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Toilet Training: Trials and Triumphs

My husband and I joke that if our youngest daughter, Natasha, had been the first child we'd potty trained, we'd have thought there was something seriously wrong with our other kids. One day we said to her, "Natasha, it's time to stop wearing diapers." "Okay," she said, and that was that. Really.

It makes for a good story (one that my other children don't always appreciate), but the truth is that it was easy precisely because Natasha wasn't the first we'd trained -- she was the fourth. And by then, I had well over a decade of experience as a pediatrician. (I should be able to train my 7-month-old, Liam, in my sleep when the time comes!)

When my eldest, Michaela, was a toddler, I was new to parenting and doctoring. But I'd been taught about potty training during my residency in pediatrics, I'd read books and magazines, and it all seemed straightforward enough  -- until I actually tried it. I discovered quickly that potty training isn't one-diaper-fits-all.

Not that it's impossible -- it's certainly challenging, more so with some children than others, but potty training does happen eventually (as a look around the average preschool classroom will prove). It's just a far more individual process than people realize, one that depends on your child's personality, and even on what's happening in your own life at the time. Learning to tailor your potty-training strategy to your child's temperament  -- and your family's  -- will save you a lot of stress in the long run.

Claire McCarthy, M.D., is a Parenting contributing editor.