For parents, raising children doesn’t come with an instruction manual and when we decide to tackle life skills like potty training with our little ones, we often need to seek the advice of others. Many parents dream about the day when their children will go to college, find true love, and start their own family. But first… they hope to get them potty trained! While there may not be a little manual handed out at the hospital that will walk us step-by-step through the unique challenges of parenting, fortunately there are many great resources available to parents when it comes to potty training toddlers.
When and how to help your child learn to use the potty depends on how ready your child is, as well as your own beliefs and values about toilet training. There is not one “right” way or one “right” age to learn.
There are quite a few gimmicks around to help make potty training easier for parents and their children. Don’t get your hopes up, however, because nothing is going to work miracles – patience is your best ally.
One of the most common questions that parents often ask is what age is best to start potty or toilet training? Children are usually ready between 18 and 36 months, since at this age the toddlers are compliant and also ready for some independence. If you wait longer than that, you may have to deal with a temperamental and strong willed toddler who might find great mirth in resisting the process. Moreover, a child who continues to wear disposable diapers between the ages of 2 and 3, develops an additional half-ton of solid landfill waste. However, the best way to determine whether your child is willing to learn potty training process is to look for signs of readiness, which are:
- Remaining dry for at least 2 hours at a time
- Getting regular bowel movements
- Being able to follow simple instructions and directions
- Able to walk well as it helps strengthening pelvic muscles and controlling bladder function
- Feeling uncomfortable with dirty diapers and wanting them to be changed
- Asking to use the potty chair
- Desire to wear regular underwear
A book- a video, or a potty that gets your child interested in moving on from diapers is a step in the right direction – with the added advantage of making it all seem like fun. The more children watch a video, the more they repeat the actions and words from it. Bingo! When children watch a video about potty training, they are more likely to put into practice those behaviors that will help them overcome this difficult milestone in their development. Just make sure to step our of the way when your child runs to the bathroom and says, “Mommy, I want to try to go potty.”
Many toddlers will pick potty training right up with hardly any trouble at all. For most parents, however, we’ll likely face a few challenges introducing potty training to our little ones. This can very often come in the form of resistance on the part of your child to begin the process.
So what do you do if your child is not interested in, or perhaps rebels against potty training? Fortunately, as parents we are able to use subtle forms of bribery (alright so scientifically speaking it’s know as positive tangible reinforcement). For many toddlers, this can be just the right push they need to start getting excited about potty training.
Before you start potty training, experts say you should keep in mind 1 very important thing. It can and probably will take several weeks to several months to teach your child toilet success. Let your child use the toilet when he or she is ready, not you. Experts also say that if a child trains around 2, they will be successful by 3. However, if your child starts before 18 months old (and some rare ones do successfully), they may not be fully ready and trained until age 4!
No matter when you begin potty training, your child needs to be physically and developmentally capable of starting. They need to be able to walk themselves to the bathroom, or communicate to you when they’re ready to go.
Be a Role Model. This may sound weird at first, but experts say it may help to have your child watch you or a sibling going to the bathroom. Children like to copy their parents so why not using the toilet.
Never Rush or Push. Some children just will not get it for awhile. If it starts to get frustrating for you or child try taking a break for a bit. And then try again, always incorporating in new tips or methods. What may work for one child will not always work for another.
One of the best tools to employ positive reinforcement in potty training toddlers is the use of a potty training chart and rewards system. This does not work for all children and in fact, in some cases it’s now always the best approach. However, if you follow a few simple tips for utilizing potty training charts, you’ll have a much better chance of successfully putting them into use.
- The first rule of thumb in using potty training charts is that you should really only employ a rewards if you feel that your child needs this encouragement. Ideally, we want children to enjoy the simple feeling of accomplishment they get from potty training. However, if you think your toddler needs a little push, you might want to start with the potty training chart.
- Once you decide to begin using a potty training chart, be sure to outline a clear plan and rules for its use and communicate these guidelines with your child as well as anyone else who will be involved in his or her potty training regimen. Decide what achievements you will use the stickers for and determine what the rewards will be along the way and at what intervals
- Locate a potty training chart that fits your timeline and rewards system. Weekly calendars are very common and accommodate enough days to reach specific potty training goals. However, one of our favorites is the Kenson Kids Reward and Responsibility System. It’s a daily chart with reusable stars which can be very effective during the first few days of potty training toddlers when you’re settled in for an entire weekend dedicated to the task.
- Each step of the way, be sure to effectively communicate with your toddler. Ensure that they understand what they did correctly to receive the sticker and when the time comes, the reward. Positive reinforcement is based upon a clear understanding of goals and achievements and this is critical to successfully using this technique when potty training toddlers.
As with all potty training approaches, have patience and offer plenty of praise to your child. As we often discuss, this can be a stressful challenge for them, so you want to ensure that the process is light-hearted and fun.
1. Toilet-training is a partnership, with proper roles assigned to each person. You can lead a baby to the bathroom, but you can’t make him go.
2. You have not failed Parenting 101 if your baby is the last on the block to be dry. As with eating and sleeping, you can’t and shouldn’t force a baby to be dry or clean, but you can set the conditions that help baby train himself.
3. The bottom line is helping your baby achieve a healthy toilet- training attitude. Approach toilet-training as an exciting interaction rather than a dreaded task; consider this event an initiation into your role as instructor. From baby’s viewpoint, toileting is his initiation into “bigness”-a rite of passage from toddler-hood into preschooler-hood. (This explains why the desire to stay little makes some procrastinators resist.)
