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Potty training is a something all parents and children must go through. It can be nightmare, but with a few tips and guidelines it doesn't have to be. Instead, it can be a smooth transition from babyhood to being a "big kid."

As both a parent and a former daycare provider I can attest to the fact all children potty train differently. What may have worked wonderfully for your eldest, may not work at all for your youngest. The key is to be open and willing to try new things and follow your child's lead.

The most important thing to know before starting to potty train is whether your child is ready yet. Age alone does not determine this. Most children potty train anywhere from 18 months to three years of age. According to the bell curve for girls the median is 27 months and for boys it is slightly older. However, these are only guidelines. You must know your child's abilities. Children who are ready to train can pull up and down their pants with little assistance, if any. They stay dry for at least two hours, and may even wake up from naps dry. They do not like to be in a wet or soiled diaper and may even try to take it off. They also show a curiosity for the toilet and may even ask to try it.

Once you have determined your child is ready for the potty, it is time to be sure you have the proper equipment. First of all, clothing is important. Clothing should be able to be easily pulled up and down by the child. The best clothes are elastic waist pants for boys and girls and skirts without tights for girls. The most difficult clothes are overalls and shirts that snap together at the bottom. These are difficult for the child to do by him or herself, and will only frustrate the child. Being able to pull up and down the clothing is important not only because it teaches the child how to use the toilet on his own, it also builds confidence in the child. She will feel more like a "big kid" if she can do it all by herself.

The type of underwear is also important. Loose fitting cotton training pants work best. They not only feel wet, but they also look wet. This way you can see if your child had an accident without asking. Asking over and over again "are you wet?" will also discourage your child. Disposable training pants do have their place, however. They are great for nighttime sleeping, long car rides and if you are going somewhere that your child won't have access to a restroom right away.

The most important equipment is the actual potty. There are several different potty-chairs on the market. Every family's preference varies, so choose the one you and your child are most comfortable with. There are also seats that fit onto a regular toilet. If you decide to use this type of potty, make sure you have a step stool near the toilet. It is important not only to get the child on easily and safely, but it is also important for the child to be able to put his feet on a firm surface.

Now on to the fun part. The key to easy training is consistency. Make sure your child goes often and on a regular schedule. If another adult is with your child during the day be sure to discuss your child's potty habits with her. That way you can come up with a schedule that is consistent no matter who is with your child. When your child first starts using the potty, it may be necessary to have her go every 30 minutes. As abilities increase and accidents decrease, you may start to lengthen the time between potty trips. Do not withhold beverages from your child. It is important that he gets enough liquid to be able to feel when he needs to use the potty.

Many parents disagree whether or not to reward the child for a successful trip to the potty. Positive reinforcement can be a very effective method of potty training. The reward can be a treat to eat, a sticker on a chart or simply a loud round of applause and a "you did it, what a big kid!" In my personal experience I have not seen anything negative come out of positively reinforcing a child's potty training. I have not yet seen a kindergartner expect a reward for using the restroom.

Also do not punish your child for her accidents. Spanking or timeout due to a potty accident is uncalled for, and will only make training more difficult. The child is not being defiant. He is only learning. All beginners at anything make mistakes. The more appropriate way to handle accidents is to say, " Uh-oh! Did you pee-pee your pants?" then have the child change clothes and put the soiled clothes in a designated area.
If you take your child's lead for readiness, have the correct equipment stay consistent your potty training experience will be a happy one.