As a mother, there are a lot of things that I would miss once my baby grows up. What I won’t long for, however, is changing dirty nappies. That’s why I always make it a point to teach my kid to use the potty at an early age. It requires a lot of things on the part of the parents: time, patience and some degree of cooperation from your child. What I can say though is that potty training girls are easier than doing it for boys.
Before we delve into detail, let us first go through the basics of potty training.
What is Potty Training?
Potty training, also referred to as toilet training, is training your child to determine her body signals when it comes to urinating and having a bowel movement. It is also the time to teach using a toilet or a potty chair in a correct manner and at appropriate times.
When is the Best Time to Potty Train?
Potty time does not depend on the age of the child. It mostly hinges on the behavioural, physical and developmental milestones of the kid. Although many children show signs of being ready at around 18 to 24 months, others might still not be ready at that age. According to experts, a child’s control over the body varies at different stages.
- A kid younger than 1-year-old has no control over the bowel movements and bladder.
- Children between 12 and 18 months have very little control.
- Children between 24 and 30 months obtain control over bowel movement and bladder.
- The mean age for toilet training is around 27 months.
So, what accounts for a child’s mastery of this skill? It’s all about timing. Doctors say, ‘If you start at 2, you’ll be done by 3. If you start at 3, you’ll be done by 3. But if you start by 4, you might be done a little longer. For most kids, potty training takes three to six months, but it will take a little bit longer if you are off-timing’.
To be able to determine when to start potty training, you have to ask yourself the following questions:
- Does it look like your child is interested in using the toilet?
- Does your child know how to communicate to you when she needs to use the toilet?
- Is your child capable of walking to and sitting on a toilet?
- Can your child follow basic directions?
- Is your child able to stay dry for two to three hours?
- Does she follow you into the bathroom and observe how you use the toilet?
- Also, does she enjoy copying her parents or what other children do?
- Does she show signs of discomfort whenever her nappies are wet and dirty?
- Can your child practise their independence by saying ‘no’?
- Is your child able to pull down and pull up her pants on her own?
- Can your child imitate your behaviour?
- Is your child capable of placing things where they belong?
If most of your answers lean towards yes, then that means that you and your child might already be ready.
However, if your answers are mostly no, you might have to wait for a little while.
Aside from this, each child has her behavioural style, referred to as temperament. In planning when to start potty training and what kind of approach to go with, it is crucial to take into consideration your child’s temperament.
- Study your child’s behaviour daily. Consider your child’s mood at specific times of the day and determine when she is most approachable. Plan your strategy depending on the timeslot your child is most cooperative.
- If you think that your kid is shy and withdrawn in most cases, make sure to provide more doses of encouragement and support to be able to give confidence.
- Do not consider your child’s short attention span as a distraction. Work with it and take this as a part of your strategy. Plan for the minor and major distractions which will keep your kid comfortable with the potty chair. For example, letting them read a book while sitting down may keep her interested.
- Take note of your child’s frustration level and be ready to work with it throughout the process.
It is also crucial to take note the importance of you being ready. It is not enough that only your child is eager for the experience. You must always make sure that your patience and motivation are already in the loop for you to be able to share the best experience with your children.
Some advice for you: make sure not to equate the success or failure of potty training with the intelligence of your child. It does not mean that if they are not doing excellent in their training that they are also incapable of doing other things.
Why is There a Major Difference in Potty Training Girls and Boys?
Every child is different, but it is a little bit true that there is a difference when potty training girls and teaching boys.
For one, potty training takes longer to be learned by boys than girls. Some professionals associate this to various reasons such as the lack of male role model showing them how to use the potty appropriately, the higher activity level of boys, the lower maturity of boys than girls, and the gender role of standing versus sitting down.
Another thing is that little ladies show interest in potty training earlier than boys. Most of them take the plunge when they are around 18 months. On the other hand, studies show that boys are more comfortable staying in nappies until they are about 3 to 4 years old.
Toilet training is a complicated process. Hence, it is crucial for you to be able to keep in mind all of the best practices when it comes to potty training. Listed below are some of the best practices in teaching potty time.
Buy Her Potty
When potty training girls, start by buying her potty and explain that it is her own and that she should take care of it. You may even give her the chance to write her name on it and design it with pens and sparkly stickers. It will instil in her a sense of responsibility.
