Potty Training For Dummies®


by Diane Stafford and Jennifer Shoquist, MD




About the Authors

Diane Stafford: Diane’s writing career began when she snagged a great summer job as a speechwriter for the astronauts while she was attending college. After teaching high school journalism and English, she went on to her second career as a writer/editor, serving as editor-in-chief of Health & Fitness Magazine, Texas Woman Magazine, Houston Home & Garden, Dallas–Fort Worth Home & Garden, Philanthropy in Texas, and Latin Music. Also an entrepreneur, Stafford co-owned Health & Fitness Magazine and helped with startups of the magazine in New Orleans, Philadelphia, Miami, and Atlanta. She has won awards for health writing. Stafford has written hundreds of articles and now edits books for Arte Publico Press in Houston and writes books.

Diane Stafford lives with her husband, David Garrett, in Houston, where she is a well-known writer and a community volunteer for Casa de Esperanza de los Ninos and the Emergency Aid Coalition Clothes Center.

Stafford’s book Tilted Heart comes out in 2002, as well as another book that she and Jennifer Shoquist co-authored — No More Panic Attacks: A 30-Day Plan for Conquering Anxiety, also slated for publication in 2002.

Jennifer Shoquist, MD: Jennifer is a family-practice physician whose interest in writing began when she was attending the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, while also interning at Health & Fitness Magazine in Houston, Texas. Later, she completed her medical degree at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston, followed by family practice residency at Memorial Southwest Hospital. Today, she works in family-practice medicine and serves as a health-issues resource for journalists. She and her husband, Robert San Luis, live in Houston with two shih-tzus, Lucy and Sophie. Their family will soon expand with the birth of a child, due in September 2002, a baby destined for an over-the-top potty-training extravaganza. Jennifer and Robert are both avid fitness enthusiasts.



We dedicate this to parents and caregivers who potty train with TLC because they know how important it is to show children that we love them every single day of their lives. And, we dedicate this book to all the kids who inspire us with their fresh way of looking at the world, and remind us to keep the child in each of us alive. Kudos to our family tykes and tots — Xanthe, Cameron, Lindsay, Jack, Sam, Sidney. And, to those we were once “little people” alongside: Allen, Camilla, Austin, Fletcher, Shari, Amber. Shih-tzus Lucy and Sophie also deserve their share of the credit.


Authors’ Acknowledgments

This great project came our way thanks to the efforts of our incredible literary agent — Elizabeth Frost-Knappman of New England Publishing Associates, whose energy and optimism and warmth make everything more fun. She introduced us to Project Editor Kathleen Dobie and Acquisitions Editor Natasha Graf, both of Wiley Publishing, who worked hard to bring the book to fruition. Kathleen proves that amazing things can be communicated via e-mail. She’s such a gem to work with, and we thank her for being so patient and helpful; so gifted with super-word skills; and so generous with compassion. Natasha was always quick with answers, encouragement, and publishing expertise. Rob Annis also merits a pat on the back for his skillful copyediting.

Thanks to our wonderful friends and family who cheered and shared: David Nordin, Gina Bradley, Sarah Shoquist, Richard Pierce, Britt Pierce, Chris Fleming, Dot and Laurens Horstman, Eddi Lee, Christina Shirley, Joanne Goldstein, Cari LaGrange, Donna Pate, Jami Exner, Fred Aguilar, M.D., Dana Chandler, Wendy Corson, Shannon and John Mathis, Christy Waites, Liz Lemaster, Kristina Holt, Tweetie Garrett, Martha Steele, Michele Fisher. For helping us know what matters, we thank the folks at Emergency Aid Coalition Clothes Center, and the little children at Casa de Esperanza (and all the angels who work with them), and the big kids at South Houston High.

Deep appreciation goes to my husband, David Garrett, who gives me friendship and love. My loving thanks goes to my daughter, Jenny, who has made my life wonderful. Her good heart and sweetness are unparalleled. Also, my thanks to her husband, Robert, who is always supportive. For everything I know about loving ways to nurture kids, I thank my wonderful daddy, Clinton Shirley, and my beloved mother, Belle Shirley, who parented so beautifully, and gave all children — and all people — compassion and respect.

I want to thank my amazing husband, Robert San Luis, for all of his love and support, and my wonderful mom for her constant love. I also thank my sweet dad Martin Shoquist, Dr. Leticia Carlos San Luis, Dr. Tom and Gina Cartwright, and Lina Carlos. To my friends and patients, I send love and best wishes for positive potty-training days.


Publisher’s Acknowledgments

We’re proud of this book; please send us your comments through our online registration form located at www.dummies.com/register.

