Potty Training- Tips for parents

Posted by Veniece Lazarou on

What is potty training?

  • It’s a process, It’s training and It takes time

What age is appropriate?

  • No standard age at which a child is ready to start using the potty. But most children gain the necessary physical, cognitive and emotional skills they need to start training when they are between 18 months and 3 years. Girls tend to be ready a few months earlier than boys. All children develop at their own pace

Why readiness is important

  • Process will take longer if started too early. The child might experience potty training as a negative experience which will hinder the process. All parents want the process to be smooth and rewarding. We want to praise our kids and be proud when they achieve success. Frustration for both parties

Physical signs of readiness

  • Anything before 12 months – a child cannot control bladder/bowl function. They might show signs of readiness on other levels but physically are unable to control elimination. A child between 2 1/5- 3 years has better bladder control and readiness is more reliable. Has regular, soft, formed poos at relatively predictable times, and doesn’t poo during the night. Has dry periods of at least one or two hours, or wakes up with a dry nappy after a nap. This shows that her bladder muscles are developed enough to hold her wee in and store it. Can pull pants up and down with only a little help. Shows an interest when you go to the bathroom.

Cognitive and intellectual signs of readiness

  • Can understandand follow simple instructions and requests, such as “Do you need a wee?” or “Where’s the potty?”. Has words for wee and poo. Shows awareness that she’s having a wee or poo. She may stop what she’s doing for a minute, or go somewhere else, or tell you that she’s had a wee or poo. She may tell you she needs to have a wee or a poo before she does it

Emotional signs of readiness

  • Your child is in a ‘good space’, good routine, no major changes, no trauma or difficulties. They are relatively showing positive signs about the potty and are not fearful/scared/crying. Isn’t resistant to learning to use the toilet. Is in a generally cooperative stage, not a negative or contrary one.

Behavioural signs of readiness

  • Shows a wish to please, and enjoys praise. Shows signs of discomfort when her nappyis wet or dirty. Child is sitting on the potty with a nappy on, looking at this ‘funny thing’ – what is it? Feeling it? Looking at how it works. All part of the process.

Create a routine

  • Create a routine for your child initially with clothes on, usually at the time they have a bowel movement, every day for a couple of days until they get the feel of sitting on the potty (Preferably at the same time). Once they have gotten used to this routine, do it again without a nappy- once again for a couple of days, until she/he is used to it If your child clings/cries, leave it until they are ready

Demonstrate and explain

  • Demonstrate daily for your child. When you demonstrate for your toddler, talk about how you know it’s time to go to the bathroom, then explain what’s going on as you’re using the toilet and let him see afterward what you “made.” Then show him how you wipe with toilet paper, pull up your underwear, flush the toilet, and wash your hands. Seeing you do it and hearing you talk through it will help him get used to the whole process.

Foster the habit

  • Get your child used to being bare bummed, with a potty close by. Ask, remind every few minutes “Do you need to wee/poo?”. Remind them that potty is there. Keep them company so they can sit long enough. Its ok if they mess, this will pass. Praise and positive reinforcement

Handling setbacks

  • Gracefully, patiently. Its normal to have accidents. Just encourage and remind that they should try and use the potty next time, because they are wet- they understand this. Don’t reprimand/shout. Clean up the mess with a smile

Night time training

  • Once they start staying dry during the night whilst using nappies, its worth a try. Takes longer to master- still very immature to know that they need to get up and go during the night. Protect the mattress, and be patient. Encourage going to the toilet before bed. Keep a potty close by. Reduce fluid during the night

Tips: Encourage, empower, patience. Listen to their cues/signs. Positive reinforcement, rewards. Star chart/Potty training chart. Never train when child is experiencing change-New school/home, trauma etc- wait for them to settle. Regression-trauma. Small adjustments at a time-

Veniece Lazarou

Registered Counsellor and Play Therapist

BA (UNISA); Psych. Hons. (UJ); MA. Psych (NWU)


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