Google “how to potty train a girl” and you’ll find all kinds of tips and tricks to get the job done efficiently, but the truth is that all kids are different. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach. The secret to success with potty training is a combination of timing and readiness.
Potty training is dependent upon developmental, physical, and behavioral milestones, not age. There is no “perfect” age to begin potty training. While some toddlers show signs of readiness before 24 months, others might not be ready until they are 3-years-old (or even later). And, the theory that girls train earlier than boys is not a hard and fast rule.
Before you begin potty training, it’s also important to consider major changes that can cause emotional upheaval. Are you planning to move soon? Is a new sibling on the way? Is your family under increased stress for some reason? Stress and pressure complicate the potty training process and can make it longer and more frustrating for both the parent and the child. Put potty training on hold during these times and wait until the stress dissipates.
Follow these steps to encourage potty training for your daughter:
1. Determine whether she’s ready for potty training. Ask a toddler the same question three different times and you’re likely to get three different answers on any given day. Toddlers are immersed in the process of learning about their worlds and figuring out what they can and can’t do, and this lends itself to information gathering and storytelling. This is why asking your toddler about readiness isn’t a proper gauge for actual readiness. Instead, ask yourself the following questions:
- Can your daughter pull her pants up and down independently?
- Does your daughter stay dry for up to two hours at a time?
- Does your daughter communicate when she’s wet or when she needs to go?
- Does your daughter hide behind furniture or in her room to get privacy?
- Can your daughter follow basic directions?
- Does your daughter communicate interest in using the potty, such as wetting her diaper in the bathroom?
2. Get the best equipment for your her. While some kids prefer a child-size seat that goes over the toilet with a comfortable stool for a footrest, others feel nervous about the size of the adult toilet and prefer a child-size potty seat that can be placed in the bathroom or anywhere the child feels comfortable. Take your daughter shopping to point out the options and choose together. This gets her involved in the process. It’s also a good idea to let your daughter choose her new underwear (just look for brands that avoid itchy seams and consider the cut for comfort), but don’t expect her to wear it right away. Potty training is a big change and some kids become overwhelmed by too many changes at once.
3. Create a stress-free potty zone. It takes time and practice to make this transition, particularly for younger toddlers. Create a calming environment by putting an interesting poster to look at across from the potty and a basket of board books (not potty related) next to the potty seat. Always factor in extra time. Singing a funny song together is another great way to make the process more fun and less about getting the job done. Praise the effort, not the result. Your daughter needs to know that this is a process and it will take time. To that end, it’s important for you to remain positive and praise her efforts along the way.
4. Schedule potty breaks. Toddlers are known for getting lost in play and forgetting about everything else in the process. Accidents will happen. It’s a good idea to have your daughter sit on the potty for 5 to 7 minutes every two hours to give it a try and get used to the process of using the potty at regular intervals. It also helps to watch for signs that she needs to use the potty, such as squirming, holding her pants, and squatting, so you can help her get there in time.
5. Teach your child good hygiene. It’s essential to teach girls the proper method of wiping to avoid spreading germs from the rectum to the vagina. Teach your daughter to spread her legs and wipe from front to back with clean toilet paper. This is also a good time to re-teach hand washing, too. Encourage your daughter to sing a song while washing to make sure she washes the germs away.
6. Make the transition to underpants. Once your daughter has a couple of successful weeks of using the potty under her belt, it’s time to celebrate the passing on of the diapers! Collect any leftover diapers and wrap them up to donate to a younger child in the neighborhood.
If your daughter resists the process or isn’t getting the hang of it, take a break. There’s no rule that you have to complete potty training on your first attempt. It’s better to take a breather from the stress and try again in a few months than to push the training when it isn’t working.