Potty Training: When to Start and How to Go about It


Toilet training may be a more significant accomplishment for you more than it is to the child-we all look forward to ditching the diapers and changing soiled linen, don’t we? To some children, peeing in the toilet is nowhere near the priorities like other activities such as writing, cycling, and swimming. Therefore, some children need a lot of encouragement to get toilet training done.

It can be an easy task for some parents, but to others, it may be a time of snags that will call for patience, resilience, and persistence. If your child is taking longer to learn, know that it is not an indication of their intellectual and cognitive ability. Sometimes it may mean that the child is not ready, and you need to take a break. In this article, we will tell you about most of the things that you need to know about potty training-when you should start training and what you should do, to make your efforts count.

When Is a Child Ready for Potty Training?potty-training

Potty training requires both you and the baby to be ready. For the training to be successful, the child should at least have acquired basic skills like undressing, understanding the body’s elimination signals, having some control of bladder and bowel, and handwashing.

Every child is different from the other thus there is a wide range of when they are ready. Do not be distracted by other children’s paces. May it be their siblings, your niece, nephew, or the child of your friend.

Some children are ready to start at 18 months while others may delay up to 3 years. Most children are trained between the age of 18 and 24 months. Do not put too much pressure if the child is not ready as it will only be counterproductive and will take longer. If the child is not prepared, you will not be successful in forcing it.

When your child is ready, they will have signs like the following:

  • Can walk
  • Empties the bladder or bowels at regular times
  • Knows when they are passing urine or stool, can verbalize it, fidget or move to hidden areas
  • Has less frequent voidings and can hold for about one to two hours even when asleep
  • Can feel the discomfort of a wet diaper and wants to be changed promptly after soiling
  • Can pull pants up and down
  • Can follow instructions
  • Has learned words like pee, wee, and poo

These signs are not the hard and fast rules, and you do not have to wait for all of them to show. Waiting for them all will lead to late toilet training which may make you apprehensive and compel you to rush everything.

Other than physical preparedness, your child will also need to be emotionally ready. If the kid has just started pre-school, has a new caretaker, has just become an elder sister or brother, they may be less receptive.

Training may be different for girls and boys, and also for siblings. Generally, girls will train faster than boys and firstborns may have taken longer compared to their siblings. Also, children will take different periods to master the training steps. A few may take days, some weeks and others even months. Note that night training will take longer and needs different techniques. 20% of children may continue to wet their beds at night even when they have started school.

[Read more: Potty training video]

Assess Your Readiness Too

It is not just the child who needs to be ready for the training. You will also need to be prepared psychologically, emotionally and materially. The best time is when you will have fewer disruptions. Your readiness may be affected by the family’s routine, your job or even major life events like divorce. The weather may also play a considerable role in when you start training. For instance, you may choose to begin in summer or during the dry season (for areas that only have the wet and dry seasons), as that is when you will need fewer clothes, and they will dry faster when washed.

Essentials For Potty TrainingThings in Potty Training

The potty is, of course, the first product that you will need to get. You have the choice of getting one that sits on the floor or one that sits on top of the toilet. The advantage of beginning with one that sits on the floor is that it feels more secure and balanced to the child as they can securely put their feet on the floor.

If you feel that you want the child to start by sitting on top of the toilet, get a potty seat that attaches firmly to the full-size toilet, is comfortable, secure and has steps for the child to place and stabilize their feet.

Ensure that the child understands that the potty is their own. You can further personalize it by writing their name on it or let them decorate it using individualized stickers, their photos, or their favorite cartoons.

Disposable training pants will go a long way in helping the child train. They are easier to pull up and down, will help the child transition to ‘grown-up’ pants and if the child is in daycare, they help in infection prevention and control. Remember that the pants must be changed immediately the child has peed or pooped because just like diapers, they can also cause a rash.

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Disposable and washable underpants will also help in a great way. They are designed to make the child feel when they are wet. That way, they can tell when they should have gone to the potty. When a child is in diapers, it is difficult for them to feel the wetness.

The items mentioned above are some of the most critical that you will need at the beginning. As you move along, you can add other things like a seat reducer, baby urinal, training seats, toilet step stool and disposable travel potties.

