Ready to potty train

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Ready to potty train

One of the most common questions I get about potty training is: How do I know if my child is really ready for that process? We think of three different things that parents need to think about. First, we think of physical readiness. This is the ability to sit on the potty for as long as it takes. Sometimes that's a potty chair or a regular ring on the toilet. It also requires that the child has the capacity to get their pants up and down, get their shirts out of the way. We think of that as a physical skill that they access in order to use the potty. The next thing we think about is their cognitive ability. Cognitive ability is the if they are able to understand what the process is about. As the child is showing curiosity and walking in on their parents, parents can be talking with them about what they are doing when they are using the potty. Developing a shared vocabulary, so that when the child can converse about using the potty, they are using the same terms. The third component to readiness we call emotional readiness. That's really twofold. Part of that is the interest and motivation to being potty trained. Sometimes that is there and sometimes that's something that needs to be focused on by the parent. The other side of emotional readiness is resilience. It's inevitable that the child is going to have an accident, so it is important that the child knows how to handle that and move forward.

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Peter Stavinoha, PhD


Peter L. Stavinoha, PhD, ABPP, is a board certified clinical neuropsychologist in Dallas, Texas.  He directs the Neuropsychology Service at Children’s Medical Center of Dallas and he is Professor in Psychology/Psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. He was named Distinguished Psychologist for 2005 by the Dallas Psychological Association. Dr. Stavinoha specializes in the cognitive, behavioral, and emotional aspects of developmental disabilities and acquired brain injury in children. As a general parenting expert, he is regularly interviewed in the media, Dallas morning television, Parents and Parenting Magazines, and numerous parenting blogs. Together with Sara Bridget Au, he is co-author of Stress-Free Potty Training. He has also authored several chapters in scholarly texts on subjects ranging from pediatric concussion to brain tumors in children. Dr. Stavinoha received a BA in Psychology from the University of Notre Dame and a PhD in Educational Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Stavinoha completed a residency in Clinical Neuropsychology at the Medical College of Wisconsin, and is a member of the American Psychological Association, the International Neuropsychological Society, and the National Academy of Neuropsychology. Dr. Stavinoha has a 16-year old son named Joe.

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