As parents, we are constantly trying to set limits and control our child’s universe to maintain safety and provide structure. Even the best parents cannot make children sleep, eat or use the potty when we want them to. Successful potty training is all about setting developmentally appropriate expectations and providing positive reinforcement to motivate while avoiding struggles.
Although there is no set age to begin potty training, most children start to show interest between 18-24 months old. Let your child’s cues let you know when the best time to start is.
Signs that your child may be ready:
- Stays dry at least 2 hours at a time during the day or is dry after naps
- Bowel movements become regular and predictable
- You can tell when your child is about to urinate or have a bowel movement
- Can follow simple instructions
- Can walk to the bathroom and can help undress
- Seems uncomfortable with soiled diapers and wants to be changed
- Asks to use the potty
- Asks to wear “big kid” underwear
Choose words used to describe body parts and urine and bowel movements. Remember that other people will hear these words, so be careful to pick words that won’t offend, confuse or embarrass anyone.
Pick a potty chair. Your child should be able to easily sit on it with feet touching the floor. Provide books or toys for “potty time” to make it enjoyable for your child.
Know the signs: before having a bowel movement, your child may grunt or strain, squat or stop playing for a moment. Explain to your child that these are signs of having a bowel movement. He or she may tell you afterward that they wet or soiled themself. This is a good sign; praise them for telling you and suggest next time they sit on a potty chair.
Make routine trips to the potty. If your child seems ready to urinate or have a bowel movement, suggest a walk to the potty to sit and read. It may also be helpful to make trips to the potty a regular routine, such as first thing in the morning, after meals and before naps.
Just as everyone has a different opinion about when it’s best to begin potty training, every parent you know is also likely to use or recommend a different training method. It’s not necessary to use any single method. Just be ready to adapt to the cues from your child for readiness and timing. Potty training should be fun, and it’s important to not make it confrontational. Accepting and adjusting to your child’s personal style can make toilet training much less stressful.
In cases when a child is physiologically and cognitively ready for potty training, the basic training process from sitting on the toilet to using it with some regularity usually takes around six weeks.
However, your child is likely to have many accidents and even regressions after this period, and may not be fully dry at night for several more years.