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Four Common Potty Training Questions Answered

As much as parents look forward to the day their kids are finally potty-trained, a lot of times, they really dread the thought –and the process – of potty training. It can be hard to figure out exactly when a kid is ready to get started or which potty training method is the best one to use, and there’s frustration of dealing with accidents and bedwetting long after potty training is complete.

To help, we’ve giving you the answers to four common potty training questions that plague many parents:

  • How do I know if my child’s ready to potty train?

  • What’s the best method of potty training?

  • Why is my child still having accidents?

  • How do I help my older kid stop bedwetting?

As you’ve come to expect from HelloJoey, all the information you’ll learn is based on research or provided by doctors and experts in the field – so you can make informed decisions as you begin (or take the next steps in) your potty training journey.

For even more information and in-depth look at everything that happens in kids’ bodies and brains during the toilet training processes, be sure to check out HelloJoey’s “Potty Training, From the Top.” In it, you’ll learn to identify the specific signs that show kids are ready to potty train and explore different toileting methods – including the pros and cons of each. You’ll also find out about some of the science behind accidents and bedwetting and hear more from the experts about how to handle both.

How do I know if my child’s ready to potty train?

There are usually plenty of signs that a kid is ready to potty train, and according pediatrician Dr. Cindy Greenberg, those signs begin to appear between the ages of 18 months and two years – give or take “It can be before or after that and it's all totally normal,” she stresses. “It correlates with where they are at their development. They're in this phase called ‘I do it’ or ‘the terrible twos,’ and it's all about them needing to have control and independence.”

When your child is ready to start potty training, the sign of readiness generally fall into three basic categories:

  • what their bodies can do

  • what they choose to do

  • what they can understand and communicate

Signs from all three will start to overlap, and that’s a good indication your child is developmentally ready to start toilet training.

What’s the best method of potty training?

According to research, no one method of potty training is better than another. There are a lot of methods out there, but basically, they fall into two general buckets:

  • adult-led, where parents guide the process

  • child-led, where kids are in control

Each potty training style has its own set of pros and cons. It’s all about finding what works best for your family’s needs, your specific circumstances, and your child’s temperament. It might take some experimenting and you may start down one path and realize it’s not right for your family – and that’s perfectly okay! Keeping trying until find something that doesn’t stress out anybody and you can all agree works.

Why is my child still having accidents?

Even after your child has been using the toilet for a while, it’s normal for accidents to happen from time to find. Kids’ brains are still developing – and they’re still learning how to decode the sensations that mean they need to use the bathroom. As neuroscientist Dr. Alex Korb explains, “They might not have a good understanding of what the fullness of their bladder or bowels feels like. They might not connect that feeling to the urgency of what they need to do. They might not be good at guiding their actions or controlling their impulses to stop playing with that super fun toy.”

Dr. Korb also urges parents to remember that accidents are just that: accidents. Your child isn’t wetting their pants on purpose as way to torture you or rebel against you. “They can't control whether they have an accident,” he says. “They're still figuring it out.”

How do I help my older kid stop bedwetting?

Bedwetting can be frustrating and embarrassing – but sometimes it bothers parents a lot more than it does the kids who are doing it. If your child isn’t particularly bothered by middle of the night accidents, Yale Medicine pediatric urologist Dr. Israel Franco suggests parents try to be patient and wait it out. “If the child doesn't care, they're not going to stop. If the parent is interested and the child's not interested, it's not going to happen.”

If your child is bothered by wetting the bed, keep in mind that’s it’s fairly typical to see in up until the age of about seven. It also runs in families, so if you or your child’s other parent were bedwetters, there’s a 40% chance your child will be as well. They’ll probably stop around the same time that you did, so you can reassure them by sharing your own experience.

Dr. Franco says there are also lifestyle changes you can make to prevent your child from wetting the bed – including avoiding dairy products in the evenings. “Don't let your kids drink milk at dinner time and beyond – and no ice cream at night,” he says. “Dairy is one of the things that contribute most with nighttime wetting. The dairy gets curdled, and the fluid gets reabsorbed six hours later. If you drink a glass of water, that's going to go through you in an hour, and you'll pee by the time you go to bed.”

App Tip

Potty training is a developmental process, and it can be impacted by everything from stress to illness to other changes or steps forward in your child’s development. For example, your potty-trained toddler might start having accidents again when your new baby arrives – or if they’re growing a molar. If things don’t go quite as planned, getting stressed out will only make things harder on you and your kid. Take a break a try again in a couple weeks. As Dr. Greenberg points out, “Everyone ends up potty trained. Any time before four is great.”

Want to learn more about bedwetting and “Potty Training, From the Top?”  Start your path to a solid parenting foundation in just 10 minutes a day. Check out the HelloJoey app.

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