if you have a choice, because the fewer clothes a child must bother with, the easier the process is. As often as you can, let your child wear underpants only to cut down the problems of dealing with outer pants or skirts and shirts.
You may find it helpful to plan to concentrate heavily on training for about a week, staying close to home with your child and not trying to accomplish much of anything else. The 24-hour method of training, advanced a few years ago by two psychologists, who designed it first to help persons with mental retardation (Nathan Azrin and Richard Foxx, Toilet Training in Less Than a Day), is championed by some parents and disapproved of by others. It involves very concentrated effort from both child and parent, and some believe it is overly manipulative and somewhat punitive. Potty training in one day may be too good to be true, as reports of the timing of success vary.
Your ultimate objective is to get your child to go into the bathroom alone when he needs to, pull down his pants, clean himself when finished, pull up his pants, empty the pot if one is used, and flush the toilet. Obviously, all this self-care does not occur at first, and you may help and remind your child to use the bathroom, and even lead your child physically to the bathroom for some time. The best times to give reminders or to take a child to the bathroom are when he first wakes in the morning, before and after naps, 30 minutes after meals, and before bed.
Children usually urinate about eight times a day and more often when they are excited or tired. Remember that part of potty training is teaching your child good habits of hygiene -- careful and thorough hand-washing and, for girls especially, wiping from front to back instead of the reverse (to prevent urinary tract infections).
Of course no one said potty training would be easy. In the next section, we will learn how to deal with regressions and other potty-training accidents.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.