A Guide to Potty Training
Potty training might seem like a daunting task, but if your child is ready it will be much easier than you have imagined. Every child is different and takes developmental steps like crawling, walking and talking at different times, and the same is true for potty training. You know your child best so don’t feel you should force them into potty training just because their peers are doing it.
Remember that your child is learning a lot of new skills, including interpreting signals from your body, having control over bladder and bowels, undressing and hand washing. It’s important to be patient and encouraging with your child as they navigate all of this, so that they feel safe and develop self-confidence in their abilities. Here are some important tips to make potty training go smoothly.
Look for Signs that your Child is Ready
It’s important to take your cue from your child when deciding if they’re ready to be potty trained. Kids typically learn to use a potty between the ages of 18 and 30 months, so being aware of the signs that they’re ready will mean you’re poised to step in and start training at the right time. Signals from child will include:
Fewer wet nappies for you to change. Up to the age of around 20 months children pee frequently and without control. However, a toddler who stays dry for two hours or so at a stretch has some control and is physically ready for potty training.
Your child talks about their bodily functions. If your child tells you when they’re having a bladder or bowel movement it means they are aware of their bodily functions.
Bowel movements are predictable. If your child has a bowel movement at a regular time, you will be able to anticipate when to take them to the potty, which will enhance their likelihood of success.
Get them Comfortable with the Potty
Before your child is ready to potty train, introduce them to the potty so that it becomes a familiar part of their domestic landscape. Put the potty in their bedroom or play area so that they become comfortable with it and know that it belongs to them. When they’re ready to give it a try, move it to the bathroom so they know that this is the room they go to when they have a bladder or bowel movement. Potty training will be harder if you have to retrain them into going into the correct room after learning somewhere else.
Most children tend to feel more secure with a potty that sits on the floor. It gives them security and balance, and allows them to have their feet squarely planted on the floor, which is necessary to perform a fully successful bowel movement. When your child is happy with a floor-based potty, try them on a potty seat which sits on top of the toilet. This type of seat stops them being scared of falling down the toilet whilst helping them adjust to using it. Having a step stool in the bathroom will enable them to start climbing onto the toilet themselves, as well as giving them a secure base for their feet.
Make sure the Time is Right
Whilst you should be led by your child when it comes to timing, make sure you avoid doing it during periods that are likely to be stressful or transitional in some way. If you’re about to move house, go on holiday, bring a new baby home or start your child at nursery, put potty training off until things have calmed down. Children need to have a relaxed environment and a regular routine whilst learning to use the potty. It will help them to learn better and enable you to be calm and focussed whilst they are getting to grips with their new skill.
To get potty training right, children need to have already learned certain other skills. Your child needs to be independent enough to access the potty whenever they need to. This means they need to have transitioned from a cot to a child’s bed and be able to remove clothing as necessary. They need to feel safe walking from their own bed to the bathroom during the night. If these skills aren’t yet in place, hold off on potty training for a month or two until your child is more prepared.
Demonstrate what to do
Allow your child to spend time sitting on the potty whilst fully clothed so they can get a feel for the seat. Once they are comfortable with sitting on the seat fully clothed, have them practice with their clothes off. This gets them used to the idea that they will need to get undressed to use the potty. Spend a few days teaching your child about what goes in the potty. When they have a bowel movement into their nappy, get them to watch you putting it in the potty so they understand what it is for. It is a good idea to have already read them some books about potty training to start making this connection in their mind.
When your child tells you, or you suspect, that they are having a bladder or bowel movement, lead them to the potty. You should also remind your child every hour or so to try sitting on the potty, as this will help them to interpret the signals their body is giving them. The most important part of potty training is to give them lots of praise and encouragement when they successfully use the potty, and be kind and patient through the inevitable accidents.
Approaching potty training with a positive attitude and taking cues from your child will make the process much easier. Preparing your child in advance will allow them to feel comfortable with the potty and learn what it is for and how to use it. If you are consistent with helping them and praising them, and don’t get angry with mistakes, they will soon be using the potty happily and independently.