One of the many struggles while raising a toddler is knowing when your child is really ready to start potty training. The internet is full of advice, other parents are bragging about their children’s progress and you start questioning your parenting skills.
Now, we are all familiar with the basic timeline that is set out in which your child “should be ready” to start potty training. We also know that all children have their own timelines and that we shouldn’t compare them to one another. But, parents will be parents. We are our own biggest critics in everything we do.
If you’re still reading, I am assuming you are experiencing some frustration with this whole potty training business. Either you’ve tried it but your kid is simply not going with it, or you are anxiously anticipating the right time to start potty training your toddler.
Well, I am here to tell you to STOP WORRYING! No book, website, psychologist, caregiver or family member can tell you when your child should start potty training or how long it will take. This is a crucial developmental stage in which you do NOT want to pressure your child in any way, or make them feel like they are disappointing you.
There are a few tell-tale signs that your child might be ready to start exploring the potty. Your child may have them all, or maybe only a few. I cannot stress enough, that only you as a mother would know if your child is really ready. And if you think he is ready, but then you struggle and find he was not – that’s okay! Just wait a few weeks and try again.
Here are the tell-tale signs your toddler is ready to begin potty training
- Your toddler has developed adequate speech abilities to verbalise that he/she needs to use the potty. It doesn’t have to be full sentences, but they need to be able to verbalise what is happening in their bodies.
- Your toddler can walk properly and can sit still on the potty for more than 5 seconds at a time. Reason for this is that they need to be as relaxed as possible in order for the bladder/bowels to start opening. If they can sit and page through a book while relaxing on the potty, all the better. Methods to help them relax include: Singing songs, reading a story together, or playing with a favourite toy.
- Your toddler can pull his/her trousers up and down himself. This is quite important as they need to be able to do this independently to avoid having accidents. Try using pants with elasticated waists, or even better, no pants at all if you’re at home. Avoid pants with buttons, zippers and belts. Fashion is unfortunately not at the top of the priority list during this period. Your toddler should be as comfortable as possible during this phase and should be able to easily get rid of his/her pants to use the potty. Refrain from helping your child to pull down their trousers. They might struggle with this a bit, even when wearing trousers with elasticated waists, but they need to practise until they get it right. Their arm muscles are not used to this action and they will take some time mastering this art.
- Your toddlers’ bowel movements are more or less regular. It should be well-formed, soft and squishy, but definitely not hard. If your child is constipated, rather treat it a bit before you encourage using the potty. If your child’s poo is a bit runny, try giving him/her a banana a day until it becomes well-formed. Trying to potty train a child while he’s having a runny tummy will only cause frustration in both you and your child. Also, it will cause a lot of extra stinky laundry!
- Your child is able to roll down a piece of toilet paper and tear it off. Again, this might take some time. I would suggest practising this a week prior to the commencement of potty training. Ask your child to help you roll off a piece of toilet paper on a regular basis, so they can get the feel for it. Teach/show them that this torn off piece is then used to wipe off either his nose or his bum. When he starts potty training, he should roll down a piece himself, and try to wipe himself. You’ll still have to make sure it’s clean afterwards, but let your child do it himself without interfering, as this is all part of the learning process.
- Your toddler needs to understand the difference between “Wet” and “Dry”. What I found to work really well while working in Potty Training classes, was to do activities with them to illustrate the difference between wet and dry. You can wet various objects and let your toddler feel them. Teach your toddler the difference between the one that is called “wet” and the one that is called “dry”. The best one that has worked in my opinion, was to use actual trousers. Wet one pair, keep another dry. Let him fit on both and ask him questions like: “Which one is more comfortable?” or “Do you like the dry one more?”. Try and go over the “wet and dry illustration” on a daily basis to help your child distinguish between the two.
- Your toddler needs to have dry periods of at least 2 hours during naps. Our bladders need to develop enough to learn how to hold pee for longer periods of time. This is NOT something you can teach your child. Do not ever teach your child to hold his pee. When the child is ready, his brain will automatically train his bladder to keep his pee in a little longer. This is where patience comes in. Your child is developing at his own pace, and there is nothing you can do to train his bladder. Just take it easy, it will happen in good time!
- When your toddler shows interest in others’ bathroom habits and items. Sometimes you’ll find your child following you to the bathroom and wanting to “help” you or keep you company.
- Your toddler dislikes wearing a dirty/wet diaper. This is quite easy to pick up, as they will not think twice to try and remove a diaper if it is bothering them.
- Your toddler understands that there is a difference between wee and a poo. Although it’s kinda gross, it’s good to show him the difference by telling him what was in his nappy every time you change it.
- If your toddler can follow simple, short-sentenced instructions like: “go to the kitchen” or “go to your potty”.
- Your toddler becomes more independent in other aspects and is showing a desire to become independent in the bathroom.
- Your toddler is peaceful and in a co-operative phase. Terrible two’s will always be there, but your child needs to be calm and happy during this process if you want to see good results. It goes without saying, that if mommy and daddy are having a row,
babymight not be in the best mood to co-operate. If you’ve moved house recently, wait about 2 months for babyto settle into his environment. Same with changing schools and classes. Your child needs to feel safe, secure, loved and at peace with his surroundings as much as possible to achieve optimal results.
I hope that this has been helpful to parents struggling with finding the right time to start potty training. If you have any suggestions or questions, feel free to leave a comment, I would love to hear from you!
Be sure to look out for my next post, Potty Training – Are You Doing It Right?