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Toddlers 1-3 Years | Toddler Milestones

Too da loo: Potty-Training 101

Being able to go to the bathroom independently is a major milestone in a child’s development – and a memorable moment in a parent’s life too.  Ah, yes, just imagine… nappy changes will soon be a thing of the past!  It may seem like an insurmountable challenge to you right now, and we know that you want a nappy-free zone yesterday – but take heart, because before you know it, your little one is going to be trained, happy and proud as punch of his big achievement.

Read on as we guide you through the basics.

A few pointers before we get going

  • Don’t start too soon
    Children are ready for potty-training anywhere between 18 months and 3 years.  Girls are generally quicker off the mark in this department than boys, and take to the training faster and more easily.
  • Be on the lookout for signs of readiness
    It’s a fact that if your child is ready, the process will be simple.  If not, you’re in for a battle. Age is not the only determining factor in deciding to start potty-training:  physiological and psychological readiness is important too.  See the list below for signs to watch out for.
  • Go with the flow (sorry, we couldn’t resist)
    Once you’ve begun the training, don’t rush your child through the process.  Each child responds differently, with some toddlers catching on in a day or two and others taking up to 6 months to get it right.  If he resists and is not having any of it, maybe now is not the right time. Relax.  It will happen!  We promise that you won’t be changing your son’s diapers forever.
  • Get ready
    Read all the information you can get your hands on so that you know what to expect.  Buy some illustrated children’s books on the subject and read aloud to your child.  Allow him to watch other family members use the toilet, and (not for the squeamish) dispose of the contents of a nappy in the toilet so that he knows what it’s for, and then let him flush it.
  • Go shopping
    Take your little one shopping for his very own potty, and spend some time decorating it with stickers depicting his favourite characters.  You can even name his little throne:  Jon’s John or Lou’s Loo would work well!  Buy him a few sets of disposable training pants, just in case.
  • Talk the talk
    Teach him the lingo:  whether you want to go (for example) with “wee” and “poop” or “number one” and “number two” is really up to you.  Whatever you choose, use the terms consistently and tell all the other family members and caregivers in the home what you’ll be using, so as to avoid confusing your trainee.
  • Set aside some time
    Make sure that you’ve cleared your schedule for a week or so to get the plan in motion.  Your child needs consistent direction and guidance, which is best done when there are no external stresses or time constraints.  Don’t begin during a difficult period: if your child is unwell or unhappy, you’re having guests for an extended period or moving house, for instance.  Start with a clean slate.
  • Stay positive
    Try to maintain a cheerful, supportive attitude while potty-training your child.  Offer constant encouragement and don’t fall into the trap of punishing or berating him if he doesn’t get it right within your expected time-frame.  This could lead to relapses later… and you don’t want those!
  • Be patient
    As with most important parenting issues, these things take time.  Stay calm, no matter what happens and just know that this, too, shall pass.

Time to go?
How to know if your child is ready

You know your child better than anyone, so recognizing these signs of readiness will be a piece of cake. It’s likely your child is ready if he:

  • can understand and obey age-appropriate instructions
  • verbalises himself well and asks basic questions
  • is displaying increased independence
  • enjoys dressing himself
  • can pull down his own pants or disposable trainers, and pull them up again
  • goes for a stretch of two hours or more with a dry nappy
  • wakes up with a dry nappy
  • has fairly regular bowel movements
  • expresses that he needs to or is about to go in his nappy by stance, facial expressions or verbally
  • expresses that his nappy has been wet or soiled
  • displays discomfort when wearing a used nappy
  • understands toilet terminology
  • can get on to and off the potty by himself
  • shows interest in using or directly asks to use the toilet or potty
  • can control the muscles responsible for bowel movement and urination

Target practice
Getting down to the nitty gritty of potty-training

Okay.  You’ve recognised the signs of readiness, you’ve got the potty and you’ve prepared yourself and your little one, so… gee whiz! It’s toilet time. Follow these guidelines for good results (not forgetting to stay calm and supportive):

Get the potty out
Together with your child, make a ceremony of placing his brand new potty in the bathroom.  Explain that he is going to be using it from now on whenever he needs to go.  Don’t let him feel pressurised or intimidated, but show him that you’re excited and tell him that he’s a big boy.  If possible, place a potty in every bathroom in the house and pop an extra one in the boot of your car for when you’re out visiting family and friends.  Consistency is key.

Schedule toilet time
Get him to remove his training pants or trousers, and ask him to sit on his potty, asking him to do what needs to be done, using the terminology you’ve taught him.  He’ll get the idea eventually.At specific intervals during the day, visit the bathroom together.  Elimination generally occurs within one hour of eating or drinking – bear this in mind when planning trips to the loo. If he wants privacy, turn your back if it makes him feel more comfortable, and if he wants to get off, don’t stop him.

Make a run for it
Be prepared to dash to the bathroom at the drop of a hat.  Watch out for signs that he’s about to do his business.  Every child is different:  some may have a specific facial expression, whilst others grow very quiet and still, squat down or race out of the room.  When this happens, quickly encourage him to run to his potty.   Eventually, he’ll recognise these signals himself and will be dashing off to the bathroom all by himself.

Make hygiene a priority
Teach your little one to wash his hands after using the loo, and keep the bowl of the potty rinsed and disinfected at all times.

Offer rewards
An incentive can go a long way.  By offering your child a special sweet or surprise may encourage him to go the extra mile – but try not to overuse this technique.

Praise good results and make light of accidents
Don’t stop offering positive reinforcement, even when things aren’t going brilliantly.  Your love and support is really important during this process and can’t be emphasised enough.  When accidents happen (and they will), play them down and don’t show frustration or disappointment, as this can cause self-esteem problems and subsequent setbacks.

Be realistic
As we have already mentioned, this process is going to take time, a sense of humour, good planning and a whole lot of patience.  Don’t listen to negative feedback from others, and just keep at it.

You’ll get there.


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