Some boys like to aim their pee at floating Cheerios. For other youngsters, sitting on the toilet backward does the trick.
Still others are motivated by choosing their very own "big girl" underpants.
But no matter what pottytraining methods parents employ, it’s not happening until the child is ready.
"A lot of people make the assumption that by 2 they should be completely potty trained," said Pam Klatt-Michael, manager of the Child Development Center at Banner Desert Medical Center’s Children’s Hospital. "But physically, that child’s body may not be ready to take on those skills."
Like walking and talking, potty training is a developmental milestone. Children may be ready between 18 months and 3 years old. Efforts to rush the process are basically futile.
After two or more years in diapers, however, with the packages getting increasingly large and pungent, it’s easy to understand why parents are eager to get Junior onto the potty.
"It’s the most frustrating skill a parent goes through with a child, because they want them to do it so fast," said Klatt-Michael. "It may take anywhere from a month to six months depending on the child. And every child is different. What worked for one child may not work for the next child."
Parents may be tempted to buy all kinds of potty paraphernalia, like musical seats and dolls and personalized sticker charts. Experts say all that’s needed is a potty, or a ring that fits onto an adult toilet, so the child doesn’t have to worry about falling in. Some also consider pull-up diapers a crutch that extends the toilet training process.
"It looks like a diaper. It acts like a diaper. It is a diaper," said Klatt-Michael. "It teaches them that it’s still OK to go potty in your pants."
Sonya Hemmings tried a sticker chart with her first child, without success. So with 2-year-old Kerrick, she’s just using a potty seat atop the toilet and training pants with thin disposable liners that make cleanup easier. The potty stays in the car in case he needs to go when they’re away from home. And Kerrick’s big brother serves as a terrific role model.
"We’ve actually made some progress," said Hemmings, who lives in Tempe. "We were going through six pairs of training pants a day. Now we’re down to two."
Hemming is expecting her third child in November, so she’s hoping Kerrick will get the hang of things soon and be less likely to regress when the baby comes.
"Of all the parenting things that you go through," she said, "my least fun one has been potty training."
Still, she knows from experience that it’s bound to happen eventually. That this last vestige of Kerrick’s babyhood will soon be behind them.
"When they’re ready, it will just click."
Helpful strategies for toilet training
• Have your child use a potty chair or a child’s seat that attaches to the toilet. Placing him on an adult toilet may make him feel insecure.
• Let your child help pick out the potty and some "big boy" or "big girl" underwear.
• Dress him in loose clothing that can be easily taken off and put back on, so he can prevent accidents and feel more independent.
• Relax training for a week if you have a problem. A break might be good for both of you.
• Use books that show other children using the toilet to help your child learn about potty training.
• Allow the child to watch you or other family members use the toilet.
• If time and your schedule permit, and the child is ready, take him/her to the potty every two hours.
• Remember — accidents happen.
• Don’t allow your child to drink liquids an hour before bed, and make sure he goes to the bathroom right before bedtime.
Source: "Best Beginnings," Dr. Brenda Hussey-Gardner; Banner Desert Medical Center in Mesa