4. Toilet-training is a complex skill. Before you rush baby to the potty at the first squat, consider what’s involved in learning toileting skills. First, baby has to be aware of the pressure sensations of his bowel and bladder. Then he must make the connection between these sensations and what’s happening inside his body. Next he learns to respond to these urges by running to the potty, where he must know how to remove his clothes, how to situate himself comfortably on this new kind of seat and how to hold his urges until all systems are go. With all these steps, it’s no wonder many babies are still in diapers well into the third year.
5. The muscles surrounding the opening of the bladder and bowel (I call them doughnut muscles when explaining the elimination process to six-year- old bed wetters) need to be controlled to open and close at the proper time. Bowel training usually precedes bladder training, mainly because the doughnut muscles surrounding the bowel are not as impatient as those around the bladder. When a baby senses the urge to defecate, he has more time to respond before soiling his diapers. A solid substance is easier to control than liquid. When the bladder is full, the urge to go is sudden, strong, and hard to control.
6. The usual sequence of gaining bowel and bladder control is…… (1) nighttime bowel control; (2) daytime bowel control; (3) daytime bladder control; (4) nighttime bladder control.
7. Girls are rumored to be trained earlier than boys. This observation reflects more the sex of the trainer than the trainee. Culturally, toilet-training has been left to mothers; naturally, women feel more comfortable training girls, and baby girls are more likely to imitate their mommies. Picture mommy standing and trying to show baby Bert how to urinate. By imitation, babies learn that girls sit and boys stand, but in the beginning boys can sit, avoiding sprays and dribbles on walls and floor. When your son figures out he can stand just like daddy, he will.
8. The pressure is off parents to toilet train early. Don’t equate toilet-training with good mothering. The idea that the earlier baby is eating three squares a day, weaned, toilet trained, and independent, the “better” the mother is nonsense.
9. We do not mean to imply that you lazily leave baby alone until he is old enough to order his own potty-chair. Some training is necessary on the parents’ part, and some learning is needed by the baby. Children need parental guidance to get control of their bodies.
10. The temperament of the mother and baby play a role in readiness, too. A down-to-business baby tends to learn quickly and may even “train himself,” especially if he has a mother who thinks the same way, but who is wise enough not to pressure. A laid-back baby with a casual mother may still be in diapers at three years and no one worries. With a laid-back baby and a down-to- business, mother toilet-training gets more challenging.
11. Take the pressure off you and baby. Don’t cave in to in-law pressure. You know when your infant is ready. Of course, the “diaper-free” policy at your desired preschool looms over you like a due date.
12. Diaper company market research shows that toddlers are being toilet trained later than in the past, and to go along with this trend diaper companies are making bigger and better diapers. Children learn to use the toilet the same way they learn to walk and talk: by imitating their caregivers- and when the appropriate nerves and muscles are mature enough to be coordinated. For these reasons, the time of training will vary from home to home and child to child.
13. Toilet-training is so difficult for parents and a battle for toddlers because:
- The infant was encouraged to use the diaper as a toilet, so the toddler has to unlearn what he has previously been taught.
- The child has not yet developed body language to make the connection between feeling and going, since prior to toilet-training, parents were not looking for these cues and the baby did not give them.
- Toddlers, especially boys, are on the go and the last thing they want to do is “sit still” on the potty.
When it is time to Potty Train sit down and have a talk with your toddler. Tell him that everyone goes potty (even animals) and it’s a normal part of life. Talk with him about the toilet, a special place where he can potty. Tell him how the potty works and let him try flushing himself. Explain that he’s going to be wearing underwear instead of diapers, just like you.
No sensible parent is going to expect potty training to be easy, but it certainly shouldn’t be a total pain. If your child wets her pants once or twice a day in the early days, you may decide to persevere. If, on the other hand, she soaks every pair you put her into and only once or twice seems remotely interested in using the potty, use common sense. This really isn’t the moment to be potty training, and it’s going to be a lot easier on both of you if you put it on hold, at least for a short time.
Here are a few things to remember and do not make these mistakes during this time…………
- starting potty training during a stressful time in your child’s life, such as a move or around the arrival of a new baby in the house
- quickly moving your child to regular underwear as soon as you begin potty training, even before your child shows signs of staying dry for long periods of time or regularly using the potty
- continuing to push potty training when your child obviously isn’t interested
- punishing your child for having accidents while you are potty training
- expecting potty training to be a quick process and being able to finish in a few days or a weekend
- expecting your child to complete all aspects of potty training at the same time, such as potty training in public, having bowel movements on the potty, or using the potty each and every time he has to go
- relying on the same potty training method for each of your kids, which unfortunately, may not work if your kids have very different temperaments
- not realizing that your child may continue to wet the bed at night, even after he has finished potty training, since bedwetting is not usually related to potty training
If you’ve already told the doting grandparents or your friends that your little darling is about to potty train, it can be difficult to then back out. The moral of the tale, of course, is to keep quiet about potty training until it’s almost complete – don’t tell everyone your 18-month-old is on the verge of being out of diapers because you’ll only put pressure on yourselves to achieve the (unrealistic) target you’re setting.
Remember, accidents are bound to happen. Reassure your child when this happens and show lots of excitement when there’s success. For some toddlers a tangible reward, such as stickers, is a big motivator.
As eager as you are to complete the training, you can’t rush it. It is a learning process. Children do master this skill—but at their own pace.
GOOD LUCK AND HAPPY TOILETING!
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