Why asking "do you have to go?" is not helpful for potty-training

Learn about: Why asking "do you have to go?" is not helpful for potty-training from Alanna Levine, MD,...
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Why asking "do you have to go?" is not helpful for potty-training

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When I talk to parents about potty training their children, my main tidbit of advice is don't be the potty police. If you think about what's behind potty training, it's really transferring the responsibility when the child has soiled their pants or needs to go to the bathroom from the parents to the child. If you're constantly nagging and saying, do you have to go to the bathroom, do you have to go to the bathroom, do you have to go to the bathroom, then the only one really being potty trained is the parent. The child isn't taking any responsibility to decide when their body needs to go. I always tell parents that there is no specific time when a child needs to be potty trained, and I really have never in my practice seen a child go off to kindergarten in diapers. So really let the child decide when they want to be potty trained. It may be at 2 for one child. It may be at 3 1/2 to 4 for another. But I'm telling you, if you let the child decide, they'll wake up on morning and say, I want to wear underwear. You'll put them in underwear. And that child will have much fewer accidents than the child who was forced into underwear against their will. There are different signs of readiness. And you'll know as a parent that your child is close to getting ready when their diaper is dry for long periods of time, when developmentally they're at a stage when they can actually pull their pants up and down by themselves, and when they tell you they need to be changed. Once it starts to bother them when their diaper is soiled or when their diaper is wet, you know they're on their way to wanting to wear underwear that remain dry all the time. I'm not a big believer in training pants, because I feel that training pants give a mixed message to a child. It gives a message that, "I'd like you to go on a toilet, but if you mess up, you can go in your pants and it's okay." I'd much rather have a child wet their underwear, feel wet and feel uncomfortable, and have that reinforcement be the message as to why it is that they want to stay dry.

Learn about: Why asking "do you have to go?" is not helpful for potty-training from Alanna Levine, MD,...

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Alanna Levine, MD

Pediatrician & Author

Dr. Alanna Levine is a New York-based pediatrician and a mom of two children.  As a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Levine frequently appears on television and in print speaking about breaking medical news and common parenting topics.  Dr. Levine is also a contributor for BabyCenter.com, on the board of advisors for GetSweaty.com, and on the executive committee for the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Council on Communications and Media.Dr. Levine sees patients at Orangetown Pediatric Associates in New York and is on staff at Nyack Hospital and Englewood Hospital and Medical Center.   She completed her internship and residency at the Mount Sinai Hospital, received her medical degree at Sackler School of Medicine in Tel Aviv, Israel, a master’s degree in medical sciences from Boston University, and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin.

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