Some of the people who helped bring this book to market include the following:

Acquisitions, Editorial, and Media Development

Project Editor: Kathleen A. Dobie

Associate Acquisitions Editor: Natasha Graf

Copy Editor: Robert Annis

Technical Editor: Beth Ann Martin, MD

Senior Permissions Editor: Carmen Krikorian

Editorial Manager: Christine Meloy Beck

Media Development Manager: Laura VanWinkle

Editorial Assistant: Melissa Bennett

Cover Photo: © Getty Images


Project Coordinator: Dale White

Layout and Graphics: Stephanie Jumper, Brent Savage, Jeremey Unger, Mary J. Virgin

Proofreaders: John Greenough, Angel Perez, Linda Quigley, Aptara

Indexer: AptaraGeneral and Administrative

Diane Graves Steele, Vice President and Publisher, Consumer Dummies

Joyce Pepple, Acquisitions Director, Consumer Dummies

Kristin A. Cocks, Product Development Director, Consumer Dummies

Michael Spring, Vice President and Publisher, Travel

Brice Gosnell, Publishing Director, Travel

Suzanne Jannetta, Editorial Director, Travel

Publishing for Technology Dummies

Richard Swadley, Vice President and Executive Group Publisher

Andy Cummings, Vice President and Publisher

Composition Services

Gerry Fahey, Vice President of Production Services

Debbie Stailey, Director of Composition Services




About This Book

Foolish Assumptions

How to Use This Book

How This Book Is Organized

Icons Used in This Book

Where to Go from Here

Part I : Setting Up for Success

Chapter 1: Launching the Potty-Training Adventure

Starting Potty-Mambo Dance Class

Keeping an Eye Out for Your Window of Opportunity

Giving the Potty Mambo a Good Beat

Making Sure Everyone Enjoys the Big Dance

Knowing Your Place as Mentor

Benefiting from Others’ Cool Moves

Becoming the Grand Poopbah of Potty Mambo (Trouble-Buster Supreme)

Giving Special Attention to Special Children (with Disabilities)

Polishing off a Super-Slick Potty Babe

Chapter 2: Assembling Your Team

Starring Role for Junior

Taking on the Coach’s Job

Making Use of the Supporting Cast

Chapter 3: Using the Tools of the Trade and Dressing for Success

Picking a Potty Chair

Using Other Cool Tools

Getting the Goods

Being Clothes-Conscious

Part II : It’s All in the Timing

Chapter 4: Recognizing Readiness Signs

Doing Covert Operations

Watching for Behavioral Changes

Detecting Physical Clues

Noting Changes Directly Related to Potty Training

Chapter 5: Choosing the Right Time

Finding the Best Times

Avoiding High-Stress Times

Brainwashing Your Toddler (in a Nice Way)

