How do I potty train? Where do I start?
It is another development milestone. Just like anything in parenting or life, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to potty training. Every child is different, and while some kids will be ready to transition from a changing table to a potty in as early as 18 months, others might not be ready until their third or even fourth birthday. The key is to accept that it takes time, patience and willingness from both parents and kids to make potty training successful. You are the expert of your child.
The key for Potty Training is Consistency and Commitment
Children have no interest in potty training, very few children who are asked to be potty trained unless they are age 4 or older. However, it still does happen occasionally but not very common.
Unequally more important HOW to potty train then WHEN to potty train.
The best age for potty training is between 20-30 month. The reason for this is when children reach the age of 3 “infants differentiate from their primary caretakers and establish a sense of self”. (“individuation and separation” Mahler)
At the stage of 2-3 kids want to mimic you, please you, due to this it will be easier to potty train at this stage.
When is a child ready to potty train? Signs to look for:
The list below will give you sings to look for before you plan to potty train. When your child shows some of these signs you can think to start the process.
- Hide in the corner, or a private place to poo (recognises we do this private)
- Show interest in the toilet, and what happens there (they have interest)
- Nappy is frequently dry from lunchtime nap (bladder control)
- When thirsty or hungry can ask for food or drink (aware of their body)
- Can understand and follow simple instructions (example: put a toy in the box)
- Can point to the different parts of his body when you name them (aware of his body)
- He can sit and play with a toy for about 5-10 min (they can stay on the potty)
- Can sing the ABC song (learnt by repetition)
- Can throw a tantrum (aware of their need)
- Wait until your child show signals they are ready, by mean asking for the toilet
- Girls are easier to train than boys
- Deal with the pee first then the poo
- Put the potty around, so they are used to it (no as it will become a toy)
What you will need for the potty training:
- Potty, if you have two floors, it is ideal for getting two same potties as you may not make it upstairs if the potty is upstairs and keeping the same potty avoids a choice, for example, the child may want to use the green potty instead of blue which is upstairs and it will be too late to go upstairs, for boys best to choose with high splash
- Elastic band trousers/ fun leggings (elastic waistbands) is essential for quick and easy to pull down, the child can pull down and up their trousers
- Potty chairs or seats (potty is easier as you can keep it in the room nearby instead of making your way to the toilet. Toilet seats are best if padded, more comfortable when they are sitting for long. Also, if the seat has handle is best, so they can hold on to keep them steady
- Note pad (write down patterns/regular times of pee)
- Travel potty is essential when you are out especial if there are no toilets around you can just put it up or the 2-1 travel potty is great as you can place it on the top of the toilet so they feel safe
- Potty training charts can be useful to motivate the child
- Potty training books are great visuals for the child to see other children using the potty and toilet
- Bed mats are great on the go, square them up and place in in the car seat or buggy, even at friend house if you feel more comfortable and call them special cushion
Potty training tips for boys:
- Boys should pee sitting down in the potty in the beginning as it is difficult to stand and pee in the potty hole
- Standing up can cause a mess around which can create dissatisfaction for the child as a start. Also, standing at the potty boys need supervision as they can hardly reach to hold to wee in the right place.
- At a young age, they need supervision to stand at the toilet as they need a step so they can fall off.
- Best to teach them to hold it down and get a potty with a high splash guard, sitting down will also benefit when they need a poo.
- Booster step to reach the sink is best to wash hands
Should I leave the potty around to familiarise it with the child?
It is important to start the potty training as you display the potty. If you leave the potty out for a long time, it will become a toy for the child and makes it harder to explain what is the real purpose of the potty. Doing role play with a doll or teddy sitting on it is fine but not as an accessory of the room.
As children love role-play at this age, it is a great opportunity to start taking them to the toilet with you, and you can have a potty next to you if they want to copy you. Even if they sit down with clothes, it is fine as a start so they can learn to stay still on the potty. Explain to them what you are doing in a simple language.
When you wash your hands get your child involved emphasising wet and dry. Demonstrate how his hands get wet and dry with the towel. You can also wet a different towel and explain which is wet and dry. By doing this, they start understanding the difference between wet and dry clothes. Use it more for younger age groups.
