Potty Training: All the Basics That You Need to Know
Potty Training: Overview
Potty training a toddler is one of the most demanding tasks for parents. Getting the child out of diapers and keeping her dry and clean all day demands a patient and tactful training process, which involves teaching the toddler to control the bowel and bladder movements.
Most children outgrow the diapers naturally some time around the age of four, but they still need to be trained to use the toilet at the right moment in order to avoid accidents.
It can take children anything between three and four weeks to successfully master the skills of potty use. Some children may even take a couple of months. Girls are usually ready for training at a much early age than are boys.
If a child of more than three is still not successfully potty trained after more than six months, medical intervention might be required.
It is a good idea to start potty training during summers, when it is easy to keep the child in the least cumbersome clothing. Summer is also the season when children urinate less frequently, and this too makes the process easy.
Potty Training Myths
The biggest potty training myth is that all children can be trained at the same age. The truth, however, is that while some children can finish their training by two years, a few might not even be ready to start at that age.
Parents might have been often told that a successful potty training makes the child accident-free, but this is not true either. Night-time accidents can still happen, and same goes for traveling.
Another myth associated with potty training is that you must be strict with the child. However, experts stress on the need to be flexible while still trying to maintain a routine.
Leaving children in a wet diaper or underwear does not make it easier for them to learn faster the use of toilet. The best way to make them learn quickly is to clean them up and change into dry clothes immediately and without any fuss.
Potty Training: When to Start
Since potty training is a process that demands a lot from both the parents and the child, it is best to start only when both the parties are ready. Parents would need to give a lot of extra time and attention to the child.
Most children are ready for potty training by around 18–24 months of age. Some, however, may take a little longer before they show any kind of readiness.
Before the advent of disposable diapers, children were potty trained at a much earlier age. Mothers often forced their children to use the toilet. Later, with child-centric approach gaining popularity, children were spared the stress.
The America Academy of Pediatrics recommends starting potty training only when the child is emotionally as well as physically ready.
Experts of infant training method, however, suggest that babies are capable of giving subtle signs right after their birth. They stress on the fact that in many countries babies stay without diapers and are often successfully potty trained.
Psychological Aspects of Potty Training
Before starting with any type of potty training, it is very important to remember that every child has its own personality and so will react differently to the process. While some children may react positively during the early months, some others may resist even at the age of three.
Well known psychologist Dr. Phil groups children into three broad psychological categories of rebellious, cooperative and passive.
Rebellious children will always say "no" to any suggestions made by the parents. These children love to fight for authority, defy the rules and often misbehave to attract attention.
With a rebellious child, it is best to wait till the child shows a visible interest in using the potty. Parents may start with giving suggestions by showing examples and let the child develop an actual desire to learn.
A cooperative child, according to Dr. Phil, loves to share responsibilities and work together with the family.The best way to train such children is to be open, show them the way and let them learn by themselves.
These children need directions and like to follow them. They may be shy and may get intimidated by new things.Parents of passive children need to give them time to get familiar with the potty. It is best to provide them step by step directions and help them to learn in a gradual manner.
Whichever type does your child belong to, you must remember that being too tough is no good. A majority of psychologists, including Sigmund Freud, believe that a strict toilet training regime can adversely affect the psychology of the children and they may end up as adults with disorders related to excessive compulsion for cleanliness. It is best to look for signs of readiness from the children and follow their cues.
Quick Reactions to Signs
The key to successful potty training is to respond quickly and positively to any signs of readiness shown by the toddler. The child may be giving you the cue, but she doesn’t know it herself. Familiarizing the child with the toilet and helping her understand the signs are the first steps towards starting the training.
Getting that potty chair out at the very first signs is usually a good idea. Introduce the child to the potty chair, and let her sit on it so that she feels comfortable when the training starts.
When the toddler lets you know of her dirty diaper, praising and thanking her for telling will most likely encourage her to tell in advance next time.
More on Reactions
- As soon as the child strains, shuffles, squats or gives any similar cue, draw her attention to it and explain that she’s getting the "potty feeling."
- Explain that mom, dad and even the pet dog experiences it and everyone goes to the bathroom.
- It may seem simple for grown ups, but it is necessary to make the child understand that she needs to remove the clothes and sit on the potty before relieving herself.
- Take her to the bathroom. This way she would know that she needs to rush to the toilet when she feels the urge.
- Emptying the soiled diapers into the potty will also make her understand where it belongs.
- It is also very important to teach the child specific words to help her communicate if she is "wet" or if "it’s coming."
Signs of Readiness
The signs of a child’s readiness for potty training may include the following:
- Bowel movements of the child are regular.
- The stool is soft and well formed.
- The child is able to stay dry for more than two hours.
- The child is able to understand simple instructions.
- The child can sit down and walk.
- The child wants to change the soiled diaper immediately.
- The child gives a physical cue by making a face, squatting or grunting before the bowel movement.
- The child shows curiosity and tries to imitate when elders go to the bathroom.
- The child wants to wear ‘grown up’ underwear.