Keeping Your Special Angel’s Quirks in Mind

Part III : Surefire Steps for Ditching Diapers

Chapter 6: Prepping for the Big Game

Modeling Big-People Behavior

Introducing All the Pieces

Chapter 7: Dancing the Potty Mambo

Kicking Off Mambo Weekend

Helping a Doll Use the Potty: Step 1

Sitting on the Potty Every Hour: Step 2

Setting Up a Success Chart: Step 3

Switching to Training Pants: Step 4

Minding Your Own Steps

Behaving after the Dance: Post-Weekend Protocols

Chapter 8: Keeping a Good Thing Going

Reinforcing Success

Oops, He Did It Again: Dealing with Accidents

Modifying Your Own Behavior

Switching to the Big Toilet

Chapter 9: Training Outside the Home

Dealing with Daycare Issues

Savvy Planning for Day Trips and Sleepovers

Part IV : Using Psych-Up Skills

Chapter 10: Staying on Message

Keeping the Game Upbeat and Pleasant

Avoiding the Pitfalls of Straying Off Message

Respecting Your Child’s Modesty Quirks

Getting to the Bottom Line

Chapter 11: Understanding Your Trainee

Getting Through to Busy Toddlers

Motivating with Pizzazz

Fielding Odd Behaviors

Chapter 12: Getting By with a Little Help

Special Potty-Training Issues for Working Parents

Getting Support from Helpful Relatives

Potty Training with an Ex: Going from Mom’s House to Dad’s House

Finding Outside Resources

Part V : Coping with Special Cases

Chapter 13: Managing Major-League Backsliding

Expecting Setbacks

Getting Back on Track

Dealing with Your Toddler’s Reactions to Accidents

Dealing with Your Own Reactions

Doctor, Doctor, Give Me the News

Chapter 14: Dealing with Day-Slippers and Bed-Wetters

Understanding the Differences between Night and Day

Handling the Emotional Aspects

Seeing a Doctor

Chapter 15: Handling a Hardcore Balker

Scoping Out the Problem

Trying a Few Options Before Handing Off the Baton

Dealing with More Than One Trainee

Responding When She Finally Gets It

Keeping Your Relationship Fun and Healthy

Chapter 16: Soiling Beyond Toddler Years

Tackling the Issue

Seeing a Doctor

Treating Other Physical and Psychological Problems

Dealing at Daycare

Preventing Future Bouts

Chapter 17: Training Children with Disabilities

Physical Issues

Emotional Differences

Coaching Techniques

Part VI : The Part of Tens

Chapter 18: Ten Answers from the Expert

Marking Territory

Sending Him to School Untrained

Handling a Potty-Mouth

Micro-Managing the Process Comes Naturally for Me

He Wants to Go Back to Diapers

My Son Still Wets the Bed

Is Putting Him in Cool Undies a Good Incentive?

He’s Peeing and Pooping During the Night

Refusing to Sit on the Potty Chair

One Twin is Dragging the Other One Down

Chapter 19: Ten Ways to Pump Up Potty Prowess

Softening the Setting

Properly Framing the Speed Bumps

Jazzing Up the Challenge

Using Your Insider Knowledge

Taking the High Road

Applying Pottying Skills to Real Life

Putting the Ball in Her Court

Letting Her Know She’ll Succeed

Cheering Her Slam Dunks

Crowning Her a Potty Princess

Chapter 20: Ten Reasons to Let Your Child Lead

Hearing His Body Talk

Setting the Pace

Finding His Motivation

Trailblazing via Temperament

Learning Pee and Poop Signals

Making It Up as He Goes

Learning How to Self-Propel

Signaling When He Needs Help

Knowing When to Sit a Game Out

Getting to Know Himself

Chapter 21: Ten Woulda-Couldas If You Got Do-Overs

Zipping Your Lips

Knowing When Enough is Enough

Curbing Your Tidying Tendencies

Stifling the Urge to Go Back to Diapers

Resisting the Desire to Compare Kids

Stopping the Steady Barrage of Bribes

Zapping the Noise-Maker Potty Chair

Taking a Laid-Back Approach

Laughing More, Frowning Less

Laying Off the Guilt-Tripping

Going with Your Gut


Sure, you can be a potty guru. Spend a little time with Potty Training For Dummies, and you’ll be ready to handle anything in the Mad, Mad World of Potty Deeds — the absurd toilet-paper fiascos, the nudity-cult behavior, the tinkle terrors, the poo-poo bribes. Even getting prepped for the process can make you nervous.

That’s why it’s important to have terrific ideas — and psychic insight into what your kiddo’s thinking right now. If he could talk like a big person, he’d say, “Learning how to do the potty stuff will be tough, but with your help, I can pull it off.”

So, who cares if you’re second-guessing yourself. That’s natural — potty training can be intimidating. Truth is, most parents and caregivers are baffled by old wives’ tales and conflicting potty advice and the endless chances to mess this up.

This book sets you straight about what’s true and what’s misinformation, what works and what may gum up the works, in an easy, breezy style you and your tiny tot can relate to.

About This Book

You can’t help but look at that cute little biscuit and wonder how in the world you’ll ever manage to fill his brain with toilet talking points and still stay super-close with him. You stare at his new potty chair and wonder if he’ll use it for a toy box or a candy depository. You also wonder what he’ll say when you tell him, “Hey, tiny tot, put your poop and pee right in there.”

With this book, we make you a potty-training pro. We hand you knowledge and confidence and potty procedures. We share scads of tips and best-kept secrets for rookie parents and novice caregivers, as well as veterans in both categories. You also get helpful Web sites, potty-chair ratings, cool potty videos and books, as well as lots of reassuring stuff on what’s normal in the way of accidents and kooky behavior. We encourage and prepare you. We think of everything — even surefire lines to motivate your youngster.

You’ll be totally ready when training day comes, because you’re packing Potty Training For Dummies. Don’t worry your pretty head because we answer all the pressing questions that parents and caregivers want answers to:

bullet What’s the secret to kicking off potty training on the right foot?

bullet How can you make sure your toddler is really ready?

bullet What gives better results — extreme structure or wild freeform?

bullet Should you include some fun parts along the way to snag his attention?

bullet Can you trust all the advice that relatives and friends give you?

bullet Is it possible to pull this off in a single day?

bullet What’s the best response if your child says “no way!” when you tell him it’s potty-training time?

