Potty Training Q&A: When to Start, How to Deal With Accidents, & More

You have potty training questions, and we got an expert to answer them! Dr. Heather Wittenberg is a licensed psychologist with a PsyD degree whose specialty is in the development of babies, toddlers, preschoolers and parents.

Question: At what age should you start to worry if there's been no potty progress?


Dr. Heather:  While there is no set age for starting potty training, we do recommend you seek professional medical help once a child has turned 4 and shows few or no signs of readiness. Sometimes, there are medical reasons (such as hidden constipation) or developmental issues (including speech and communication issues) that are getting in the way. Ask your doctor, nurse or early childhood professional for some referrals.

Question: Hello! How do you deal with regression? Should you continue trying to force the issue (meaning cleaning up tons of puddles and messes from hardwood floors) or should you just give in and give them the diaper they seem to prefer?

Dr. Heather: Most “accidents” are normal setbacks that should be expected during the potty training journey. Children learn gradually, and setbacks are a natural part of the learning process. Set the potty training pace together with your child. Resistance means it’s time to back off for a bit, then try again in a few weeks. However, regression is much different – this happens after a skill has been mastered and stable for some months, but suddenly your child regresses. In this case, be sure to check with your pediatrician. You can’t force a child to pee or poop though – children will often refuse the potty if they’ve been pushed too far, too fast. Visit Pull-Ups.com for more information on accidents, setbacks and regression.

Question: My daughter is 13 months old and has been waking up dry after her naps. She will wet her diaper a few minutes after she gets up and gets moving. She is also dry most morning but I had attributed that to the fact that I change her at about 4 in the morning and then she goes back to sleep until 9.Do you think it would be appropriate to attempt to place her on the potty when she wakes up?

Dr. Heather: There is not one ideal timeline for potty training – parents should look for a child’s signs of readiness and embark on a journey that works for your child. Take the Pull-Ups potty training readiness quiz to help you recognize some of these signs of readiness and determine when it’s time to move forward with your family’s potty training journey. Children who start too young make early progress, then often experience significant setbacks. Thirteen months is on the young side – typically parents start between 18 months and 3 years.

Question: I watch a little boy (who will be 3 in December) 4 days a week. When he is at home, his mom said that he will tell her when he needs to go. When he is here, it doesn't matter how often I take him, he will still go in the pull-up. Even sometimes immediately after. How can I help him? I do have a daughter who is 3 1/2 and it took her less than a week to be fully potty trained. So I am a little lost.

Dr. Heather:  Kids are like snowflakes, each unique and special in his or her own way. That’s why, when it comes to potty training, what works for one child may not work for another. So it makes sense that what worked for your daughter isn’t necessarily working for this little boy. Toddlers crave familiarity. Their bodies and minds are changing every day, so any semblance of order is appreciated. Asking them to use a different potty in a more unfamiliar setting is a whole new level of potty training, so don’t expect it immediately. What you can do is build in extra time to make sure he’s familiar with the bathrooms at your house and help him understand that the same process applies – perhaps with a few additional steps. Visit Pull-Ups.com for more information on potty training away from home.  

For more expert answers to your potty-training questions, check out Dr. Heather’s other tips!

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