The earliest signs may vary from child to child. While some babies start giving a physical poop warning even at six months, they would still be wetting their diapers too fast. Some kids may start by staying dry longer. Most experts suggest waiting till the child shows more than just a couple of these signs.
Some Great Reads
Getting Started With Potty Training
Once you are sure that the child is ready, it is time to check your own readiness. Make sure that you will be able to put in the effort and dedicate the extra time that is required for a successful potty training.
Reading up books and browsing through the Internet can help you know all that is needed to know before getting started. Too much knowledge, though, can confuse you. The best way is to find out about the different methods and then zero in on the one that suits you best.
Talk to others
Talking to other parents who have successfully accomplished the task of potty training is always a good idea. Talking to friends or joining some bulletin boards helps, especially when you are too confused to start.
The grandparents of the toddler and people from older generation may also give some valuable inputs, though sometimes they may provide a conflicting view since they belong to a different generation.
If the child has to often stay with the grandparents, it helps to make them a part of the training process. Talking to them, learning about their experiences and explaining modern thoughts and approaches to them can help achieve this goal.
Potty Training: The Right Equipment
One way to get the child interested in potty training is to take the child for ‘potty time shopping’. Children usually love to try out different things. The child will be eager to start if the potty chair is the one of her own choice.
Potty training equipments can broadly divided into two types.
These portable potties come in a variety of shapes and sizes. They comprise of a potty part that needs to be emptied into the toilet and cleaned after use and the seat on top.
- Select one that lets the child’s feet rest firmly on the ground. This will help her when straining for bowel movement.
- The urine guard of the potty chair can often injure a child, especially a boy. It is advisable to select a chair that does not have a urine guard if you are buying it for a boy.
- It is essential to check the potty chair for sturdiness. A lightweight or rickety chair may upturn and end up scarring the mind of the toddler.
- The detachable pot part should be easy to remove for cleaning and at the same time securely fasten while in use.
These child-size seats can fit on top of regular toilets, and so the pee or poop goes straight into the toilet. These are best for children who are eager to "do it as dad and mom do."
- A good seat will fit firmly onto the toilet.
- Using these seats may require a footstool to help the child get on to them without waiting for the elders to rush them.
- Buying a seat with extra comfortable seating is a good idea as most children spend a bit too much time sitting on the toilet.
Some potty chairs come with seats that can later be used separately as adapter seats on the regular toilet pots. These can be not only economical but can make it emotionally easier for the child when it’s time to move from potty chair to the regular pot.
Today, the market is full of fancy potty chairs, which sing or play music when pee or poop touches their floor. These might attract the child initially, but she may soon get bored or sick of the sound and end up refusing to use them. While buying such potty chairs, it’s best to find a model where the sound can be switched off if needed.
More on Equipment
Once the seat is selected, it’s time to get some accessories in place. These may include glow signs for potty seat so that it can be easily located in dark.
Now is also the time to shift to training pants from regular diapers. Training pants are underwear with an absorbent layer to avoid the mess if accidents happen. Unlike regular diapers, these can be pulled down by the child and can be helpful in the initial days of potty training.
Buying a good stock of underwear of their choice may also motivate children. Once they are comfortable with training pants, it is easier to shift them to cloth underwear. The feeling of wetness can help a child understand the need to go to the potty.
Another important investment is in buying trousers with elastic waistbands which can be easily and quickly pulled down by the child himself. It is necessary to make it potty training a hassle-free experience. Small children are not capable of holding their bowel or bladder movement for long. Trousers with zippers of buttons that need complicated unfastening can be a hindrance and may cause the child experience the guilt or shame of having accidents.
Creating a Routine
Once the potty training process has started, it is very important to create a schedule and then maintain a routine. Most children pass a bowel movement at around a certain time of the day, usually a little after a meal.
Even if the bowel movements are not so regular, it is a good idea to make the child sit, maybe with the underwear on, everyday at a particular time. This way the child will be able to accept potty time as a part of the daily routine, just like bath time or meal time. Children can also be encouraged to sit on the potty seat at regular intervals to pee. This can be every half an hour if the child drinks a lot of fluids or even two hours if she usually stays dry for that long.
Potty Training Methods
There are many methods to achieve the goal of successful potty training. Parents need to use their own discretion to decide which method will be suitable for them. Things to consider before deciding should include the availability of time and level of patience of the parents or caregivers as well as the temperament of the child.
While some people advocate a guided approach to potty training, others advise the parents to wait till the child shows the eagerness to start.
Most methods require parents to let the child first get familiar with the potty chair before actually starting the training.
Infant training method or Elimination communication, as it is also known, is an ancient method of training very young infants. This method is still being used in many Asian, African and other third-world countries. It is now making a comeback in North America, with more and more parents turning towards natural nurturing of their babies as well as getting concerned about the negative environmental impact of the disposable diapers.
Potty Training: Dos and Don’ts
- Always remain positive and encouraging. Praising the child for every success, even if is washing the hands after and accident, helps a great deal.
