1. Wait until your toddler is ready
Most toddlers begin to show an interest in potty use between two and three years old. Little girls are often ready or interested sooner than little boys and might be keen to experiment from 15 or 18 months.
To set your child up for success, only start when she shows the signs of being ready – not before. This will only drag out the process and create a battle of wills. “Your child’s brain needs to learn to detect when her bladder’s full. Her bladder and bowel control muscles can take up to the age of two to learn to perform under the guidance of her sensory system,” explains occupational therapist, Samantha Toweel-Moore.
Anywhere between two to four years is common for initial potty success and even after that, daytime potty use varies greatly. Extremely active toddlers often don’t take the signals that they need to go to the toilet seriously because playing is their priority. In time, this will automatically sort itself out.
2. Look for signs of readiness
According to author of Toddler Sense, Metz Press New Edition, 2011, Ann Richardson, the first sign that your child is ready for potty training is when she shows awareness of what’s happening before or after a bowel movement. “She may say words such as ‘poo’, ‘wee’ or ‘toilet’, squirm and touch her bottom, or may stop what she’s doing,” says Richardson.
Other signs of readiness include:
- Your child shows an eagerness to please you and responds to praise.
- She begins to poo at predictable times and not at night.
- She wakes up with a dry nappy after a nap.
- She needs little or no assistance to pull her pants down and up.
- She’s keen to do things for herself and is curious about what you do in the loo.
- She dislikes being in a wet nappy.
- She goes somewhere special to wee or poo and tells you before she’s about to do so.
3. Rewards and praise can motivate potty training
When your tot grasps the concept of using a potty, be sure to praise her. Help her understand that she’s done a good thing and that you’re proud of her. This praise will lift her confidence and encourage her to use the potty again.
You can decide whether you want to reward your child with a toy, treat or a special outing when she does well. This potty training reward chart can come in handy. Download yours here.
4. Your tot may still need a nappy at night
Your toddler will probably have mastered the potty during waking hours long before she’ll be able to get through the night without an accident.
“Night-time nappies take longer to be unnecessary, especially with children who sleep very deeply,” says Sister Lilian. “One should only start removing these when your toddler wakes with a dry nappy on most mornings.”
Don’t start potty training during a major change
Starting day care, moving to a new house or welcoming a new little brother or sister is disrupting to your toddler’s routine and can cause stress, which could affect her potty training. Rather delay the potty training until everything has normalised and your child has settled into a routine again.
5. Expect accidents
They are a normal part of toilet training. Your child may be caught up in an activity she loves and forget to go.
“When your toddler has an accident, remind yourself that she’s learning and that she’s bound not to get it right every time,” says Toweel-Moore. “Show tolerance through body language and use words like: “Let’s clean up together”. Skip the sighs and frowns. Get down to cleaning up together. Handle it in a matter-of-fact way. Focus on the success and give lots of praise.”
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