Thinking of getting your little one to ditch the diapers for the big-kid toilet? As one of the trickier parenting milestones, potty training can be a total nightmare, especially when you’re facing a stubborn toddler who is hell-bent on refusing his mini throne.
Crappy puns aside, keep in mind that every child’s potty training journey is different. Don’t let the ‘fact’ that your neighbour’s friend’s aunt’s kid was potty trained in three days stress you to expect the same. Nor should seeing other similar-aged children start their potty training be the reason your kid does too. Just go with the proverbial flow – and when your child is ready, use these tips to help ensure the best (and smoothest) potty training experience possible.
When should my child start potty training?
Most children are ready to begin potty training between 18 to 24 months because that is when children are able to start voluntarily “holding it” instead of reflexively emptying their bladder and bowels. Telltale signs that your child is ready include:
- Being able to stay dry for two hours or more, or waking up dry from a nap or sleep. This shows that your child’s bladder capacity is increasing.
- Mimicking adult toilet behaviour or showing interest in going to the bathroom.
- Showing awareness that they are “going” to the bathroom. For example, hiding behind furniture or going to a different room to pee or poop.
- Being uncomfortable in dirty diapers. The child might start pulling at or trying to take off their soiled diaper.
- Developing the motor skills needed to start potty training, such as being able to walk quickly to the bathroom, capable of undressing themselves (pulling pants up and down), or being able to get on and off the potty without difficulty.
- Being able to sit still for several minutes (or however long it takes to poop) without becoming distracted or annoyed.
#1 Don’t force it
Our number one rule of potty training: do not force your child to begin potty training when he or she isn’t ready. Reiterating what we mentioned earlier, pushing the little one to begin too early can cause toddler regression (when the child’s behaviour or development seems to be going backwards). If you thought changing dirty diapers was bad, just wait till you’ve got to go around the house cleaning up poop and pee. Not fun. Toddlers who begin when they’re ready will have a better transition – parents can start introducing the concept of potty training so that your little one will know what to expect when the time comes.
#2 Prepare your child
Grease the wheels on the potty training wagon by equipping your little one with basic toilet etiquette. For example, things like washing your hands together after each diaper change, training your kiddo to sit on the potty, and teaching them how to pull up and down their bottoms in preparation to go to the toilet, will come in handy.
#3 Implement a routine
When it is finally to begin potty training, implement a simple daily routine for your child to follow. It can start from having your child sit on the potty while fully clothed to get used to the feel of it. Then depending on your schedule, you could start having your child sit on the potty every two hours (regardless of whether they actually need to go) – first thing in the morning, before naps and bedtime, before you leave the house…
Run through each step, starting from removing their bottoms, sitting on the potty, flushing and washing their hands after (regardless of whether it was a “successful” session). Consistency is key, so be prepared to go through the process repeatedly.
#4 Have plenty of patience
Potty training requires a ton of patience and effort from both children and parents, so don’t be disheartened after failed potty sessions. Keep calm and don’t make a big deal out of it because your negative reaction could deter your child’s progress. Instead, review your potty training routine to see what went wrong and practice the steps your child might have missed out. If needed, take a break for a few weeks before trying again.
#5 Make it fun
Kids are drawn to anything fun – help your little one be more receptive to potty training by upping its appeal. Be it cooking up a fun bathroom jingle for tinkle time, letting them decorate their potty or the bathroom with cool stickers, or rewarding your child for a job well done (or even just being) patient enough to stick around on the potty), kids will slowly but surely start to view going to the bathroom as more fun than “going” in their diapers.
A tried-and-tested tip would be to involve your child in the process of picking out their potty training tools – the potty, relevant books, entertainment for when they’re on the potty, training pants and underwear, and more. This encourages your child to commit to the potty training process.
#5 Offer praise and small rewards
Parents can use strategic incentives to motivate and reinforce positive behaviour. Sweet treats are popular rewards, but choose what works for your parenting style. With that being said, you can use small treats as rewards for every “goal” met, but you might want to hold out on the big-ticket items till after your child is fully potty trained. And children respond really well to praise, so don’t forget to heap on the encouragement!