Are you having trouble potty training your kids? Dr. Leman gives his best tips for teaching your child one of the most basic human tasks in today’s Ask Dr. Leman. Learn more about Dr. Leman at

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Doug:                       Hi, I’m Doug Terpening.

Andrea:                  And I’m Andrea.

Doug:                       And we are so glad that you are with us today. Just a quick reminder, if this is your first time here, that this is for your education and entertainment purposes only. If the subject matter raises any concerns for you or your child, please go seek a local professional for help. Well, good morning, Dr. Leman.

Dr. Leman:           Hey, good morning. We should really start by thanking the good people at Baker Books for sponsoring these podcasts. You know, Revel, that’s part of Baker, they’ve published so many of my best selling books, Have a New Kid by Friday, Have a New Husband by Friday, still one of my all-time favorites, The Birth Order Book, Planet Middle School, the new book that’s out right now, When Your Kid is Hurting. They’ve been a great publisher. They have seen me impact millions of peoples’ lives and they’re our partner in this. They feel like there’s so many young families today that will listen to podcasts. Moms and dads are busy, and we’re glad to provide the content. We get great feedback from you guys. Thanks for that. And thanks to you, Doug and Andrea, for keeping this real. You’re parents and you’re in the trenches as we speak. So, a big thank you to everybody.

Doug:                       So, I haven’t heard. How is the new book doing?

Dr. Leman:           Well. It’s already on best seller lists. It just came out September 4th. We’ve got more good national media coming, which always helps book. It’s a different kind of a book. I mean, I’m telling you, as parents, when your kid is hurting, I guarantee you, you’re not gonna say the right thing. You’ll say all the wrong things. It’s just the way it is. “Everything will be okay.” Really? How do you know that, parent? The kid’s thinking, “You’re not the one they’re calling pizza face at school, so please don’t patronize me.” So, most of the things we say, again, our counterproductive. They drive a kid from us. This was a tough book to do. It’s a tough concept to get your hands around, but one big clue for every parent, when your kid is hurting, listen, listen, listen without judgment. That’s the hard part, without judgment because we all want to give our two cent’s worth, especially as men.

Doug:                       Well, thank you for that. It is a good book. Well, we get to do one of our favorite things and answer your questions. Here we go.

Daniel:                   Hi, my name’s Daniel Eckhert.

Rachel:                   And Rachel Eckhert.

Daniel:                   We’re from Fort Wayne, Indiana. We have a question regarding our two-year-old daughter, almost three. We also have a one-year-old son. The question pertains to the two-year-old daughter. We are currently potty training. I know you said in the past that it’s the most natural thing. Once we put her to bed, after going on the potty, we put her in a diaper for bedtime. Without fail, her diaper comes off after being used, and has been found on different items in the bedroom. We usually lock her door, as to not wake up brother and other people in the home. I guess our question is, what do we do about her taking off her diaper and her using her bathroom needs to get out of her room at night? And any other potty training tips in general. Thanks, Dr. Leman.

Dr. Leman:           Well, Daniel, I’m not laughing at you. I’m laughing with you and thinking back to those days. Here’s what you have … Well number one, you have a very resourceful daughter. She’s probably gonna be an artist. I hope she doesn’t use you-know-what for her art feature on the wall one of these evenings. That wouldn’t surprise me, by the way. A couple things. If she senses … now she’s almost three. We said two, you referred to her as two, but you said almost three. Now if she’s almost three, there’s not a lot of reason why that youngster isn’t toilet trained. I’m wondering if she’s sensing, and if I had a kid, let me give you full disclosure here, who was doing what your daughter’s doing, I would have a sense of urgency in my voice as well. But that’s what you have to guard against, because once a kid figures out that this is a really big thing, then it can turn into a power struggle.

Now, there are tapes that you can buy in a hardware store. I’m not very mechanically minded, so I’m not much help here, but you can figure it out with someone who knows what they’re talking about. There’s probably a way to keep that diaper on her, where it’s on there so well that it won’t come out, just for practical reasons. There’s also, when you talk about diaper, I’m assuming at age three we’re talking about a Pull-Up kind of a thing, because again this is a child that should be toilet trained. You’ve asked for basic tips about toilet training. That little Walmart, K-Mart potty should be on the floor, obviously. Not a lot of attention drawn to it. The child uses it when they use it. I’ll go as far as to say, “Good job.” You want to clap their hands for effect. I really don’t care. That’s all right. Smile on your face, positive reinforcement.

Most kids train really easily. Where parents go wrong is they try too early with a child who’s not ready. So, readiness is a huge factor. Now, how do you know when a kid’s ready? Well, by two-and-a-half, most kids are ready for sure. By two, many kids are toilet trained. When they start imitating your behavior, your bathroom like behavior, they’re showing signs that they’re ready. But the point is, you don’t get overly enthused about any of this. Now, can you buy a girl big girl panties with little ruffles on them? Yes, you can do all those things. It doesn’t hurt. Sometimes I think it does help. But again, when you think about it, eating, sleeping, and going potty are the three most natural things in the world for a kid to do. And those are the three areas that parents just do battle with their kids with.

So, above everything else, you don’t want to get into a power struggle. What I’m saying is, you tape that sucker on with some added tape to where it’s gonna be very difficult for that two-and-a-half year old to get that off. She’s showing signs even at the tender age of almost three that she’s a powerful child, which means Daniel that one of you just might be powerful and too authoritarian in your approach. So, you need to check that out. Have a hard conversation with each other, and figure out if you’re too prescriptive. If you’re telling her too much of what to do and when to do it. That would be my suggestion for openers. In terms of you’ve got another little one coming, and you want to take safeguards to make sure the other child is not awakened, you’re smart in doing that.

