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Ask the Expert: Potty Training 101 with The Potty Whisperer

Ask the Expert: Potty Training 101 with The Potty Whisperer

The Potty Whisperer, Adriana Vermillion gives parents advice, tips, and information on potty training children, from what age children should begin potty training, to facing difficulties and challenges with the potty training process. 

Potty_TrainingWe all know that potty training can be challenging, but why do you think parents tend to run out of patience during the process more quickly than a professional would? 

A: I totally agree with the idea of potty training being a challenging milestone, however as a professional potty trainer I begin with the end in mind and look at it as a milestone versus challenge. A parent may look at it the same way in most cases, however I need to also acknowledge the emotional attachment a parent has towards the child and familiarity sometime can definitely create a bit of trouble for most.

If a parent tries to rush potty training, will that added stress slow down the process with the child?

A: Added stress can sometimes slow down anything in life, however for a child is different. It actually creates an anxiety factor and once it is formed it is hard to break because we deal with trust and fear. Potty training is exactly that  training, and because every child is unique time should not be a factor but growth.

How does a parent know when it’s the right time to begin potty training?

A: A parent will know when it’s time to potty by having and keeping an open relationship with his/her child. Children communicate in different ways. A child’s brain offers signals to a child when it’s time to peruse potty training, however many times a parent may miss these opportunities due to the fast pace of life, and a prep time may ne necessary if a deadline is approaching such as preschool, camps or Summer altogether.

We’ve all read that potty training is a process. What does your boot camp entail—and are the kids potty trained at the end of the boot camp session (5 days)?

A: Potty Training is a process, absolutely! A Potty Training Boot Camp is just that: a camp! Kids come together and learn the skill of going potty, just like their new friends. The Potty Whisperer offers three levels of potty training and our five- or six-day camp covers our Basic Plan. A child will learn what, where and when, however each camper will learn skills during a camp and in combination with handouts we offer parents, most get to Complete on their own, however our focus is Basic Training during our short camp.

From your experience, what do parents get most frustrated by when attempting to potty train their child on their own?

A: Attempting to potty train on your own as a parent is a beautiful thing, however it can get dirty pretty quickly if you try to follow books, or tips from friends, browsers, etc. 95% of our clients report communication to be the number one issue before and during potty training with us. 

Is letting the potty training process linger over too long a time period problematic?

A: Letting the potty training linger for too long a time can be problematic, however that depends from child to child. 

My 3 1/2-year-old son is finally letting us know when he has to go and hasn’t been having accidents often, but when he watches tv or gets super-involved in a puzzle or other endeavor, he forgets and wets himself. We tried putting underpants under his pull-ups so he would feel the wetness, but it doesn’t seem to bother him, and he laughs. What advice can you offer?

A: We all know potty training is a process and like just about anything we approach it with the end in mind and from the core. I believe your child is smiling because he desires for you to like him, and accept him just because he is cute, however when you keep him in both worlds (pull-ups and underwear), as a parent or caregiver we tell the child: “I don’t trust you, therefore I am protecting myself”. As a professional I suggest spending some time with your child talking about potty training, what it is and why he needs to train. Given the time, reason, and faith in your child I believe he will follow your lead, however don’t forget to play follow the leader! 

Does it matter if we train our boy to sit down on the toilet to urinate or if he stands?

A: When training a boy, it sure matters, however know that everything will happen in its due time, and since we use the term "training" in our potty endeavor keep in mind it is a part of the process in becoming a Big Boy.

Are incentives such as stickers or Hershey’s Kisses ultimately helpful or harmful in the long run?

A: Incentives such as stickers, toys, candy can be harmful, and if it does not seem as so at the moment, I believe in the long run the results are not lasting. In my training I do not use any rewards. Research show how in time after offering our children a reward/punishment approach to discipline (train) it is harmful and if you look at our reward/punishment focused culture from schools to religious groups to play groups the results are devastating across America. Short answer? Harmful! 

If we thought our child was ready for potty training and then realized she just isn’t getting it—is there any harm in calling it quits for a while and then resuming toilet training when she shows more readiness signs?

A: I like the saying “follow your instinct” because when you know/think your child is ready to start training that is the best time to do it. She is most likely in that very early phase of toilet training. If you stop and try to reboot you may run into the stubborn (a.k.a I don’t trust you phase) and it may be harder for her and you to train. My  suggestion is when you start, go forward by making it a part of your lifestyle, and before you know it she will graduate with smiles on her face.

My child is 4 and is still having frequent peeing accidents—should I be concerned that there may be an underlying problem, or just be more patient?

A: I would not worry about anything, however if your child has been potty trained for over a year and accidents continue on a regular basis, I suggest you look at your family’s schedule as a whole and see if stress or anxiety may be a problem for your child. If schedules and family is relatively peaceful I suggest you speak to a close friend who may have older children and graduated from this phase in her life, before you approach his/her pediatrician or medicate your child.

