Potty training can be a challenge, so Upstate Parent sought advice from a doctor, a veteran preschool teacher and mom of two.

Although developmental readiness is key, current evidence says hurrying doesn’t help, said Joe Maurer, a pediatrician with the Greenville Health System Children’s Hospital at its Children’s Clinic – Duncan Chapel location.

Studies show little difference in age of completion because resistance stymies early-starters, Maurer said. Waiting too long is rarely problematic, as long as parents target age 2 to 3, he said.

“Most commonly, I see that parents want to start too early,” he said. “It becomes a parental struggle and leads to refusal and resistance. Years ago we used to recommend parent-centered training, which focuses more on training when the parents are ready. We’ve found that child-directed training works much better.”

Maurer cautioned parents who use candy and stickers to be careful to distinguish between rewards and bribes.

“A bribe is used in attempt to coerce a child into doing something, while a reward is the treat after completion,” Maurer said. “Using rewards is OK.”

Laurie Davis, director of John Knox Presbyterian Kindergarten, has 30 years of preschool experience. She and her staff have a number of potty-training tips. First, she said, the child must be cooperative. To start, Davis suggested frequent reminders to use the bathroom, ideally on an hourly schedule and as part of a routine, such as after snack time.

“We have found it helpful to tell the child that it is time to use the toilet versus asking them if they need to go,” Davis said.

She advised shifting to underwear after a child consistently uses the toilet. She said successful management of urination usually comes before successful management of bowel movements.

“Parents can expect children to have accidents fairly frequently after making the switch to underwear, but this should not last more than a couple of weeks if they are extremely consistent,” Davis said.

She said stress and a strong sense of urgency on the part of parents can hinder potty-training efforts. Other factors impacting success, she said, include the child’s personality, maturity, the amount of time spent at home, and whether the child has observed a sibling’s progress.

Eva Mady of Simpsonville downloaded a free toolkit to help potty train her 3-year-old daughter. The kit, created by Kandoo, a manufacturer of children’s grooming products, includes a progress chart, door hanger and certificate.

“(The chart) helped her measure progress and to keep her going,” Mady said. “The chart didn’t make her want to start going in the potty. That had to be her call.”

She said her daughter was excited to place her photo on the completion certificate once trained, but Mady disliked the door-hanger, which she found time consuming to use.

For more on the Kandoo potty training roolkit, visit

Is your child ready? 

Joe Maurer, a pediatrician with the Greenville Health System Children’s Hospital, said these behaviors indicate potty-training readiness:

  • Walking and sitting properly on toilet
  • Pulling clothes up and down 
  • Remaining dry for several hours
  • Following two-step commands 
  • Verbalizing a desire to attempt using the toilet
  • Imitating behaviors
  • Demonstrating some independence
  • Exhibiting desire to please
  • Placing things where they belong
  • Calling attention to soiled diapers
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