So it’s finally that time for you to ditch those diapers and get your kids onto the potty. How do you know? Well, it varies from child to child, family to family but you can determine their readiness just by knowing your child as it will naturally come to them at some point.
It’s certainly an exciting prospect that by the end of this process your child will be taking more responsibility for themselves and you’ll get a well-earned break from having to change their diapers. It may also seem daunting, but if you take it easy, have some patience and persistence it’ll be a breeze.
The very act of looking for advice means you’ve taken a step in the right direction and we’re here to help you through every stage of this journey. So if you’re looking for hints, techniques, methods, and structure, read on and you’ll be sure to find some helpful information.
WHEN SHOULD YOU BEGIN POTTY TRAINING?
As they reach somewhere between 1 year and 18 months old, it’ll seem to you like time has gone by so fast since you changed their very first diaper. But this is about the time they’ll start developing an awareness of their bowel movements and have some control over it [Lang 2008].
This is considered a good time to start because whilst they learn to control their bladder and bowels they can also in this time learn where they should relieve themselves and when is appropriate to. However, their overall “readiness” doesn’t just depend on this alone.
However, there’s no rush to complete potty training in any given timeframe as it is conducted a lot later now in Western societies than in the past with only 40-60% of children being completely potty trained by 36 months old [Choby 2008].
This all means that you don’t have to start potty training your child when they are 18 months old but they are typically ready to start between the ages of 18 and 24 months. It does vary on an individual basis though and you can expect them to not be prepared until they are 3 years old and there’s nothing to worry about if this is the case.
SIGNS YOUR CHILD IS READY FOR POTTY TRAINING
In summary, their readiness boils down to the following recognizable signs, behaviors and abilities:
THE POTTY TRAINING PROCESS
1. INTRODUCING THE POTTY
Whether you use a potty chair or a just the regular toilet with a step to help them climb aboard and a child seat so they don’t fall in or a combination of all of them is completely up to you. The benefit of having the potty chair is that it’s portable, you can always keep it close by, especially if your toilet is upstairs and your child spends most of their time downstairs.
A way of introducing it is to have them sit on it whilst clothed, just so they can practice and feel comfortable with the potty before they do their business on it. You can make a demonstration of emptying the contents of their diaper into the toilet and have them flush it too, just to reinforce the concept of its purpose.
If you do have a portable training potty, it should always be situated in the same place so that they know where to find it and can go for it themselves if they feel they need to. Consistency is key when it comes to teaching children anything and it’s no different for potty training.
Also, a good tip is to stay away from embarrassing words and derogatory language surrounding using the toilet. Calling a boys penis a “pee-pee” when the rest of their body parts have less silly-sounding names, for example, may make them more anxious, and negative reinforcement is the last thing you want to occur.
2. SPOTTING THE SIGNS
To help your child to better familiarize themselves with the signals that their bodies give them when it’s time to go, spot the signs yourself. Behaviors such as squatting, squirming, jumping in place and holding the genital region are all big indicators.
When you notice your child doing any of these, react as quickly as possible and take them straight to their potty and praise them for letting you know. This will encourage them to stop what they are doing at any given time to go straight to the potty if they are feeling they need to go and to let you know verbally.
3. LETTING THEM IMITATE
After the training potty has been used, whether it has a waste collection bag or not, take your child with you to empty the contents into the toilet. They will then know that the “big boy/girl” toilet is the final destination of this process. Let them flush the chain too and make it exciting for them, praise them, clap and laugh to make the whole thing positive.
It’s also advised to let them watch mommy/daddy use the toilet too to teach them how this is the acceptable way that adults go potty. They may notice how mommy and daddy use the toilet differently at times and this is a great opportunity to explain in simple terms, the role that their gender plays.
4. GIVING THEM POTTY BREAKS
Most households keep to a regular routine to try and keep as much order as possible, especially when there are multiple children at different ages with different needs. The young child who is learning to go in the potty may have their own daily schedule and it’s a good idea to fit potty breaks into that schedule where you can.