My husband gets so angry when my son has accidents in public, and he scolds our boy about them. What is the best way for parents to deal with too-frequent mishaps, and is scolding ever a good option? (I worry about shaming our child.) 

A: Fathers in general seem to take a lead approach in the family and find it very normal, however your child is training and so is dad. I suggest you approach your husband at a time when he is calm, in a good mood and explain to him the training factor (time), and how children develop over a long period of time. Brain development continues until 25 years old (most researchers suggest 21), however children do what they see and learn from their most influential person in their lives and if scolding continues I believe your child may associate accidents, potty, and other activities he does not excel at in the moment with a negative experience, therefore contributing to a low self esteem which in return can lead to other problems in his development. When dealing with frequent accidents I suggest stay close to home for a period of time, get involved in your child’s daily life as much as possible and offer your child room to be a leader. Remember you are all in training and patience is key.

I was driving in an unfamiliar town when my 3-year-old told me he had to go poopy, but I was having trouble finding a place to take him. Do you have any tips for being prepared for such situations when traveling?

A: Traveling to unfamiliar places can be tricky when kids are involved. Today’s market offers us a number of solutions and if you like the eco approach I suggest eco-friendly bags that you can use to cover a potty chair in your car. When you are done using the potty, tie the bag and dispose it at your nearest opportunity. If eco-friendly is not in question I suggest the same approach except using your grocery bags over an inflatable on-the-go potty or over-a-potty chair. 

You offer EC – Infant Potty Training. Like many parents, I have my doubts about this—how is it really possible for a baby as young as a couple of months old to understand cues from a parent?

A:We do offer EC or more widely known as Elimination Communication or Infant Potty Training, and soon our classes will be available in every city. Doubting is totally understandable, and I believe it is most likely because we are trained to believe that if we communicate most of the times using words to express our needs, feelings and desires everyone else needs to do the same in order to get along or meet their needs. The truth is we do not need to even open our mouth to get our needs met, and that is because all we need to use are our senses to communicate to other people around us. When it comes to training and infant how to potty, it is the other way around. The infants are teaching us how to read them and how to better meet their needs. It can be a lengthy process, however the insight and savings make it worth it many times over.

Do you think there is a benefit to a parent taking this approach to very early training?

A: In our experience and research for over 16 years with different groups of parents we came to believe that only a group of parents may benefit from this approach. However, we do recommend it to any new parent since there are different levels you can start at when it comes to EC, more widely known as Elimination Communication, or Infant Potty Training.

My friend has begun using the EC technique and has been hounding me to give it a try with my newborn, often making me feel guilty. I try to tell myself not to feel bad, but I’m already feeling like my child is “behind.” How should I respond to such pressure and feelings of inadequacy?

A: In reality no one can make you do or feel anything. It starts with you and what you allow yourself to think, be, or do. I also believe that every single individual including our infants are unique and have different needs. The one to meet 99% of these needs is you, the parent, and if you are not secure enough, daring enough, or plain ready, I believe you are exactly where you need to be. All you may need to do at this point is work on/save your friendship if it really matters to you and your friend. Potty training, parenting, and family are an intimate affair and you are the one in charge of that.

What are your general thoughts about parents who are taking an EC approach with their babies and allowing them to sit bare-bottomed out in a public restaurant?

A: EC is a wonderful experience if taken and approached from the right angle. From my point of view that angle may look different, however if an approach can later in life shame or harm someone’s identity, or simply put “don’t do something to your child, you as a parent would not dare do yourself," my suggestion is cover the bottom up with a pair of mini underwear, a cute outfit and be prepared to change your child in a private place in the event that you as a parent were not in tune with your infant and an accident occurs.

Do you encourage parents to carry a small portable potty with them so their child can go at any time?

A: A small portable potty is ideal for traveling along with a bag that they can put over the potty when in use.

Any other comments on the phenomenon of potty training becoming too “public” these days?

A: One suggestion I have is check your city codes. Your city may fine you as much as $500 if you display an indecent conduct or you may even get arrested. 

Do you think your services are more valuable to a parent of a child with special needs?

A: Our number one clientele tends to be children with special needs, however all clients display an equal desire to share the value and importance of using our approach to potty training with friends.

What advice do you have particularly for parents of children on the autism spectrum for toilet training a 5- or 6-year-old?

A: When training a child on the autism spectrum from scratch I can suggest two things:

  1. Begin with the end in mind, and remember that the end may be far away
  2. Routine, consistency, and patience may get you there sooner.


Learn more about Adriana Vermillion, The Potty Whisperer, and her techniques and potty training programs at 

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