Parent Q and A: It’s potty time…or is it?

Hi Rebekka,

I have a quick question and wondering if you might have some thoughts — I know I said that we were not pushing our 2.5-year-old daughter with potty training, but all of a sudden today, she refused to wear diapers and has gone in her potty twice!  I wasn’t planning for this at all, especially with daughter #2 on the way this summer, and I don’t really have a method lined up.  Is there one you really like?  Thanks for any thoughts you can provide!

All the best,

To potty or not to potty

Hello there!

My preferred method for everything relational involves three steps:

1. Observe mindfully
2. Reflect kindly
3. Respond flexibly

You’re observing mindfully that your daughter is expressing interest in using the potty, as well as showing the ability to do so. You can reflect that to her – “Oh, you’re interested in using the potty. Great, how can I help?”

Flexible response is key – I’d follow her lead 100% on this one, as it’s her skill to earn and develop, and really hers alone. Offer choices – “Would you like to use a diaper or undies?” “Oh, you need to poop, would you like to go in your diaper or on the potty? The big potty or the little one?” Be totally cool about accidents. “Oh, you didn’t realize you needed to pee and you had an accident. Accidents happen – let me go get a washcloth. Would you like some help taking off your leggings or can you do it yourself?”

Be totally chill and nonchalant about all of this, and know that learning to use the toilet and be diaper free all of the time is not an all-or-nothing-thing. Rather, it takes time. You can let your daughter know that you’re available to support her in learning to use the potty however she needs you to support her, whether that be by having “potty parties” (hanging out together in the bathroom on the potty), inviting her to join you when you visit the potty, reading potty-related stories (see here for my personal favorites), watching some Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood about visiting the potty and singing his little song about it (If you have to go potty, stop and go right away! Flush and wash and be on your way!), etc.

It’s also really important to note that the process of toilet learning may wind up being interrupted by little sister’s arrival! Normal regression often accompanies the birth of a new sibling. Moreover, this major upheaval in family life is such a big transition, it’s best to avoid adding other transitions and changes to the mix whenever possible.

Finally, and most importantly, there’s no rush – follow your daughter’s lead. She will get there eventually. Observe mindfully, reflect kindly, and respond flexibly. There’s no one right way to become diaper free, and only your daughter knows the timeframe on this one. I hope these ideas help you on your journey together!

Take good care,


For additional reading:

Rebekka Helford is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in Los Angeles, California. With over a decade of experience working with parents and young children, Rebekka specializes in short-term intensive parenting consultation, using a variety of tools including home, office, and school visits to help families navigate developmental hiccups and get back on track. Virtual visits now available!

Click here to schedule an appointment or contact Rebekka with a question – who knows, she might even answer it in her next post!

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