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Tips and resources for parents on successful potty training methods.

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WebMD Expert Discussion: Potty Training and Rewards

You've been trying to get your 2 year-old to use the potty for weeks. She seems ready -- she's interested when you go, she stays dry for a couple hours at a time, and she acknowledges when she's wet. But she just won't sit on the toilet at the right time.

How about rewarding her with a handful of M&Ms, or a cookie when she uses the potty successfully? What could be wrong with that? After all, it's just a little treat. And if it makes potty training easier, what's the harm?

In WebMD's online discussion about Potty Training, guest parenting expert Laura Jana, MD discusses the potential problems with giving children "potty rewards." Such "bribery" might work at first, but it can also teach your child to expect rewards for every daily task they complete -- and perhaps bigger and better rewards each time. What happens when the handful of M&Ms doesn't cut it anymore, and they expect the whole bag?

Jana notes that setting up sweet treats as rewards for desired behaviors runs counter to two key nutritional lessons we should be teaching our kids. First, we want them to learn to eat food when they're hungry, not as a prize for good behavior. Second, the food you offer as a potty reward is probably lacking in significant nutritional value -- the kind of foods you want to set limits for in your child's diet.

Is this the Grinch's approach to potty training, Jana asks parents?

One mom reports that her child's preschool teacher uses a small food reward to encourage students to use the potty. When a child is ready to wear big kid underwear to class, the whole class gets a popcorn party. The teacher pops a bag of light popcorn, and all the kids share. This teacher also rewards potty-training students with a sense of pride and recognition. Each child who is officially potty trained gets his or her name mounted on a card on the door to the bathroom.

Another mom says that her husband actually "dangled the Disneyland carrot" when their oldest child was 3 -- and it worked! Fortunately, the family lived near the park and had free passes. She says that, so far, her younger child is sufficiently motivated by praise and the desire to be like big sister.

What have you done -- either with or without rewards -- to achieve potty training success?

Discussion led by Laura Jana, MD Guest Expert
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Guest Expert What is a guest expert?

Laura Jana, MD, is an accomplished parenting advisor and child health advocate, a proud mother of three, and an Omaha-based pediatrician. More

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