Potty training is a major milestone in a child’s life and can be difficult for many parents.
Most children begin to show signs that they are ready for potty training between 18 and 24 months. However, instead of using age as an indicator, look for other signs that your child may be ready to start the process, such as these:
- She orally expresses a need to go;
- She keeps her diaper dry for over two hours;
- She goes to the potty, sits on it and then gets off the potty;
- She pulls down her diaper, her disposable training pants or her underpants;
- She shows an interest in using the potty or in wearing underpants.
During the potty training process, remember that teaching a toddler to use the potty is not an overnight experience. It requires a lot of time, patience and a willingness to accept setbacks. Remember that accidents will happen. Recognizing all the little successes during the process is important. Be sure to praise her each time she attempts to use the toilet, even if nothing happens. If you show disappointment when she wets or soils herself, it can result in a step backward. Instead, offer your support and reassure her that she is close to using the potty like a big girl.
10 Training Tips
Once you see that your child is ready to start learning how to use the potty, these tips may help.
- Do not make your child sit on the toilet against her will. Instead, show her how you sit on the toilet and explain to her what you’re doing. Children learn by watching. You can also have her sit on the potty seat and watch while you or one of her siblings uses the toilet.
- Establish a routine. For example, you can begin by having her sit on the potty after waking up with a dry diaper or by having her sit on the potty an hour after drinking lots of fluid. Only have her sit on the potty for a few minutes a couple of times a day. Let her get off the potty as soon as she wants.
- Try catching her in the act of pooping. Children often give clear cues that they need to use the bathroom: their faces turn red and they may grunt or squat. Many children tend to have a bowel movement around the same time every day.
- Have your child sit on the potty 15 to 30 minutes after meals to take advantage of the body’s natural tendency to have a bowel movement after eating. This is called the gastro-colic reflex.
- Remove a bowel movement from your child’s diaper, put it in the toilet and tell your child that poop goes in the potty.
- Make sure your child’s wardrobe is suitable for potty training. Avoid overalls and onesies. Simple clothes are necessary at this stage of training, and children who are potty training need to be able to undress themselves.
- Some parents like to let their child spend some time during the day without a diaper. If she urinates without wearing a diaper, she may be more likely to feel what’s happening and express discomfort. If you opt to keep your child’s bottom bare for a little while, keep the potty close by, protect your rugs and be ready to clean up the mess.
- When your son is ready to start urinating standing up, have him play target practice. Show him how to stand so that he can aim his urine stream into the toilet. Some parents use things like cereal pieces as a target for their little guys to hit.
- Offer your child small rewards, such as stickers or time reading with Mommy, every time he uses the toilet. You can also let him pick out a few new pairs of big-boy underwear.
- Make sure all of your child’s caregivers, including babysitters, grandparents and teachers, follow the same routine and use the same names for body parts and bathroom acts. Let them know how you’re handling the issue and ask them to use the same approaches so your child won’t become confused.
There are some times in which it might be awkward for you to start the toilet-training process. During these periods it may be better to wait until your child’s environment is stable and secure. For example you might want to postpone toilet training:
- When traveling;
- Around the birth of a sibling;
- When changing from the crib to a bed;
- While moving to a new house;
- When your child is sick, especially if diarrhea is a factor.
Just remember that toddlers will let you know when they’re ready. If you’re torn about when to start the potty training process, let your child be your guide.