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5 common potty training mistakes

Experts from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center offers

Experts from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center offers five common potty training mistakes and how to avoid them. Credit: iStock

A few months ago, my daughter's pediatrician uttered two words I wasn't expecting to hear so soon: potty training. While Maggie is only 2, he mentioned that it's a good time to start getting her interested in the whole toilet training process.

So, we bought her a little potty that she sits on daily — sometimes she goes, but most times she doesn't. Potty training books are now a big part of her nightly reading routine. I even bought "big girl" underwear, hoping she'd get excited about it. But alas, she's still not ready and that's OK with me.

When it comes to potty training, there's no shortage of advice for parents. I've noticed it already, from my parents and in-laws to friends and co-workers, everyone has a tip to share. But it turns out, children are often trained incorrectly, which may lead to bed-wetting, daytime accidents and more, according to Steve Hodges, a specialist in pediatric urology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and author of “It's No Accident: Breakthrough Solutions to Your Child's Wetting, Constipation, UTIs, and Other Potty Problems" (The Lyons Press; $16.95). Here, he offers 5 mistakes every parent should avoid when potty training their children:

1. Training too early. "While early toilet training is popular, children younger than 3 don’t understand how essential it is to get themselves to a bathroom when nature calls," said Hodges. "Instead, they hold their urine and bowel movements, which can lead to numerous problems, including bed-wetting.”

2. Not setting a bathroom routine. Many problems — from urinary tract infections to bed-wetting — are often related to children holding their urine. "Holding urine leads to smaller bladder capacity and sets a child up for accidents,” he said. Try having your child urinate on a schedule, about every two hours, he suggested. Have your child count to 10 while on the potty and keep some of his/her favorite books and puzzles nearby. Also, Hodges suggested keeping a high-fiber diet which can help with bowl movements, as well.

3. Ignoring school bathrooms or bathroom policies. "Unreasonable restroom requirements, restrictive bathroom policies and dirty bathrooms in schools compound children’s potty problems," said Hodges. Become aware of your child's day care and bathroom policies and be an advocate for them, he suggested. For example, tour the school bathrooms to identify issues, make bathroom cleanliness a PTA issue and encourage policies that allow children to use the restroom when they need to.

4. Missing signs of constipation. "Up to 30 percent of children between ages 2 and 10 are chronically constipated," said Hodges. “Many parents mistakenly believe that if their child has daily bowel movements, they are not constipated. But in kids, there’s a different definition of constipation known as ‘poop burden.’ It refers to waste backed up in their rectum that can press on the bladder and cause bed-wetting and other problems.” Constipation symptoms include extra-large or firm bowel movements, accidents, stained underwear and mild belly pain with no obvious cause.

5. Ignoring signs of bladder trouble. Common problems in children that shouldn’t be ignored are painful urination, frequent urination and blood in the urine, said Hodges. "These symptoms are sometimes due to an infection or other problems and should be evaluated by a physician," he said.

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