Letter from the Director!
Children may be ready for potty training at any age, generally ranging from 18 months to 3 years. Signs that your child is ready for potty training include (1) being able to tell you when he is having a bowel movement or is urinating, (2) having the ability to pull his pants down and get onto and off the potty chair, (3) having the ability to follow simple instructions, (4) staying dry for longer periods of time (choosing when to go in his diaper), and (5) showing an interest in using the potty. Once your child starts displaying some of these skills, it may be time to start potty training.
Preparation will help both you and your child. For a couple of days or weeks before you want to start potty training, invite your child to periodically sit on the potty or the toilet while fully clothed. If you sit her onto an adult sized toilet, make sure to hold her so that she isn’t afraid of falling off or into the toilet. Also, you can read books to your child about going potty and let her know when you are going potty. You may also let her watch an older sibling go potty in order to learn how it is done. It is a great help to buy a child-sized potty and keep it in the main play room for your toddler. She will become familiar with it and know that when she sits on it, her toys are within view and nearby. She will not have as difficult of a transition time between playing and sitting on the potty because there is less travel and distance from toys, and she is still in her usual surroundings.
As exciting as it is for a parent to see a child sit on the potty or go potty, it can work against you if you show too much emotion. Toddlers like to exert some level of control in their lives, and your emotions could be a tip off that there is more at stake for you than for him. Acting matter of fact about his progress and accidents not only relieves stress for you but shows him that this is just another chance to start doing what adults do. Try to think of potty training with the same patient attitude that you had with training him to walk or use a spoon. Focusing on expectations, negotiations, rewards, and punishment can make the learning process much more stressful.
Like all of us, children like to make personal choices. Giving a child some choices can alleviate any power struggle. Saying, “I will not tell you when to go potty today, but just make sure that you go in the potty and not in your pants” can make the difference between tantrums and success. Also, if you are deciding that it is time to sit on the potty, you may give your child the choice of what hand-held toy to take along so that she at least feels that she has retained some personal power.
Consistency and tools are both key to any learning experience. Collaborating on the potty schedule with teachers and family caregivers will help the child to adapt to the new routine better. Tools may include a child-sized potty rather than adult toilet and a set of underpants.
If the potty training is not going easy, try letting your child go naked at home or wear just a top and underpants when in training. When a child realizes that there is no diaper to catch the mess, then he has a greater motivation to use the potty before the mess occurs. Some parents also find it helpful to set aside a weekend or day to focus on going potty at regular intervals while providing plenty of drinks to increase the frequency of training opportunities. If your child does make a mess, unemotionally instruct the child to help with cleaning it. This will also greatly increase the motivation to make it to the potty on time. The human brain loves to do things in the easiest way possible; if it is easier to use the potty successfully than to deal with messes, the brain will learn that quickly and choose the easier route.