Experts suggest buying a child-size potty instead of introducing a full-size instantly. Most children feel afraid of using full-size toilets since they are scared of falling from the seat. However, if you opt to train them in real-life toilet seats, make sure to attend to them all of the time since the bathroom can be a dangerous place.
From here, allow your child to familiarise herself with the potty chair. Let her touch, observe and get comfortable with it before asking her to use it. If you feel that your child is still afraid to use it, don’t pressure her into taking that big step. Maybe put aside potty training for a month or two to be able to give your kid time to adjust to the concept of a potty chair.
Check Her Stools
Before teaching her the basics of potty training, make sure to check your child’s stools first. Hard stools might be a little painful and strenuous to pass; hence, it is critical they are soft. Having soft stools will also encourage them to poop at their effort instead of getting scared of the pain they’ll encounter with harder stools.
Add fibre to your kid’s diet and consult a healthcare professional when you feel that your child’s stools are harder than usual. A higher-fibre diet and lowering their consumption of dairy products can help them maintain and develop regular bowel movements with soft stools.
Properly Place the Equipment
Ultimate potty training tip: start by placing the equipment in appropriate places. These include either the bathroom or a room where your child spends most of her time. It is to ensure that potty training can be a part of their routine. Regularly seeing the toilet will also remind them of the proper practice when it comes to potty training.
Embody the Right Teaching Practices
It is crucial to approach this critical stage of their growth in a calming and organised manner. First, encourage your child to use the potty chair while she is still on her clothes to start. It will make sure that they are comfortable with the situation presented to them initially.
Second, make sure that your child’s feet rest on either the floor or stool. If the feet dangle awkwardly below the toilet, the tendency is that the kid will find themselves off-balanced. Once they stumble from their position, there is a significant chance that they won’t be too open and at ease when learning about potty training.
Lastly, talk to your child in a simple way. Use positive and uncomplicated terms when discussing to them the technicalities of this practice. It is to ensure that they’ll understand what you are trying to say. It is better to use the proper words for what your child is doing. For example, tell them that they are peeing, pooping or using the potty. This way, the child will be able to tell you exactly what they want to do in the future.
Remember: Other people hear you and your kid’s conversation. Hence, it is best not to teach words which will embarrass, offend or confuse others and your child. Do not use words such as ‘stinky’, ‘dirty’ and ‘naughty’ to describe urine and bowel movements.
When it comes to potty training girls, ensure that you are adequately explaining hygiene. Teach your girls to spread their legs and wipe the in-betweens from front to back. It will prevent the presence of the germs from the rectum to either the bladder or the vagina. Also, explain to them the importance of washing their hands after using the toilet.
Schedule Potty Time Breaks
To be able to include potty time on their daily routine, it is critical to plan regular potty time breaks. Have your kid sit on the toilet or the potty chair without a diaper for several minutes for every two to three hours. Practise this also at times they just woke up in the morning or right after naps.
Make sure that you accompany them and stay with them whenever they conduct their potty time breaks. Try giving them a book to read or a toy to play with while your kid is sitting down on the toilet. Also, allow them the freedom to get up whenever she wants to. It is to instil in them a sense of responsibility.
Even if your child only gets to sit down and not use the toilet per se, make sure to give them praise for trying. Give them the confidence that they can try again on their next potty break.
Lastly, to maintain the consistency of their scheduled potty times, bring the potty chair with your child whenever you are away from home.
Ditch Using Nappies
After a couple of days or weeks of successfully training your child with consistent potty breaks and remaining dry at most times of the day, try trading the use of nappies with either underwear or training pants. The reason for this is for them to keep the use of nappies out of their system. They won’t feel that the nappies are something to rely on whenever they have the urge to use the bathroom.
In cases where your child fails to remain dry at most days, return to nappies. Once you feel that they are used with the potty training routine again, slowly eliminate the use of the nappies once more.
Potty Training Tips
Potty training is a process, but using a few parental tips can help get the job done in a short amount of time. Here are some potty training tips which can make the process even smoother.
Accidents will always happen. Remember: you are training a child, not a professional adult in a particular job. Hence, whenever you and your child face challenges and accidents, stay calm. Do not scold, shame or discipline your child in any way. There is no room for negative reinforcements at this time of their training.
