Answers to Other Common Questions
Q: Do pull-ups or training pants help or hurt with potty-training?
A: That really depends on whom you talk to. Many parents swear by pull-ups as a transitional solution, contending that they cut down on mess and contribute to a child’s sense of independence by being easier to pull down when the need arises. (Theoretically, you can also pull them up again; though they’ve been known to rip pretty easily when tugged at.) Some parents use them for nighttime after their child is daytime potty-trained so their kid doesn’t have to feel he or she is wearing a diaper anymore. Some use them for car trips or for sleepovers at grandma’s, when an accident would be particularly inconvenient.
But other parents feel that pull-ups, which tend to be about as absorbent as diapers, get in the way of potty-training. They argue that pull-ups make it harder for kids to tell when they are wet and give kids a middle ground, something that functions like a diaper but doesn’t carry the little-kid stigma that is often a motivating factor in getting kids to move up to big-kid underwear and begin using the potty or toilet reliably. Ultimately, it’s a parent’s call. But know this: pull-ups generally cost at least as much as diapers, so an extended pull-up phase can get pricey.
Q: Is it OK to skip the potty and go right to the toilet?
A: Of course! It really depends on what works for your child – and for you. Some kids find the size and accessibility of the potty to be more convenient and inviting. Others never really take to their little plastic receptacle and want to go right to the toilet – as they see parents and older siblings do. If your child does go right to the toilet, you may want to get him a little potty ring to make it easier for her to sit on. But even that is really not totally necessary. As in most things when it comes to potty-training, there are few wrong answers and many right ones. Just follow your child’s lead.
Q: Is there a difference between potty-training for boys and girls?
A: Yes and no. While it’s often said that girls tend to move out of diapers a little earlier than boys, toilet-training readiness really depends more on your child’s temperament – and interest level – than gender. Also even though boys eventually will learn to pee standing up, initially many experts (and parents) recommend teaching them to pee sitting down. (They have enough to worry about without learning to aim – and do you really need more to clean up at this point?) That said, there are a few differences: Girls need to be taught to wipe front to back, to prevent the risk of infection, and boys who sit need to be taught to tuck their penis so that the urine goes into the bowl. Eventually, boys can be taught to pee standing up; many parents find that it helps to chuck something like Cheerio into the bowl so their sons have something to aim at.
Q: When do kids start to wipe on their own?
A: Every kid is different. Some kids are so invested in their new independence that they want to start wiping themselves almost right away. Many kids will want, or need, help wiping – at least after they poop, or at least sometimes – for years. Be patient, and try to teach them as you go (handing them toilet paper, making sure the roll is within easy reach for them). Boys obviously don’t have to wipe when they urinate. Girls obviously do, and can often learn to wipe themselves after peeing pretty quickly after they learn to use the potty. Girls should always be taught to wipe front to back to prevent infection. A good way to teach kids of either gender to wipe themselves after they poop is to hand them the toilet paper, place your hand over theirs and guide them until they get the hang of it. Tell them to check the toilet paper to see if it’s clean, and if it’s not to get a new piece of toilet paper and wipe again. Once a piece of toilet paper comes out clean after wiping, they’re done. Be sure to tell them to flush and wash hands!
Q: Are rewards good or bad?
A: Again, that’s one of those things where the answer really depends on whom you ask. Some parents contend that rewards are the only way to go – whether it’s stars or stickers on a chart, candies for each successful trip to the potty, or a big big-kid present at the end. Others believe just as fervently that motivation must come from within – and that it’s a slippery slope (not to mention an expensive one) to get into the habit of rewarding. Certainly, praise for successes is a good thing. Punishment for accidents and near misses is not.
Q: How should I deal with home vs. school potty-training conflicts?
A: Even among families who love their preschool or daycare provider, it sometimes happens that parents and professional caregivers disagree about the timing or practices of potty-training. You want your child to sit on the potty at school like he does at home, but the teacher says diapers are easier for the school, given that they have to manage so many kids. Or parents feel the child simply isn’t developmentally ready, but a preschool deadline looms. What to do?
The first step is always to talk it out – most daycares would love to help your child achieve potty maturity, but their own experiences might lead them to prefer a later start or to wait until a group of children can begin together. The peer pressure of group care is perhaps the most powerful tool in a parent’s potty-training arsenal. Even for kids who may just reach a preschool cut-off and not seem ready at all at home will sometimes surprise you by using the toilet at school simply because the “big kids” do it. And most preschools, even those not licensed to change diapers, will gently help a child deal with accidents.
Q: How should I deal with interference from my parents/in-laws/friends?
A: Tell them to back off. Lots of people will have opinions about how and when you should potty-train your child, and you may want to listen to and learn from parents, in-laws, teachers or experts. But ultimately the person you really need to tune into is your child; he or she is the one that matters. Feel free to let anyone with an opinion know that you and your child will handle potty-training just fine in the way that works best for your family, thank you very much.
Q: When should I start to worry/seek help?
A: Accidents and setbacks are common. But if your potty-trained child starts to lose serious ground, especially after around age 4, or if you or your child starts to feel concerned, get in touch with your pediatrician to make sure there’s not a bigger issue to be concerned about. He or she can rule out – or diagnose – problems like urinary tract infections or overactive bladders, and prompt treatment will make your child more comfortable and less prone to accidents.