Potty training can be a stressful time. Many parents feel pressure to speed up the potty training process, either for daycare requirements (some facilities won’t take toddlers unless they’re toilet-trained), or from the ‘mommy circle’, says psychologist and founder of the Bella Vida Centre, Ilze Alberts.
There is a right way to potty train, but it has less to do with keeping up with the ‘Type A’ playgroup mommy and more to do with finding a rhythm that works for you and your toddler. And even if your child seems to be lagging behind all the others, “relax”, say the experts; it will all fall into place.
Is your child ready?
Your child’s nervous system needs to be developed well enough for her to recognise the need to use the toilet, and she must be able to articulate and even control that urge. This generally only happens at around age two-and-a-half.
Also, it’s not a good idea to start potty training while your toddler still takes a bottle, explains nursing sister and midwife, Lizeth Kruger. When a child drinks from a cup, she will drink until her thirst is quenched, and then stop. On the other hand, children who drink from a bottle tend to keep going, and so bladder control after that much liquid is more difficult.
When is the best time to start potty training?
The best time of year to start potty training is during the summer, says Phina Masete, from Little Creations preschool in Johannesburg. Having helped nearly 100 toddlers move from nappies to undies, Phina suggests:
- Your toddler will have accidents while she learns, and it’s less uncomfortable during summer. Also, undies dry faster after washing – stock up, you’re going to need a lot!
- Key factors in successful potty training come down to routine, positive reinforcement, and patience. A good way to introduce the process is to sing a song. Something fun and repetitive, like “Wee in the toilet, poo in the toilet”, as this helps to reinforce the message. It’s also a good time to introduce toilet hygiene habits through a song, e.g. “We always wash our hands after using the toilet.”
- It may feel invasive, but let your toddler come with you to the loo, so she can see what you do. Children are curious about their bodies and your body, and will want to see what happens and where everything goes.
- Get into the habit of taking your child to the toilet up to every half hour, as well as after drinking water and before going to bed, going out, and so on. This pre-empts accidents, and your toddler will feel empowered when she sees that she’s getting it right.
What if potty training happens at daycare?
If the majority of your toddler’s potty-training process is done at daycare, it’s important that you work as a team, says Phina. She advises that parents begin at home a month before daycare starts, and to try as much as possible to stick to the daycare’s methods, as this creates less confusion for your child.
Potty training dos and don’ts
- Children love a celebration, so make a big deal out of his/her move to big-girl or big-boy undies. Let your toddler choose their own so they feel part of the process.
- Give them lots of praise and positive re-enforcement. Clap your hands, give lots of hugs, and use a star chart.
- Pull-up nappies are a great way to transition to undies. When she starts to get the hang of things, you can eventually move to undies during the day, and pull-up nappies at night.
- To get your toddler used to sitting on the potty or toilet, keep a few books, like Pirate Pete’s Potty, by Andrea Pinnington (Penguin Books), or toys at hand, to keep her entertained.
- Change your child’s undies quickly if she has an accident. Girls in particular can be prone to developing urinary tract infections (UTIs) from wet undies, says Lizeth (remember that nappies draw liquid away from the skin). Also, she says, it’s natural to panic if you notice your little girl touching herself, but it often occurs due to discomfort from a UTI. If you suspect this, get her to the doctor straight away.
- As frustrating as it can be, avoid getting angry if she has an accident – these will happen, but she will get the hang of it.
- Rewards are great, but don’t push the boat out every time. Keep the rewards small, says Phina. Often, earning a star on a chart or simply receiving lots of applause and praise, is enough of a reward.
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