Helping your child start to use potty (or toilet) is a big step for both of you. If you remain positive and calm, your child will be more likely to learn quickly and easily. The secret is to recognize the signs that your child is ready. Children must be neurologically able to control their bladder and bowels- and want to be dry and clean- before they can begin potty training. Every child is different, so it’s best not to compare your child with others. Keep in mind the following:
- • most children can control their bowels before their bladder
- • by two year s of age, some children will be dry during the day
- • by three, 9 of 10 children are dry most days with occasional accidents
- •by four, most children are reliably dry
So when to start?
Children learn to tell when they need to do a poo or wee at different ages. Generally, signs that your child is ready for toilet training appear from about 18 months. Night-time training can be as late as eight years, although most children stop wetting at night by the time they’re five. In a future post I will discuss how to manage the child who continues to wet the bed later in childhood or even adolescence. Before introducing the toilet or potty, it helps a lot if you have an established daily routine with your child. This way, the new activity of using the toilet or potty can be adjusted into your normal routine. Your child is showing some signs of being ready if he;
- is walking and can sit for short periods of time
- is generally more independent when it comes to completing tasks
- is interested in watching others go to the toilet
- has dry nappies for up to two hours
- tells you (or shows obvious signs) when he does a poo or wee in his nappy – if he can tell you before it happens, he’s ready for toilet training
- begins to dislike wearing a nappy, perhaps trying to pull it off when it’s wet or soiled
- can pull his own pants up and down
- can follow simple instructions, such as ‘Give the ball to daddy’
- shows understanding about things having their place around the home.
When your child demonstrates several of these signs, it is time to start. Training generally does not go well if your child is in the stage where “no” is his automatic response to every request. Be prepared for a 2-4 month potty training period. Your child will likely need help with wiping after a bowel movement until age 4 or 5. She may also need extra help in unfamiliar bathrooms, such as public restrooms, until age 5 or 6.
Here are some tips for getting started:
- Introduce and explain the potty, allowing your child to try it out for size and get familiar with it.
- Allow your child to watch others who are using the toilet, and talk about what they’re doing.
- You might notice that your child uses her bowels at a certain time of the day, so try putting her on the potty at this time. This does not work for all children – true toilet training begins when the child is aware of the sensation of doing a wee or poo and is interested in learning the process.
- Teach your child some words associated with going to the toilet – for example, you might want to teach her words like ‘wee’, ‘poo’ and ‘I need to go’
Some basic steps for toilet training:
- Choose a start day, perhaps when you have no plans to leave the house.
- Stop using nappies (except at night and during daytime sleeps). Begin using underpants or training pants. You can even let your child choose some underpants, which can be an exciting step for him.
- Dress your child in clothes that are easy to take off – for example, trousers with elastic waistbands, rather than full body suits or you might like to leave him in underpants when at home.
- Sit your child on the potty each day at times when he’s likely to have a bowel movement; like 30 minutes after eating or after having a bath.
- Give your child plenty of natural fiber to eat and water to drink so she doesn’t become constipated, which can make toilet training difficult. If your child doesn’t cooperate or seem interested, be patient and just wait until he’s willing to try again.
- Give your child positive praise for her efforts (even if progress is slow), and lots of praise when she’s successful. As she achieves each stage, reduce the amount of praise.
- Watch for signs that your child needs to go to the toilet – some cues include changes in posture, passing wind, and going quiet.
- At different stages throughout the day (but not too often), ask your child if he needs to go to the toilet. Gentle reminders are enough – it’s best if your child doesn’t feel pressured. Trying to push too hard will create stress and accidents for both of you.
- Five minutes is long enough to sit a child on the potty or toilet. It’s best not to make your child sit on the toilet for long periods of time, because this will feel like punishment.
- You’ll need to wipe your child’s bottom at first, until she learns how. Remember to wipe from the front to the back, particularly with little girls.
- Teach your boy to shake his penis after a wee to get rid of any drops. Sometimes, in the early stages of toilet training, it’s helpful to float a ping pong ball in the toilet for him to aim at. If he misses the toilet, don’t comment. Just clean it up without any fuss. He might prefer to sit and do a wee, which can be less messy in the early stages.
- Teach your child how to wash her hands carefully after using the toilet. This can be a fun activity that your child enjoys as part of the routine and develops a healthy lifelong habit.
- Toilet training might take days or months. It’s not a race, so relax, be patient, and your child will make it more easily through this stage.