What you can do is to apply positive reinforcements. Some parents create a star or sticker chart while others opt to offer their kid’s favourite food whenever they do well in their potty training.
‘I wholeheartedly recommend bribery as potty training motivation: We kept a small plastic piggy bank in the bathroom and rewarded every success (one penny for a pee, two for poop). Our daughter seemed to be in a trance—she would shake the piggy with a gleam in her eye and remark how heavy it was getting. When she was all done, we took her potty windfall and turned it into quarters to spend on rides at the mall,’ shares Lisa Spicer, a mother in Los Angeles, California.
Do not get frustrated when your child is taking a long time to learn. Chances are your child might still not be ready with this big step. According to most studies, potty training can take approximately a year or so.
‘The two big surprises are that toilet-teaching is not fast and is not smooth. Several areas of development need to line up first. The child has to communicate well, be aware of his bodily feelings, and understand how much time he needs to get there’, says Dr. O’Brien, a professor in the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.
Act Things Out
Pooping or peeing outside their comfort zone, a.k.a. their nappies, is most likely a frightening concept for a child. To be able to show them the importance of potty training, act things out.
‘Acting out potty scenes with dolls or stuffed animals can help toddlers work through anxieties and fears and provide an opportunity to develop a sense of mastery over their feelings of uncertainty. Parents can assume the role of one of the dolls and articulate what the child may feel: “I don’t want to make poop on the potty, the potty is too noisy!” Then, the child can assume the role of supporter’, shares Dr. Dorfman, Ph.D., in child psychotherapy.
Girls mostly learn whenever role-playing with dolls. They learn by pretending to teach their dolls how to go potty. So, how do you go about it?
- Get a doll which has a hole in the mouth and the diaper area.
- Teach your kid to feed them and to train them how to go to the toilet (by pulling up or down the pants of the doll).
- Tell them to be responsible and do this regularly.
Try Naked Time
Let your child run around naked in the house or just wearing a T-shirt. Since they are not wearing either underwear or diaper, they will realise that there’s nothing to catch their poop and pee. Hence, they will be forced to put in the toilet!
Once they have used the potty toilet, make sure to discuss to them the importance of flushing. Point at the swirling water and acknowledge the whooshing sound of flushing to be able to send them the message adequately.
Be Proactive at School
Make sure to inform their school teacher with the status of their potty training. It will ensure that they assist your kid at times of need. However, you should also play your part as a parent when it comes to the school setting.
Try to drop off your child a little earlier to be able to orient them with the whereabouts of the bathroom in school. Make them try this setting as well while you are still there so that they’ll feel that they are safe there.
If you are using any positive reinforcement strategy, do not forget to tell the teacher as well. You can leave your rewards with them so as not to break the reward system with your child.
Limit Drinks Before Bedtime
Limit the intake of juice and milk at least an hour before going to bed to help to keep your child dry while they are sleeping. It also entails that you have to serve dinner a little later at night to ensure that your child is full and won’t be needing the intake of liquid.
Read Potty-Themed Books
If you want to instil in the minds of your children the importance of using the toilet, you must think of creative ways on how to do so. Reading potty-themed books will help them see the light without boring them out. Some examples of these books include Diapers Are Not Forever and Everybody Poops.
Nighttime dryness might be more challenging to attain than daytime dryness. Total nighttime control might still come only when they are 4 or 5 years old, some even older. Aside from the practice of taking your child to the toilet before going to sleep, listed below are several potty training tips which will help the child stay dry at night.
- Ask your child to hold back her urine for a short time during the day to be able to gain better control.
- Ask your child permission to wake her up at the middle of the night to use the bathroom.
- Place a nighttime potty chair in her room or beside the bed to make it more accessible and convenient for your child just in case she wakes up during the day.
There might be a lot of setbacks which might come your way. However, these accidents and challenges are indeed part of the process. If your child gets upset because of a minor accident, make sure to reassure him that it is not a big deal and there is no need to worry. You also have to make sure that you would not be discouraged whenever these things happen. It is crucial for you to show your support to your child.
Potty training might take a while, but if you keep on staying positive about your child’s achievements, they’ll get there in no time.