So, What Should You Do about Potty Training?potty-training

Talk to the child about potty training before starting and keep on talking about it as you go on. Let them understand why they need to learn the process. If there is an older child, the child can also learn by watching and copying. Younger children have a sense of trust for their elder ones and mostly learn by imitating them. Even when going to the hospital, tagging along the older one will almost always make things easier for you and the doctor.

Then let the child explore the potty and practice sitting on it once or twice a day. Try putting the child on the potty in a sitting position before a shower or when changing wet clothes. When the child poos, let them watch you dump it in the potty for them to comprehend where it should go. The goal at this point is to make the child understand what the potty is, how to use it and to help them become comfortable with it.

Once the child is familiar with the potty, you can then have them sit on it at periodic times, especially at around the time that they usually pass urine or stool. By the time that a child is ready to start training, you may have learned the time that they need to relieve themselves. Bathing time is also another great time to ask the child to sit on the potty. This time they are usually undressed and more relaxed. It may take a while to for the urge to come but you can make it more interesting by reading the child a story.

You can also watch out for signals when the child is anticipating to eliminate. Some children may be able to say but for others, look out for signs like grunting, standing still, or clutching legs together. When the child starts getting the feeling to pee or poo, encourage them to rush to the potty. When starting, you may have to remind them to sit on the potty, but as you progress, the child will get used to doing it on their own.

Dress them in clothes that are easy to remove, so that they do not mess up when trying to take them off. Particularly, avoid clothes that are too tight, are difficult to unzip and have too many buttons.

If possible, leave the potty at the same place in the bathroom all the time. If you keep on changing locations, the child may pee or poo before locating the potty. Ensure that you always do it in the bathroom, so that they will understand that is where it needs to be done. It will also help when moving from the potty to the adult toilet. Even when an accident occurs, make sure that you change the child in the bathroom, around the area of the potty.

However, if the bathroom is quite a distance from where the child is mostly, maybe a floor up or down, you can alternatively keep it in a place that is easily accessible. Ease of access is crucial especially in the initial stages of training.

For boys, start off with sitting on the potty then move to the standing position. Teaching them the standing position for passing urine and the sitting position to empty the bowels at the same time may be too confusing and messy.

Remember to let the child relieve themselves before going out for a long time. Also, carry the potty with you when going out, so that the child will understand that they need to use it all the time.

Moving to the Adult Toiletpotty-training

By the time the kid is doing well on the potty, they will be at the age of preschool where toilet seats are the most readily available. Prepare the child to move from the potty well in advance, to avoid causing anxiety when they go to school or other homes. If you were using the potty in the bathroom, the child might not have any problems adjusting. By then the child will have gotten used to seeing the poo and pee being flushed down the toilet.

Some children may have issues like fear of falling while others may be afraid of the flushing water. Reassure and accompany them to the bathroom and the fear will go away after some time. You can also allow them to watch another person doing it, just to show them that nothing bad will happen.

First, begin by using a child-size toilet or a toilet seat until they get used to it. You will also need to get a stepping stool for the child to use to climb up and down. In addition, the stool will be a surface for the child to plant their feet when using the toilet. Alternatively, you can get a seat with steps and handles. You can then move to the full toilet seat when the child is comfortable.

Night-time Trainingpotty-training

It is advisable to first focus on day training before embarking on nighttime. It may take place after about six months of after the child has learned potty toileting. The child will be ready for night-time training when the nappy or diaper is slightly wet or dry for several mornings in a row.

Note that all nights will not be the same. Just because the child has mastered daytime toileting, does not mean that they will be dry all night. So, just like daytime training, make room for mistakes and praises.

To prepare the child for staying dry at night, talk to them about it first. If they are old enough, ask them to wake you up if they get an urge to pee. Alternatively, if the child does not have trouble finding sleep, wake them up in the night to visit the toilet.

Before bedtime, ask the child to use the potty. Make sure that it is near the bed if they need to pee in the night. Ensure that the child gets enough fluids during the day so that they will not be thirsty in the evening. Accidents may happen once in a while, so use a protective mattress cover then spread at least two absorbent sheets on top.

