kids, parenting, parents, pelvic health, physical therapy, potty training, women's health

It’s POTTY TIME! Or is it?

I consider myself pretty lucky to know some ridiculously smart and hilarious people in the field of physical therapy. And the following post just so happens to be written by one of them (who I also went to PT school with). Whitney is about to take you on a journey of pediatric pelvic health through a series of posts, of which this is the first. SO, call your mom friends, (dad friends too) and gather round the computer to read some good good on potty training! Feel free to sing along…


Let’s Get It Started!

“When do I start potty training?” It’s the question I’m asked most often, and sometimes the hardest to answer because…IT DEPENDS! Potty training is an important milestone in a child’s development. It’s one of the first self-care tasks that children learn that promotes their independence toward becoming a “big girl or big boy”. Not to mention they get to pick out some cute undies!Parents are almost always eager to start potty training early in order to help their child become more self-sufficient and get rid of those costly diapers. But, sometimes the push (pun intended) is made too soon. If your child sees potty training as a negative activity, they likely won’t participate. Let them start the process and you lead them along the way.

Born This Way!

Let’s talk development. From birth to about 18 months of age, babies don’t have bowel or bladder control. At around 12 months of age, they may start to have sensation of needing to go, but keep that diaper handy, because it will be another 6 months or so before they begin to have the ability to control it.  Most experts agree that at around 18 months of age a child will reach a point of physical development where potty training can be successful. However, maturity is a factor and if other signs are in place this age can be a key time to start potty training.

I Saw the Sign!

“What sign? I didn’t see it.” Watch for signs that your child may be ready to start potty training: 1 Are they interested in peeing, pooping, or use of the toilet (watching you, asking questions, pretending to clean themselves with toilet paper)? 2 Have they shown signs of feeling an urge like doing the pee-pee dance or hiding/squatting in the corner to poop? 3 Can they physically climb on and off of the potty? 4 Can they dress/undress themselves (makes you think twice about those button down onesies, huh?)If these signs are in place it may be a good time to start!

One Way or Another!

“What’s the best method?” Ah, the second most asked question. Well, if I had the answer to that I’d be sitting on a yacht drinking my sweet tea instead of writing this blog!There are SO many methods out there! “3 days!”, “Go Naked!”, “Behavioral Conditioning!” Sometimes it’s hard not to feel like you’re at the ball park trying to figure out where to get your peanuts.I’ll say this: no one method works for every child, or for every parent. As a mom or dad, you know your children best. For my son, playing Battleship was the way to get him to pee in the toilet. We would toss a few cheerios (battleships) into the toilet and he would blast the ships with his canon (urine stream). We had a few messes to clean up, but potty training was fun! I didn’t find that method in any book. Reward systems are great, too. A Skittle after potty use, 10 potty uses gets a new toy, etc. Also, engage them in YOUR potty time. Let this see how Mommy or Daddy use the potty.Whatever method you research and find will best suit you and your child, stick to it. Confusion can lead to lack of interest. And, I can’t say this enough, negative reactions or punishments during potty training only reinforce negativity with the whole process.

Remember, do what it takes to set your child up for success!


About the author:

Whitney Bartley, PT, DPT is a CAPP-Pelvic Certified physcial therapist specializing in the treatment of pelvic floor dysfunction in pediatric patients. She practices in Arkansas, where she lives with her husband and two wonderful children. She’s a fun-loving, Southern gal who is passionate about serving her patients and advocating for children with bowel and bladder dysfunction.

2 thoughts on “It’s POTTY TIME! Or is it?”

  1. How old was your son when you tried the battleship game? Did you start him standing up? I’ve been told to start sitting down – does it matter?

    1. To answer your first question:
      Battleship started at around age two, once he was able to stand and better control the direction his urinary stream.

      To briefly answer your second question: Sometimes it is better to focus on one thing at a time. So, sitting can be an easier starting point for boys. Then, once they master bowel and bladder control in sitting, they can move into standing for urination. But, as with any child, it depends. I’ve had some boys in my practice that won’t/don’t sit, and starting in standing has been just as successful.

      Long answer to your question:
      more info on positioning during potty training will be presented in our next blog!

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