Clearly, you need a plan. While we’re not here to tell you to buy an amulet for good luck, or to sprinkle your home with Indian rattle-balls that get rid of evil spirits, we do know the truth — that your child’s interpretation of this experience will be as uniquely his own as his eye color, skin type, and temperament.

Meanwhile, check out all of the things that Potty Training For Dummies can do for you:

bullet Help you let your child “own” the potty experience: This is her deal, not yours. Little Nicole will lead you; you won’t steamroll her. You can lead your child to the toilet, but you can’t make her use it!

bullet Foster a team approach: You rally the troops together for supporting toddler Juan’s efforts. You’re already being bombarded with advice, but you can use your potty savvy to extract the best from helper-bees.

bullet Separate fact from fiction: For example, it’s fiction that your child is ruined if you show any signs of frustration during potty training. But it’s fact that your actions during these formative first years of life absolutely impact your child’s quality of life in a major way.

bullet Keep you focused on the goal — helping your child feel good about himself: It doesn’t matter if he piddles on the bed. Or acts like a budding pervert. Or turns his poop-pushing dramatics into a comedy act. He’s your doll-baby, and he’s doing his best.

bullet Show you how to potty train solo: Thank goodness, to make this work, you don’t need an entourage. Or a personal trainer. You won’t need to ask “your people” to talk to “his people.” You’ll keep potty training simple and lighthearted and fanciful, and your child will learn to use the potty in his own sweet time.

bullet Boost your enthusiasm and attitude: Truly, a toddler’s natural playfulness and curiosity are terrific building blocks. So, all you have to do is go with the aces a toddler brings to the table, and don’t spend two seconds wringing your hands about what he can’t do yet. As a famed Texas football coach once said, “Just dance with who brung ya.”

bullet Prepare you for anything: We spotlight tons of techniques that will work for your child and make you feel like an able-bodied teaching pro. A million, trillion times all of us have heard that attitude is everything, and nowhere does that glitter in neon more brightly than in the Portals of Potty Training. You can’t play this game with sweaty palms.

The Potty Training For Dummies Guarantee: Just to help you keep things in perspective, we promise that if your child is still in diapers when he makes the football team or gets her college degree, you can send him or her off to us for a weekend remedial course — and ask for a refund of the book cost.

Of course, we’re kidding. Though it may seem like an eternity when you’re cleaning up after yet another accident, your child is practically certain to be potty trained long before he or she begins elementary school.

Foolish Assumptions

We’re guessing that you — mom, dad, babysitter, nanny, daycare worker — have a child in the two-three-four age range. Either you’re in the throes of potty training already (ouch) — or you’re getting ready to rumble.

You may be a little intimidated by the whole potty-training mystique and need reassurance; you may be looking for a method that works because training an older child became a battle of wills and egos that went on and on and on, and you sure don’t want to go through that again; you may be completely baffled about the whole process — when to start, what to do, and not do.

Our biggest assumption is that you’re looking forward to finding out how to potty train without too many tears for you or your tyke, so no matter what your perspective, you can find what you need in this book. We give you clear and comprehensive information about all aspects of potty training, along with tips and reassurances and encouragement.

How to Use This Book

A reference book for anyone who’s helping a child transition from diapers to the big-people’s toilet, Potty Training For Dummies is set up in a way that makes it easy to pick up, put down, pick up, put down — which is what busy folks who are taking care of small fry tend to do, anyway. Each part’s a freestanding unit so that you can read every one separately — no need to read them in order, unless you want to.

One quick scan of the Table of Contents, and you can zip toward the parts you want to read first. Later, you may turn to the others.

How This Book Is Organized

Your potty-training book is split up into six parts, featuring 21 chapters. You can read the parts randomly — without having to read what came before. If a section does require prior knowledge, we’ll refer you to the chapter number so you can flip there and brief yourself. Here’s a rundown of each part and what’s in store for you.

Part I: Setting Up for Success

First, you take a look at the big picture and all that’s involved in seeing your child reach his goal. The program starts when you assemble your team: This means giving Junior the starring role and making sure he’s ready (emotionally and physically). You — caregiver or parent — put on the captain’s hat, and that gives you the privileges of coaching and motivating. You’ll educate yourself and make the most of your talented supporting cast: family, friends, and outside caregivers. To ensure success in your upcoming potty adventure, you provide your child with the tools of the trade (potty chair, star chart, doll, training pants), and you suit him up for success.

Part II: It’s All in the Timing

This part gives you the readiness signs (Chapter 4) — from physical clues to magic words to behavior upgrades. Noting your child’s ready-set-go posture, you then proceed to the next step — pinpointing the very best time for potty-training startup, which we have named Potty-Training Weekend.