- If an accident happens, the reactions should be simple. Always encourage the child to ‘try to do it in the potty next time’.
- Some parents may find it difficult to explain the process to the toddler. The key is to keep it short, simple and accurate.
- If the child shows any sign of resistance, stop the training.
- Children should never be scolded or punished for any accident. Remember, it’s not their fault; they are too small to control for long.
- Do not show even the slightest sign of frustration. It can make the child feel guilty and eventually delay the process.
- Never try to force your child. A power struggle will only create mental stress for all.
- Do not threaten to put the diapers back in case of failure. Encourage the child to get out of them.
- Do not set deadlines.
- Do not start the training if the daily routine can not be maintain. Things like a family vacation or marriage in the family, which may create excitement and effect the routine, are also not the right time to start potty training.
When starting the training make sure that the child is not constipated. Avoid making her strain in order to pass the motion. This can result in bladder and bowel problems.
Potty Training: Some Possible Difficulties
Like all things parenting, potty training also is not an easy job. Parents face many difficulties.
- If the child does not want to use the potty at all, maybe she is not ready for it. Wait till she shows more signs of readiness.
- Constipation can be another factor. Giving the toddler enough fluids can be helpful in such a case.
- Many children are afraid of dark or of the flushing sound. Some may even be afraid of falling down or into the potty. Keeping the bathroom brightly lit at nights, not flushing when she is around and getting a sturdier potty may ease the resistance.
- Sometimes the child uses the potty for only urinating.
- Some children are always defying their parents. They may always end up saying "no" when told to use potty. In such cases, parents need to give very subtle hints, so that the child feels it’s her own idea.
- Keeping a special book or toy for potty time may also motivate such children.
- Children may start having accidents after staying dry for weeks. This may be caused by some stressful event in life, like a separation of parents or arrival of a new baby in the family. Trying to talk to the child reassuringly may solve the problem in a few days.
- Sometimes children regress when they start going to the school or day-care.
- It can also happen at the time when the child is learning to master some other skill.
- Constipation, infections of the urinary tracts or some other medical problem may also cause regression.
Training while traveling
- Potty training can be problematic when there is a need to travel.
- Making the child use the bathroom just before leaving can be helpful.
- Taking potty breaks can be a good idea, but sometimes it may not be possible, especially while driving on highways with no restroom in sight for hours.
- It is a good idea to keep the child in training pants while traveling to avoid the mess in case of accidents.
- Parents can consider buying a travel potty seat in case they need to travel often and for long.
Potty Training Tips
Give easy-to-understand explanations. Instead of talking about germs tell the child that she will get itchy if her bottom is not cleaned.
Praising every effort and awarding the child encourages her to use the potty.
Keep the child in pants with elastic waist bands, which can be easily pulled down.
Don't start training if the family is going through some crisis or the child has just started going to preschool or day-care.
Pressure never works; in fact, it may scar the psyche of the child, making it a traumatic experience.
Bribes may work, but don't make it a big deal. Stickers or favorite jellos or juices can work.
Positive reinforcement leads to successful potty training. Remember, all children love to be praised and loved.
Some Potty Training FAQs
How to handle children who get curious about their genitals while potty training?
Parents should never shun them. Providing them with simple answers like, “this is your penis, this is where the urine comes from” will mostly satisfy the curiosity.
How train boys to pee while standing?
Boys need also to be trained to urinate while standing. It is a good idea to let them do it sitting at first and start with standing up only when he is comfortable about it. Throwing some cheerios to perfect the aim often works.
How to teach girls to wipe?
Girls need to be told to wipe themselves in the correct way, from front towards the backside. Parents should make them understand that it can leave them dirty if they do it the other way round.
Make sure that they do not do it the other way round even while urinating. Suggesting them to dab dry instead of wiping after pee is also a good idea to avoid confusion.
Night-time Potty Training
Children find it difficult to learn staying dry through the night. While their bladder is yet not capable of holding the urine for long, they have yet not learned to wake up and go to the potty when they feel the fullness.
It is a good idea to keep them diapered in the night till they have successfully learned to use the toilet in the day time.
When the child stays dry through the day and wakes up with a dry or just recently soiled diaper, it is time to start the night time training. Some children may actually wake up or get restless in the night when their bladder gets full.
- Limiting their bedtime fluid intake will help them stay dry longer.
- Encouraging the children to go to potty just before sleeping also helps.
- Potty should be kept handy and the child should be able to get down from the bed by himself and pull down his pajamas.
Some Night Training Tips
- Keeping a night light on can help the child reach to the potty quickly without any danger of hitting himself.
- Let the child know that it is OK call the parents in case he needs to.
- As soon as the child is awake, remind him to go to the bathroom to avoid any accident.
- Keeping a plastic sheet will save the mattress from getting soiled in case of any accident.
- Parents need to be calm and positive even while night time training.
- If the child frequently wets the bed, it is better to stop and wait for the time till she stays dry for at least a week.
- Once the child has mastered the skill to stay dry at both day and night, it is time to say to good bye to the diapers.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2013 Shruti Nagar