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So What Is Potty Training Anyway?

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Can you define potty training?  Most language around potty training focuses on "ditching the diapers" and "staying dry."  Yet we rarely discuss the many  steps involved in reaching the heavenly place of having a potty trained child.   So before we define potty training, let's first define that end goal: "a potty trained child." 

 “A potty trained child is one who can recognize the urge to eliminate, get themselves to the bathroom and fully perform the necessary steps of toileting, independently.”

Notice how our definition starts with the child recognizing the urge to eliminate and not the ability to pee in a potty. Teaching our littles to pay attention to the urge is where potty training actually begins.   

Once your little has recognized the urge, it's time to teach them how to respond to that urge with a set of steps that must be performed in the right order to reach the end goal: a potty trained child.  If you break down all the steps of potty training they will look something like this:  

    1. recognize the feeling of needing the bathroom
    2. stop what you are doing
    3. walk to the bathroom
    4. turn on the light
    5. close the door
    6. pull your pants down
    7. sit on the potty
    8. eliminate fully
    9. wipe
    10. pull your pants up
    11. flush the toilet
    12. wash your hands
    13. dry your hands


But the above list isn't even complete.  Boys will have to determine between steps 6 and 7 if what they are feeling is the urge to pee or poop.  Then they have to decide whether to sit down, or lift the seat and remain standing.  We also left off things like hanging the hand towel back on the towel rod, and even learning how to adjust the water temperature so that it is not too hot or too cold for handwashing.

So as you can see, there is a lot more to potty training than just catching pee or poop in the potty. And there are lots of skills involved besides elimination.  You might snicker at this lengthy list, but just imagine skipping some of the steps or switching their order. It would be very hard to reach true potty training success.

Understanding what potty training really is helps parents accept why their kid may take a little longer than 3 days to put it all together. The American Academy of Pediatrics says it can take 8-12 weeks before, your child stays dry throughout the day with no accidents. So don't lose hope.   

After daytime dryness* is achieved,  you will still be waiting for a sensei level of mastery. There will come a glorious day when "MOMMY I NEED TO GO POTTY!!" does not echo through your house; a day when your child doesn’t need your help wiping and doesn’t have to be reminded to wash their hands. A day when going to the toilet for your child becomes a total non-event for you.  And that is when your potty training work is truly done. It will happen. But in all honesty, probably not until after kindergarten starts. Until then...




*Nighttime dryness is not a trainable event and can come months and sometimes years after daytime dryness is achieved. 

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