Part III: Surefire Steps for Ditching Diapers

In these chapters, we look at prepping for the big game, which includes big-people role modeling and potty-trip promotions. Then we go on to the Super Bowl of potty training — the weekend your child starts dancing the Potty Mambo.

After Potty-Training Weekend, you focus on keeping a good thing going (Chapter 8) and taking training on the road (Chapter 9).

Part IV: Using Psych-Up Skills

Want some super advice on getting your child excited about the potty? For the weeks/months of potty training, stay very much on message — and deal smartly with the do’s and don’ts of the ups and downs. And, zip your lips before you compare your moppet with the potty wizard down the street. While you’re doing all these neat tricks, you can “get by with a little help from your friends” and the rest of the posse who’re all set to cheer on the toddler’s success.

Part V: Coping with Special Cases

You need wiggle room. Things are never black and white in Pottyville, so you need to show considerable flexibility when dealing with special situations. You’ll find out how to train kids with disabilities; handle major-league pee problems; and help your child stop soiling his undies. And, you’ll even discover some good tricks for softening up those wild-and-wacky balkers. Be sure to find out when you should say, “Doctor, doctor, give me the news!”

Part VI: The Part of Tens

Here’s a hodgepodge of cool tips and ideas, from ten reasons to let your child lead, to ten of the most-often-encountered quandaries that give parents and caregivers gray hair. We also share: ten ways to pump up potty prowess, and ten woulda-coulda-shouldas if you got do-overs in potty training.

Icons Used in This Book

The paragraphs with the icons next to them contain special information of one sort or another. We highlight this information according to how you can use it.


A mental sticky note, a Tip icon points to some fresh idea or a tried-and-true one that you’ll want to sample at some point. Tuck these tidbits away for future reference — pearls that will come in handy when that little Jolly Charmer (or Challenging Personality) has you buffaloed.


Here’s a heads-up for when your child’s potty training takes a dicey detour. These signposts, usually of the medical variety, often recommend a trip to the doctor for tiny tyke — or tell you how to avoid one.


This alert is especially for you worker bees. People who parent and work outside the home have special concerns and sometimes confront different problems associated with being gone for long blocks of hours. This icon addresses the speed bumps professional folks face while potty training.


If you could pull nothing but a handful of items from the entire text of Potty Training For Dummies, the Remember-tagged messages would be perfect ones to take with you to the potty room.


Boost your morale by reading one of our real-life stories of parents and caregivers who have potty trained tots and want to share what they learned firsthand.

Another convention we use has to do with gender: The first and last chapters use female pronouns because they’re odd-numbered chapters; even-numbered chapters have male pronouns.

Where to Go from Here

Now that the intros are out of the way, we hope you’ll enjoy your adventure into the Never-Never Land of Potty Capers.

bullet If you’re potty training a child for the first time, we suggest you start by reading Parts I and II — to get acquainted with the lingo, the tools of the trade, and the do’s and don’ts. Then, skip to Part III, which explains how to prep your child for the showdown — learning how to potty, which is covered in Chapter 7. In your spare time, check out Parts IV and VI, chock full of sanity-maintenance tips for you and praise potions for small fry.

bullet If you have potty trained in the past, but hit heavy-duty snags, go straight to Part V, which deals with tough problems and how to handle them.

bullet If you’re a true veteran — a grandparent or a longtime daycare worker or a nanny — you can use this book as reference, or to spiff up your rough spots. You’ll find plenty of ways to curb problems you’ve encountered in the past. Flip to the Table of Contents and look for the info you need most.

By the way, Big Person, as you zero in on meaty parts and put them into action, be sure to accept the hearty pats on the back that are definitely due to someone like you who’s taking the time to do the right thing. Your little one will thank you. Someday. When he learns about real, big-kid stuff like appreciating wonderful people who gave him a leg up in life by being understanding.

Dance on!

Part I

Setting Up for Success

In this part...

As a newcomer to Potty Planet, you may feel baffled about how to deal with pee and poop pranks. With your toddler all lined up for his brand-new challenge, you know you need plenty of prize nuggets on how to mold that little whippersnapper into a champion potty-user — and have fun doing it. So, you’ll be happy to hear that this crash course features both laugh lines and life lines.

Where do you start? Part I gives you the big picture, along with the one-two-three on assembling your team, putting pumpkin out in front, and giving him the proper tools. You’re bold. You’re ready. And, you’re okay with knowing that your toddler’s potty learning will come in baby steps — tiny and tentative, but, with you around, right on target.