Potty training is one of those parenting tasks that nobody really knows how to handle gracefully. We’ve all heard horror stories about children who just wouldn’t get out of nappies or embarrassing incidents in public places. But it doesn’t have to be like that. For many people, potty training is a straightforward process, and when it goes right it can be pretty satisfying too. Most importantly, think of all the fun activities for kids you’ll be able to do when you don’t have to worry about changing nappies. To help you get there, we’ve put together a beginner’s guide to potty training.
- When to start
It can be a bit tricky to know for sure when you should begin the potty training process. Remember that all kids are different, so it really depends on how your child feels about the potty and whether or not you think they are ready. Most parents begin the process between the ages of two and two and a half, but trust your own judgement about when you think the right time is for your child.
Indicators that your child might be ready include them showing awareness that they are peeing (telling you about it, for example) or maybe going off somewhere private to pee, even though they are still in a nappy. It’s also important to look out for longer time gaps between urinating – at least an hour – as this is a sign that your child is controlling their bladder. Potty training without this can get pretty tough!
When you feel that the time is right, just give your little one a potty to sit on and see how they do. If they get stressed or start crying, don’t force it; put the potty away and try again in a few weeks or months. There’s no need to rush.
- The best approaches for successful potty training
So you think your child is ready – what now? First things first, get a potty and keep it in your bathroom – if that’s upstairs, it might be a good idea to keep one downstairs too, so that your kids don’t have to go far to use it. Whenever you think your child might need to pee or poo, put them on the potty and give them some time to try. Again, if they get stressed, don’t force it: just take them off and try again another time. You could however try to distract them with toys or books. Always explain what you’re doing to your child, so that they understand why it’s happening and why it’s important. And remember to give them plenty of praise when they succeed.
- What if things don’t go to plan?
Don’t worry. There will almost certainly be times when things seem to be going wrong, or the plan isn’t quite working how you envisaged. This is quite normal in potty training – and in general parenting! Take your time and let your child go at their own pace. It’s important not to blow accidents or mistakes out of proportion. If your child wet the bed, or lost bladder control while you were out, that’s fine – no big deal – just try again the next time. Many children continue wetting the bed up until the age of about 5. Just be as patient as you can, and consult a healthcare professional if you have any concerns.
- Supporting the parents: A stressful time
While we often talk about the impact of potty training on kids, we don’t talk as much about the toll on parents. Trying to get your kid to toilet on their own can be stressful at times, so it’s important that you have support throughout this process too. If your child is regularly looked after by someone else – maybe a grandparent, ex-partner or nursery school – make sure they are fully aware of and on board with what you are doing, so that they can help out. The more people encouraging both you and your child, the easier the process will be. Remember to take time out for yourself, and try not to get too anxious if things aren’t going to plan.
- A few Do’s and Don’ts
- Do create a schedule for when your child should use the potty – it’s all about getting them into a routine and sticking to it
- Do incentivise potty use by putting some toys or games they enjoy in the bathroom and associated being on the potty with their use.
- Do prioritise their needs. Maybe they need to pee when you’re in the middle of a supermarket or with a friend. As inconvenient as it may be, allow them to use the potty whenever.
- Don’t set formal deadlines. Trying to get your child to be potty trained by a particular date is bound to fail and will stress both you and them out. Take your time!
- Don’t give rewards, especially food rewards. They’ll learn to expect something every time.
- Don’t get negative. It’s hard, but if you seem frustrated by the process they will be too. Keep smiling all the way!