A when & how guide to toilet training
Many parents are unsure about when to start toilet teaching, or “potty training.” Not all kids are ready at the same age, so it’s important to watch your child for signs of readiness, such as stopping an activity for a few seconds or clutching his or her diaper.
Most children begin to show these signs between 18 and 24 months, although some may be ready earlier or later than that. And boys often start later and take longer to learn to use the potty than girls.
Instead of using age as a readiness indicator, look for specific signs that your child may be ready to start heading for the potty, such as the ability to:
•Control the muscles responsible for elimination
•Keep a diaper dry for two hours or more
•Express a need to go verbally
•Get garments out of their way (pull pants, skirt, dress, etc., up & down, get to the potty, sit on it, and get off the potty by themselves).
•Follow simple instructions/understand potty vocabulary
There are some stressful or difficult times when you absolutely should NOT start the toilet-teaching process—when traveling, around the birth of a sibling, changing from the crib to the bed, moving to a new house, when your child is sick, and/or when your child or anyone living in your household is experiencing emotional distress.
It’s better to postpone training until your child’s environment is stable and you as the parent are personally ready to make the commitment. Also, many experts recommend starting the process during summer because kids wear less clothing, and if you choose to go the naked route for a bit they won’t get too cold.
Don’t give into others who may be pressuring you to begin the potty process before your child is ready. Every child is unique, including sibling to sibling. Examine your child as an individual. What are his or her specific capabilities right now? Giving in to pressure or engaging in half-hearted lazy attempts can seriously damage future attempts at successful training, and in more serious cases, possibly lead to psychological problems and/or incontinence in later childhood and adolescence.
How Long Does It Take?
The process often takes between three and six months, although it may take more or less time for some children. And although some little ones can learn to both make it through the night without wetting or soiling themselves (or the bed) and use the potty around the same time, it may take additional months to even years to master staying dry at night.
The two basic potty options are: a stand-alone, toddler-size potty chair with a bowl that can be emptied into the toilet and a toddler-size seat that can be placed on top of your toilet seat to prevent falling in.
If your child isn’t tall enough to use a modified toilet seat, it’s a bad choice as they could injure themselves in an attempt. Potty training’s ultimate goal is independence, and this would not be a situation where a child could feel independent.
Regardless of your potty selection, it’s usually best for BOYS to first learn to use the toilet sitting down before learning to pee standing up. Many boys feel awkward— or scared—about standing to pee in the toilet. A potty chair may be a better option and will certainly cut down on messes while learning.
Buy a training potty or seat for every bathroom in your house. Don’t forget to bring a potty for car ride emergencies. When traveling long distances, be sure to take a potty seat with you, and stop every one to two hours. Otherwise, it can take more time than your child may have to find a discreet location or restroom.
About Training Pants
Diaper companies certainly want you to buy pull-ups, but most experts agree that disposable training pants are just bigger diapers and only hinder the toilet-teaching process.
Most experts believe that if you plan to use training pants at all, you’re certainly better off with the kind that have cloth interiors. This way, your child can actually experience the natural consequence/discomfort of soiling themselves.
Be aware that nighttime bladder and bowel control often lag behind daytime control. For this reason, parents who’ve chosen the underwear-only route might want to break out some mattress pads or consider using cloth training pants at night.
Until the child has gone a minimum of three days without daytime accidents, you may want to use training pants for trips to public places where accidents might result in embarrassment.
It’s common for a previously toilet-taught child to have some trouble using the potty during times of stress. For example, a two- or three-year-old dealing with a new sibling may regress (return to a previous level of development).
But if your child was previously potty trained and is having problems, talk with your doctor just to be on the safe side and rule out things like an infection.
If your child is three years or older and is not yet potty trained, talk to the doctor, who can help determine the problem and offer advice to make the process easier.
Tips for Toilet Teaching
Even before your child is ready to try the potty, you can prepare your little one by teaching about the process:
•Use simple words (“pee,” “poop,” and “potty”).
• Ask your child to let you know when a diaper is wet or soiled: “Say, ‘potty’ when you feel like you need to pee or poop.”
•Identify behaviors (“I see you pooped/peed”) so that your child can learn to recognize peeing and pooping.
•Remove a bowel movement (poop) from your child’s diaper, put it in the toilet, and tell your child that poop goes in the potty.
•Get a potty chair your child can practice sitting on. At first, your child can sit on it clothed and read a book to get comfortable with it. Then, he can sit on the chair with a diaper. And when ready, your child can go bare-bottomed.
•Some parents like to let their child have some time during the day without a diaper. If he or she urinates without wearing a diaper, your child may be more likely to feel what’s happening and express discomfort.
READY TO TRY:
•The day prior to trying take him to the store to pick out a few pairs of training pants and/or big-kid underwear to wear.
•Don’t make your child sit on the toilet against his or her will.
•Show your child how you sit on the toilet and explain what you’re doing (because your child learns by watching you). You can also have your child sit on the potty seat and watch while you—or one of her siblings—use the toilet.
•Establish a routine. For example, you may want to begin toilet teaching by having your child sit on the potty after waking with a dry diaper, or 45 minutes to an hour after drinking lots of fluid. You may be able to catch your child peeing.
•Try catching your child 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. And many kids are regular as to the time of day they tend to have a bowel movement. When you see the cue say, “It looks like you need to poop. Would you like to try pooping on the potty?”
•Have your child sit on the potty within 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).
•Make sure your child’s wardrobe is potty-friendly. No overalls and snap-crotch items. Kids who are potty training need to be able to undress themselves.
•Only put your child on the potty for a few minutes every couple of hours a day, and let your child get up if he or she wants to.
•When your son is ready to start peeing standing up, show him how to stand so that he can aim his urine stream into the toilet. Use things like cereal pieces as a sort of bull’s-eye for improving aim
•If your parenting-style allows, you may want to offer your child small rewards, such as stickers to place on a chart to track success.
Consistency is a must
Make sure all of your child’s caregivers—including babysitters, grandparents, and childcare workers—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 that they use the same approaches so your child won’t become confused.
Above all, be sure to positively acknowledge all attempts to use the toilet, even if nothing happens. And remember that accidents will happen. It’s important not to punish potty-training children or show disappointment when they wet/soil themselves or the bed. Instead, try saying, “Everyone has accidents when they’re trying something new,” and offer your support: “You can try again next time.” Don’t worry, it just takes practice.”
Courtesy of Nemours, kidshealth.org.