Potty talk: once the potty is introduced, it is important to decide what words are you going to use. If your child is attending nursery, check what they use. Most commonly used “pee and poo” but also popular “wee” or “number one” and “number two”. Try to avoid confusion and stick to the one you choose. Crucial to avoid word as: “What a stinky poo” or “smelly wet knickers” as there negative words can develop real problems, especially having bowel movements. Use instead: “well done; your stomach must feel better now.”
Make sure you choose a week when there are no plans for at least four days, making sure there is no rush or pressure on the child to pee as rushing out of the house.
How to choose the right product?
Boy or girl?
Choose a potty with a a high splash for the boys
Check if you need a single or double step to reach the sink
2-1 portable potty can be used on the toilet or as a potty
1# Bare bottom day, learn your child pattern
Try to act like it is a normal day. Start the morning telling your child today we are going to pee and poo in the potty like mummy and daddy. Keep the child with a bare bottom. Make sure you are constantly watching your child for signs of pee and get the potty ready, keeping a calm voice, come and sit down, pee is coming. Keep a note of the pattern how often the child needs a pee. All children are different. Some children have lots of mini pees frequently, whereas others may hold it for longer periods or for hours.
2# Pee and poo with clothes on
As you have a note of patterns how often the child is passing urine, it gives you an indication of how often to remind them to sit on the potty. It is important to still have the potty by the eyesight and easy reach. More accidents can happen when your child is playing or gets over-excited as they forget to go.
It is important to start putting the clothes on at day two as may some kids pee well without clothes; however, some will have more accidents with their clothes on. If you notice more accident with clothes on try to do a bit of both. Wait for a good pee with a bare bottom and put some clothes on and go in the garden or around the block and back to the house after about 20 minutes (depending on the frequency of your child pee) and take the clothes off again. It is important to tell them how well they do, give them pride.
Some children have bowel movements at the same time every day, if this is the case try to sit the child on the potty for longer period, ready a book or two while sitting on the potty. Even if they miss the potty, it is crucial to encourage and reassure the child it is fine as in long term you will get a better result.
It is common that, when a child is introduced to the potty he/she will hold back on doing a poo, sometimes two or three days and they may do it in the trouser instead of the potty. If the child doesn’t go for two or three days, they may be constipated. In this case try to increase more fruit and vegetables, prunes and prune juice one great choice for constipation.
If your child is progressing invite a friend over, ideally whos child is potty trained so he can show off “his big boy” pants. Keep the potty in the same place is important. Keep reminding the child to go as he can be more over-excited to have a friend over. Make sure he get success instead of leaving him to play for too long and forget. Use the note of his pattern.
3# Different Environment
Different environment. Visit a friend who’s child is potty trained and try to get your child to pee in their bathroom. You can also take your travel potty with you so they can familiarise to pee in a new environment. Make sure that the child is using the potty before leaving the house, to avoid an accident. Do not be tempted to put a nappy or pull-ups on as it will create confusing signals for the child and potty training can take too long. Consistency will lead you to successful potty training. Accidents at this stage can help your child understand between wet and dry, also when he needs to pee. Keep calm if he has an accident and remind him what is the potty for.
When travelling, buy some bed mats and square them up for the size of the buggy or car seat. Tell your child, this is a “special cushion” for him to use when you are out. Use it at friends house if they sit on the sofa so it will be a stress-free visit.
Accept the fact that there will be accidents, do not stress about it, have enough change of clothes, at least 4-5 pairs in case, try to stay out only for a short period to be focused on your child and be successful.
Day Five to Seven:
At day five, most children start using the potty more regularly with some accidents. If the child is playing and has not used the potty for a few hours, you can remind him where the potty is without nagging. A constant reminder can lead to re-fusion and more accidents. Try to let him and even if there is an accident, remind him he will do better next time (do not say: you see, I told you so” as this lead to creating feeling shame of himself). Once you see the child can control the bladder movement, you can start moving the potty to the bathroom and keep it there permanently.
If you have not used the big toilet, it is time to start introducing it with a “special” seat if your child is afraid of it. Use a step as well so he can be confident, instead of having his feet hanging in the air. Important that the adult is staying next to the child when using the big toilet until they get familiar and confident with it.
