There is no exact science to determine when you should begin potty training your child. O'Brien suggests looking for readiness cues instead. "They might start... showing interest in the bathroom - following you in there. They can keep their diaper dry... for two hours or more, and, if they have a dirty diaper, they may ask to change it," says O'Brien. While some children will show interest in potty training earlier than others, most kids should start to indicate that they're ready around age two.
Just like there are good times to potty train, though, there are bad times too. "During times of big change, this is not when you want to try it," says O'Brien. "If you're moving to a new home, you're about to have a new baby, or switching daycare centers, you want to put it on the back burner."
When your child is ready, do your best to set yourself up for success. Having the right equipment can help, especially in unfamiliar situations. Buy your child a training toilet and take it with you when you go out, even if it's just to Grandma and Grandpa's house. Unfamiliar toilets can be jarring to your child, especially if they seem larger or louder than your toilet at home. O'Brien says many children are afraid of toilets that flush automatically, so by bringing your son or daughter's port-a-potty with you, they're more likely to succeed.
It's important to emphasize your child's achievement if they use the toilet successfully. Some parents do cheers or make up silly songs, but others use small rewards - like stickers or candy - to motivate their child. "You want to keep it as small as possible," says O'Brien. However, she cautions that if your child is especially reluctant to use the potty, you may have to motivate them with bigger rewards, like a toy or a trip to their favorite restaurant. "You really want to focus on praising them for what they did and not focusing on the reward," says O'Brien. Otherwise, your child may refuse to use the toilet without some form of motivation.
Finally, have patience. Accidents will happen, but eventually, your child will learn to use the potty on their own. "Sometimes you just have to back off and let the child call the shots," says O'Brien. Rushing potty training can make your son or daughter resistant to the idea, so let them go at their own pace.
For more information on potty training, as well as additional parenting advice click here to visit www.AmericanBaby.com.
By Erin Petrun