kids, parenting, parents, physical therapy, potty training

Potty Training: The HOW.

This is the second post in a series on potty training by the lovely, Pediatric Pelvic Health Physical Therapist, Whitney. 

Who?: Your kiddo!

What?: Potty Training!

When?: Now! (I saw the sign!)

Where?: The bathroom!

Why?: To promote independence!

How?: uh………………….

You spin me right round, Baby, right round!

As I eluded to last week, there are enough methods for potty training out there to make your head spin like a record, baby! Hopefully, you have thought long and hard about the best method to choose for you and your child. Whether your kiddo is running pantless through the house or peeing like Pavlov at the ring of a bell, it is important to get right round one central theme: positioning, or as I call it, perfect potty posture.

Cowboy, Take Me Away!

Our bodies SO smart, y’all. Believe it or not, HOW we sit on the toilet can greatly affect how successful we are at emptying our bladder and bowels.

Let’s review.

The rectum is a storage area for stool (poop) found at the end of the large intestine. As stool fills the rectum, we begin to fill the urge to poop, but we can hold it, right? We do so with the help of my favorite muscle group: the pelvic floor. One of these pelvic floor muscles (the puborectalis) puts on its cowgirl hat, lassos the rectum, and pulls it forward until it kinks it off at a 90 degree angle. It’s a tight angle that keeps your stool inside your body; just imagine trying to poop standing up! Now, if your body is saying it’s time to go, that lasso’s gotta let loose and unkink the pipe. The best way to do this is to get into a squatting position. When you sit low with your knees apart, the lasso relaxes, opening up the end of the rectum and stool can move smoothly to the anus and…ahhhh. On the other hand, if that muscle doesn’t fully relax, stool can be retained within the rectum, starting a cycle of constipation. And, as you’ll learn in the future, constipation is an outlaw you don’t want to duel with.

So, why does this matter? I said last week to set your kiddos up for success, right? Taken literally “set them up”—give them the right time, the right environment, the right tools and the right motivation!

What a bright time, it’s the right time…

Start with a scheduled time for pooping. The body (again, SO smart) starts the process of having a bowel movement about 20 minutes after you have eaten a meal. Sit your kiddos down after a meal (breakfast is usually best, but work with your schedule) and keep this routine every day. This helps them get in tune with the feeling of a full rectum and they will begin to make brain-body connections about when it’s time to poop.

How do I get you alone?

Next, find a private space. Think about it: you’re on the toilet doing your business when your kiddo barges in the door. What do you do? You tighten things up tighter than the lid on a pickle jar. Kiddos do the same thing! Give them their privacy (within reason for their age). Books, tablets, toys can be helpful to keep them on the toilet if needed. They should be finished within 15-20 minutes. If they aren’t successful, try again after the next meal or if they tell you they feel the urge.

Don’t Be Afraid

Give them options. While potty chairs can be very cute and easy to use for children, it’s not a bad idea to offer them time on the big potty as well. Many children can be potty trained to sit on the potty chair, but when it comes time to transition to the toilet, they fear the porcelain throne. “It’s cold”, “my booty won’t fit”, “I might fall in”…all legitimate concerns that I still face if my husband leaves the seat up. Sometimes, the best way to abstain from fear is to abstain from the creation of fear. Try a potty ring on the big toilet. They still come with cute designs and have far more options to choose from than most potty chairs.

Tell me what you want, what you really, really want!

Get them motivated—let them join in the shopping adventure to dry days! Undies, potty rings, potty books and rewards are all great motivators! Also, consider a tall footstool or potty stool (example below). Not only will it help your kiddos climb onto the big potty, but, GUESS WHAT? That squatting position you read about earlier…it makes it happen!

Imagine being a kiddo sitting on the BIG potty having BIG poops that Mommy and Daddy are proud of!


SquattyPottymus SquattyPottymus

Youtube the squatty potty video and meet Dookie, the rainbow pooping unicorn! Kids LOVE it!


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.

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