Reminder, do not forget, never use a nappy or pull-ups during the day as it can lead to more accidents. When children get over-excited during play accidents still may occur. Be supportive and calm, no punishment. At nap time you can use the bed mats and remind them to use the potty before nap.
4# Consistent self-initiation
3-6 week after potty training. As kids are all different, it may happen sooner or later. It comes with time and parents need to be patient when kids are ready for this.
5# Night and nap training
It is easier to night train when the child has their own toddler or single bed without rails. As they will call you, however it could be too late for them until you arrive to put them on the potty. Day and night training together is harder, however, if you potty train after 36 months, it is easier to train day and night together.
If you potty train before 36 months only daytime, see how the child is at night by 36 months, if they still wet, start the night training as it will get harder at a later stage.
- Limit the fluids before bedtime. Keep the fluids high in the morning and throughout the day and reduce it near bedtime. No fluids 1-2 hours before bed.
- Wake them up at 10 pm and 2 am for 2 weeks and keep monitor if your child is peeing more earlier at night or later at night and move down to one wake up time.
- Once your child stays dry at nap time it is a great signal for them ready to be able to night training.
Top never ever`s:
- Using words such as stinky poo, smelly wee
- Saying: good boy or good girl when they do it as when they may think they are bad if they cannot pee or poo (say how clever they sit on the potty, how clever peeing in the potty)
- Don`t ask if they child needs to go to the toilet. As most probably the answer is no, make it a statement, a choice or a challenge.
- Don`t put a nappy on to poo in it.
Avoid potty training when:
- A new baby is due in a few months or just arrived a couple of months
- Moved to a new home
- The child recovered from an illness
- Change in the child circumstances
- When an older sibling has short therm behaviour issue or sleeping difficulties
- Christmas or holidays with lots of activities
- Parent has lots or temporary pressure at work
Child is constipated or withholding
People can be confused when potty training if the child does not want to poo if they are constipated or withholding.
- Constipation occurs when the child is willing to sit but nothing happens (avocado, coconut milk, coconut oil)
- Withholding when a child obviously has to go but does not want to do it (bare bum, potty in the corner, so it is privacy, be calm, keep saying the same thing.
If the child does not want to go, you can say “your toy can come and watch” if they are in a deep play or bring the potty over to the room. You can say, lets race to the toilet who will be the faster? They will straight away run to the toilet.
Trust your instinct, and if you know your child needs to go, make sure you convince them to go even if they are in a deep play as they might have an accident.
NO accidents in the first week or two of the potty training, they are still in the learning stage.
Potty training twins:
Potty train twins, it is best if you can get a pair of hand on the first day or two. If one of them gets it first and the other doesn`t it is ok to focus on one, and the other will follow shortly, do not pressure the other child. Get one first done and you can focus on the other child.
Top tips for surviving day one potty training:
- Most important on day one is to achieve your child happily can sit on the potty for a few minutes and does a few pees in it throughout the day.
- Do not focus on the accidents; it’s a learning curve; encourage and support is key.
- Do praise and lots of cuddles when they do the smallest wee in the potty. Also, praise when the child sits on the potty. “oh, how clever you sit on the potty”
- Always explain with eye contact at their lever and not across the room telling instructions
- Never get cross or angry if they miss the potty. Stay calm and say: “Never mind, you nearly made it to the potty, lets put some dry clothes on.”
- Prepare lots of indoor activities, pay-dough, drawing, puzzles. Read books when they sit on the potty if they do not want to stay there.
- Avoid using your phone and visitors the first day. Concentrate 100% to observing, encouraging and helping your child to master potty training skill.
Star charts and rewards
There are different views on this, some experts say that potty training is a skill and no need for reward or star charts. Kids learnt walking, eating, speaking without using reward and potty training is one of these skills as well.
However, if your child shows interest and does better with star charts there is no harm using it. Make sure you do not reward them with chocolate once they doing a poo or any other type of rewards as in the long term this can cause an issue.
Useful potty training item to buy
The number one step is for the parents to be ready for potty training! Check the list if your child shows the main signals that they are ready. Get all the accessories you need for the training. Do not use any nappy or pull-ups once you start as it will lead to confusion and more accidents. Be calm and encourage them!
Do not cry over potty training; it is only a learning curve. You are the expert of your child, there isn`t a one-size-fits-all approach.