If you notice that all is not going well, you may revert to diapers and nappies then try again after several weeks. 

Urinal Training for Boyspotty-training

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that boys should first be toilet trained to urinate when sitting down. Well, other toilet training experts suggest the same thing too. We agree with the experts, let the boy first master the sitting bowel movement position then move to the urinal.

Once fully potty trained when sitting down, you can move to the standing peeing position. Most of them at this stage will be looking forward to pee like daddy or their elder brother. You can either choose to teach him how to aim into the adult toilet or buy him a child’s urinal.

Initially, you will have to hold his penis while he is urinating as you explain why he needs to do so. Next, you can let him try it on his own. Teach him to concentrate when peeing, so he does not spill urine everywhere. In the first days, you will have plenty of cleaning to do before he learns to aim at the right place and to concentrate.

Positive Reinforcementpotty-training process

Some people have different feelings about rewarding your child every time they master something well, but scientific evidence shows that positive reinforcement motivates children and produces fast positive results. It teaches the child that positive behavior brings positive effects.

Ensure that you acknowledge each time the child makes progress, no matter how minimal. However, do not overdo it such that the child will be afraid and nervous to miss the rewards. Moreover, if overdone, the child may keep on going to the potty even when there is no need, just to get the treats.

Rewards will work well in the later stages of training when the child has learned some skills and is self-motivated to earn them. Also, this will be the age that most probably the child needs extra motivation to do something that they can already do on their own.

They do not have to be expensive treats because even a simple praise goes a long way. Sometimes if you feel that they have achieved much, you can reward them with something bigger like taking them shopping for “adult” underwear, buying stuffed animals or let them choose a treat that they want.

When the child makes a mistake like peeing before getting to the potty, do not get overly angry or punish them. Mastering the process may take a while. So just be calm, remind them that they need to use the potty then clean the child up and wait for the next time.

Track the Progresspotty-training

Tracking your accomplishments together with your child will not only help you see the far that you have come but it is also a great motivation to the child. To settle on an excellent tool for checking progress, look for one that it is fun, interactive and focuses on the child. You can download training applications, print free training charts from the internet or buy potty training books.

Some of the applications are quite interesting and have familiar cartoon figures that will help the baby learn. Letting the child use the applications sets a positive mood that will go a long way in encouraging the child. Most of the apps have lots of games, tunes, stories, rewards, stickers and sing-along songs to make it fun. For the very advanced applications, you can even personalize them by using the child’s photos and favorite characters.

For the charts, make or get a chart that is colorful, needs the child to use stickers, draw or paint. You can play around with different colors, shapes, and figures. Let the child mark the chart every time they do something successfully and accompany it with positive verbal feedback. Let the marking be done immediately the child accomplishes something. If delayed, it may not mean anything to the child as kids easily forget.

Promote Hygiene

Teach the child to wash their hands with soap and water every time that they sit on the potty even if they did not do anything. You might have heard about hand washing over and over, and for kids, you may have to remind them even more than a thousand times. It is a message worth repeating all these times- it is a simple technique that can significantly lower the risk of diarrheal and respiratory diseases. Insist on the child using soap, and clean running water.

Another crucial thing to teach the child about cleanliness is how to wipe themselves properly. For girls, show them to pat the genital area gently after passing urine and to wipe from the front to the back after passing stool. This is especially important for girls as they are more prone to urinary tract infections. Why is it that? All the reasons boil down to the basic anatomy of a woman. One of the key reasons is that the female urethra is just an inch and half next to the anus thus is very easy for stool to reach the urethra. Moreover, the female urethra is much shorter than the male, so the bacteria does not have to travel far to reach the urinary tract organs.

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Encourage Your Children during Potty Training

Your child will need a lot of encouragement during this process. Do not get angry or frustrated when they do not always get it right. They never do it intentionally. In fact, most of the times they are usually anxious about disappointing you. Therefore, do not belittle, punish or humiliate the child for their accidents. Above all, do not crush their efforts and esteem by talking about their toilet training problems to other people when they are present. Keep acknowledging their progress, no matter how small it is.


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