Let’s see, there was another part. I think you were indicating that the child gets out of their bedroom saying, “I need to go potty.” That’s where routines are really important. Kids go potty before they get tucked into bed, obviously. But you’ll have a kid who will say, “I need to go potty.” What they’re doing is pulling your chain. They just need a little company in their room. I would suggest music as that kid goes to bed at night to help that process speed along. A little music with a timer on it, so it goes off is a great way to help a kid just fall asleep because sometimes kids become very demanding because they don’t fall asleep, and then they figure out, let’s play that game and see if I can get those two people I live with in here. Anyway, for openers, that’s what I would suggest.

Doug:                       Dr. Leman, why do you think this two-year-old is taking the diaper off in the middle of the night and then going to mom and dad and saying, “I need to go potty”? What’s the payoff by taking her diaper off?

Dr. Leman:           Well, there doesn’t really have to be a payoff other than kids at that age are amused by all kinds of things. I mean, there are kids who, this is a little gross, who finger paint with their feces. It’s not as uncommon as you think it might be. Oh, those lucky parents. Sometimes kids just … Everything a child does, we use the term purposive a lot on our podcast. Sometimes it’s just trial and error. A kid discovers something and they feel more comfortable with it off than on. The problem is, if that’s a soiled diaper, yuck. Who wants to be around that? Not me. That’s why I say I would just get to a point when that kid starts using the potty, I would make a big thing about, we don’t have anymore. We don’t have anymore diapers, and just put the kid in underwear and put them to bed.

Doug:                       Then if they wet in the bed, what do we do?

Dr. Leman:           Then you might have to go to plan B.

Doug:                       Which is?

Dr. Leman:           Well, going back to a Pamper at night, just so you don’t have to deal with it, or you can use rubber sheets with gutters and buckets. There’s nothing worse than the smell of urine or doo-doo. Again, just you have to walk this line gently. It’s an art form. I’m assuming this is a first born for you guys. Almost sure of it. It sounds like it. With those first borns, we practice on those little suckers. There’s no two ways about it. We were never a mommy or daddy before. You’re calling in and asking for some help. I hope some of this stuff is helpful because it’s tough, but it is an art form. You’ve got to play this violin very carefully, and don’t overplay your hand, or you create that power driven kid. Do the little gut check. Look at each other in the eyes and say, “Are we too authoritarian? Do we do too much for our child,” even at that age, that they could do for themselves. So, I hope that helps.

Andrea:                  Dr. Leman, you implied that she did this maybe starting off as just curiosity. Is she necessarily being naughty?

Dr. Leman:           No, not necessarily. We can read stuff into that, and maybe I did in that. But everybody imagine you’ve got a little Pamper on you right now, and you pull on one of those little strips. There’s a little popping sound, and it becomes free. Babies love to put and take, put and take. They love to pick things up and drop them. They like cause and effect. So, lots of times kids will just stumble upon something like just playing with their Pamper, and it becomes enjoyable for them. To this day, I take off my seatbelt when I get in my neighborhood. I do it without thinking. And I start thinking, and then I say, “What is wrong with you, Leman?” Sometimes we just have habits, you know. Habits are difficult to break.

Doug:                       What I hear you saying is, as parents when it comes to potty training and diapers, don’t overreact, because if we overreact-

Dr. Leman:           Yeah, that’s probably the best suggestion in this, is don’t overreact to any of this.

Andrea:                  Dr. Leman, you said that as a two, almost three-year-old, that kids should be potty trained, which actually surprises me. I feel like I look around more and more, and I see older kids with Pull-Ups and parents who are still fighting it. Why is it that so many kids-

Dr. Leman:           Why? Because parents just … Let me say this as clearly as I can. Because parents want to do everything for their children today. I’m surprised you don’t see six-year-olds with Pull-Ups. I’m telling you. It’s crazy. At age two, a kid can be toilet trained in most cases. Now we’re talking about a kid now, Daniel’s little daughter, who’s almost three and she’s still there. We tend to be a little too kind, a little too patient, a little too everything. I mean, it sounds great, but we prolong it is what I’m saying. We become part of the problem.

Doug:                       Instead of just saying, “This needs to end. We need to start knowing how to use the toilet.”

Dr. Leman:           As soon as you go into over-celebration about the tiniest things about toilet training, the kid’s thinking, “Hmm they’re big on this. I think I could have some fun with these people.”

Andrea:                  “I keep getting M & Ms if I … If I get rid of the Pull-Up, then I probably won’t get M & Ms anymore.”

Dr. Leman:           Yeah. So, play those cards carefully, gang. I appreciate your question. I really do. I wish it was one where I could just say, “ABC here it is. Now it’s gonna be better in the morning.” But you’re gonna have to finesse this thing as best you can. But keep your cool. Don’t get overexcited about anything. I guarantee you by the time she’s married, this will come to pass.

Doug:                       Well, Andrea when I knew her, she was still in Pull-Ups, but you know I broke her of that after a while. That’s funny. Well, Daniel and Rachel, we really do appreciate that question. To everybody that sends in your questions, we love it. If you go to, you can leave it right there. We love it. Absolutely love love love answering your questions, and love adding to your toolbox so that you can just love on these kids and get over the issues of diapers and sleeping and all that stuff, which is no fun. We remember it well. Hope you have a great day. Take care.

Andrea:                  Have a good day. Have fun with your kids.