Potty training your toddler can be very exciting—for both parents and kids. It can be very symbolic, representing the transition out of “Babyhood” into “Big-Kid” world. Toddlerhood is an age of tremendous emotional and psychological growth for your child–and potty training encompasses many of the issues that toddlers are sorting out: independence, self-regulation (mastery of his or her body) and social awareness.

Though all too often, amongst the excitement, there are inadvertently imposed feelings of pressure and stress to accomplish this task.

The pressure can have negative long-term physical and emotional implications on your child, such as stool withholding, chronic constipation, anxiety with toileting, control battles and self-esteem issues.

The simplest recommendation I can make regarding potty training is this: follow your child’s lead! Don’t put pressure on your child—or yourself—by imposing time limits and structures on potty training.


Follow your child’s lead: when he is ready to use the potty, he will.

Really, this is one of the few things in parenting that is better to be one step behind your child on, rather than ahead. Let your toddler show you when they are ready. You may end up waiting longer than your friends to have a potty-trained child, but chances are, the process will be shorter, smoother and have fewer long term negative consequences. It’s worth the wait, trust me.

When should we start?

Most children are ready sometime around age three years. Some kids are ready at two years and some not until four years of age. There is a huge range of “normal.” Often, first children take longer to train than their younger sibs—because the younger ones have their older sibs as models for their behavior and an obvious goal they are trying to catch-up to.

For your child to be ready to use the potty, he needs to be able to sense the urge, know what that feeling means, then verbalize the need for assistance or be physically capable of getting to the bathroom and taking care of business.

Very first steps towards potty training involve your child knowing (and usually caring) when their diaper is full. Taking off the diaper, complaining or crying when it is dirty—these are all good signs! When your child starts to show interest in you or your spouse or their sib using the bathroom—that too, is a first step.

Encourage them to join you in the bathroom. Let them watch and see what happens in there.

Have Potty Parties! Get him his own potty to sit on next to you while you are on yours. Let him first sit with his clothes on and get comfortable with the seat. If she wants to sit on the potty with her clothes and diaper off, even better! You can help facilitate your child making that mind-body connection by letting him run around naked (especially from the waist down). Summertime is an ideal time to do this—if you have a yard, you can let her run around outside naked. Then, “accidents” are not so bothersome. They are simply a perfect way for your child to figure out how his body works.

Positive rewards and interactive games are all great to use when potty training.

Remember, there are lots of incremental steps that most kids need to take to be potty-trained—so praise each one. Don’t just focus on praising the “goal.” If your child tells you he needs to pee, then does on the living room floor, try something like this: “That was great how you listened to your body and then told me you had to pee! Next time, let’s try to get the pee in the potty.”

For boys, throwing some fruit loops or cheerios in the potty can be fun target practice and make peeing in the potty fun.

Reward the successes, but never, ever, punish or reprimand the failures when it comes to potty training. Your child wants to be successful at this—really, they do! They want to please you—really, they do! But most likely, they are not going to do any of it until they are ready. On their own terms. Be patient. Your child is not going to kindergarten in diapers.

For more information, please go to the AAP’s website.

This information is meant only as a guideline, not as medical advice. It is important to discuss this topic with your child’s pediatrician. All children are different, have different developmental and physical growth trajectories and will be meeting milestones at different times.

When I was expecting my first child, I wanted to know everything that could possibly be in store for his first year.

I quizzed my own mom and the friends who ventured into motherhood before I did. I absorbed parenting books and articles like a sponge. I signed up for classes on childbirth, breastfeeding and even baby-led weaning. My philosophy? The more I knew, the better.

Yet, despite my best efforts, I didn't know it all. Not by a long shot. Instead, my firstborn, my husband and I had to figure it out together—day by day, challenge by challenge, triumph by triumph.


The funny thing is that although I wanted to know it all, the surprises—those moments that were unique to us—were what made that first year so beautiful.

Of course, my research provided a helpful outline as I graduated from never having changed a diaper to conquering the newborn haze, my return to work, the milestones and the challenges. But while I did need much of that tactical knowledge, I also learned the value of following my baby's lead and trusting my gut.

I realized the importance of advice from fellow mamas, too. I vividly remember a conversation with a friend who had her first child shortly before I welcomed mine. My friend, who had already returned to work after maternity leave, encouraged me to be patient when introducing a bottle and to help my son get comfortable with taking that bottle from someone else.

Yes, from a logistical standpoint, that's great advice for any working mama. But I also took an incredibly important point from this conversation: This was less about the act of bottle-feeding itself, and more about what it represented for my peace of mind when I was away from my son.

This fellow mama encouraged me to honor my emotions and give myself permission to do what was best for my family—and that really set the tone for my whole approach to parenting. Because honestly, that was just the first of many big transitions during that first year, and each of them came with their own set of mixed emotions.

I felt proud and also strangely nostalgic as my baby seamlessly graduated to a sippy bottle.

I felt my baby's teething pain along with him and also felt confident that we could get through it with the right tools.

I felt relieved as my baby learned to self-soothe by finding his own pacifier and also sad to realize how quickly he was becoming his own person.

As I look back on everything now, some four years and two more kids later, I can't remember the exact day my son crawled, the project I tackled on my first day back at work, or even what his first word was. (It's written somewhere in a baby book!)

But I do remember how I felt with each milestone: the joy, the overwhelming love, the anxiety, the exhaustion and the sense of wonder. That truly was the greatest gift of the first year… and nothing could have prepared me for all those feelings.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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I was blissfully asleep on the couch while my little one was occupied elsewhere with toys, books and my partner. She got bored with what they were doing, escaped from his watch and, sensing my absence, set about looking for me. Finding me on the couch, nose-level, she peeled back my one available eyelid, singing, "Mama? Mama? ...You there? Wake UP!"

Sound familiar? Nothing limits sleep more than parenthood. And nothing is more sought after as a parent than a nap, if not a good night's rest.

But Mother Nature practically guarantees that you are likely to be woken up by a toddler—they're hardwired to find you (and get your attention) when you're "away."

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