A good example is to have them sit on the potty for a couple of minutes, maybe with a book or sing a song to keep them entertained, every couple of hours. Don’t force them to stay there if they don’t want to though and praise them for trying anyway even if they didn’t go.
5. TEACHING THEM HYGIENE
If they are already on the adult toilet, transitioning onto it or even if they are using a potty seat, hygiene should play an important role of using the toilet. Teaching them to wipe properly is rule number one and we all know the reason why.
Washing the hands is also vital and should be done every single time after they have used the potty, this is where the faucet extenders come in really handy! Not only is it teaching good habits to take with them into adulthood but it helps with the potty training process by giving it a step by step procedure.
6. DEALING WITH MISTAKES
The reality is, potty training can sometimes be messy. Some people do find it gross and others don’t but either way, you shouldn’t overreact or panic if mistakes happen. There’s no use in disciplining the child if they do have an accident but don’t be enthusiastic about the event either. Stay calm, be neutral and just inform them that they missed it this time but next time they can do it.
Always keep spares on hand too so that you can quickly change them out of their soiled clothes and into a new outfit. A reward chart can help reduce mistakes, as if they earn a sticker on the chart and/or a healthy snack every time they go potty, they’ll be less likely to miss it.
7. SWITCHING FROM DIAPERS
What’s super exciting for them is to finally graduate into their big boy/girl pants, or what you would call their training pants. Even though the pull up diapers made it super easy for them it’s a massive boost to their self-esteem to receive underwear that’s just like their older brothers, sisters, cousins or friends.
This is a special reward for a child who has made loads of progress and is able to stay dry all day, or at least for most of it. If accidents do start to happen again, don’t worry too much about it and just switch back to the pull ups until you get back on track.
What to Avoid When Potty Training
Other than what’s already been mentioned such as not using derogatory language; there are other considerations for you to take before or whilst potty training your child. Stressful situations could impact your child’s routine and their self-esteem which may have a bad effect on the habits they learn.
If any of these situations do occur during potty training it probably should be put on hold. The child will be able to resume once matters have been resolved and won’t forget what they have learned.
1. MOVING HOME
If you are going to move house in the near future then it’s not a good idea to start potty training. The child needs to be familiar where the potty is so that they can get used to going there immediately if they think they need to go.
The house moving process could also be confusing and slightly stressful to them, it may interrupt their routine and possibly their sleeping pattern which in turn could interrupt their learning.
2. Disruptions to the Family
Potty training should be avoided when something is occurring in the family which could be causing trauma to the children or the parents. A recent death in the family or a troubled relationship between the parents can take the focus out of teaching the child when it’s a time when they need all of your support.
3. GRADUATING TO BED
If they’re getting too big for their crib and it’s time for them to get their own bed, it’s not a good time to start potty training. It’s likely the change will disrupt their sleeping pattern temporarily which could make things confusing for them.
4. Showing Frustration
This is especially important when they are toddlers between the ages of 2 and 4 years old. Children in this age group really like to push the boundaries and see what they can get away with. If you show too much anger or frustration when they fail to use the potty they may use it against you in order to get attention.
Always use a calm and measured approach to the whole process and ensure that they know that using the potty is a normal everyday thing that everybody does.
Traveling long distances can be stressful and is something to avoid. It puts them in a situation where they are stuck in a vehicle and unable to use the potty if they want. If you do need to travel, maybe switching back to diapers just for the journey would be ok.
You can also get travel potty seats so that children are able to use public toilets and it would be much more comfortable and hygienic for them. There’s also travel, fold down training potty’s that can be bought too!
[Kiddoo 2012] Kiddoo DA. Toilet training children: when to start and how to train. CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association Journal. 2012;184(5):511. doi:10.1503/cmaj.110830.
[Choby 2008] Choby BA, George S. Toilet Training: San Jacinto Methodist Hospital, Baytown, Texas Volume 78, Number 9