Many parents worry about toilet training their young children. Most of the time parents will know when their children are ready. However parents should not rush toilet training nor should they have unrealistic expectations. Patience is key!
Most children are ready to begin toilet learning between the ages of 2 and 4 years but certainly not before the age of 2. Remember, each child is different. It takes between 3 and 6 months before your child is out of diapers for good.
Signs that a child is ready to be toilet trained:
- The child can walk to the potty (or adapted toilet seat)
- The child can steadily sit on the potty
- The child’s diaper remains dry for a few hours in a row
- The child can follow simple instructions
- The can let you know when he/she needs to “go”
Helping your child during this period
This does not have to be a rushed or stressful time. A relaxed approach is best.
Here are some helpful tips adapted from The American Academy of Pediatrics:
- Be patient and don’t worry about accidents: they WILL happen
- Share the same consistent approach with other care givers, like the grandparents, baby sitter or day care staff
- If you don’t use a potty(which is preferable), a toilet seat adapter and a footstool will be necessary
- Make sure the potty is in a place that your child can get to easily
- In order to help your child get used to the potty, let him/her sit on it while fully dressed. Then he/she can sit on it after the wet diaper has been removed
- To show your child what a potty is used for, put a dirty diaper in it
- Take your child to the potty several times each day and encourage him/her to sit on it for a few minutes without wearing a diaper
- Encourage your child to tell you when he/she needs to go and praise him/her(even if it is too late)
- Learn and watch for the signs that he/she needs to go
- Develop a routine by having your child sit on the potty at specific times during the day, such as after getting up in the morning, after meals or snacks, before naps and before bedtime.THIS IS PROBABLY THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP. IT WILL ASSURE A REGULAR ROUTINE AND AVOID FUTURE PROBLEMS.
- Praise your child often BUT NEVER punish your child when accidents happen or things don’t go smoothly
- When your child has used the potty successfully for at least a week, try cotton underpants or training pants
What if toilet training/learning doesn’t work?
If the first try was not successful or the child refuses to use the potty, it’s usually because he/she was not ready. Take a break from the training for a couple of months. Do not make a big deal out of it. The more you are stressed about this the more your child will have difficulty.
If your child refuses to go in a potty or the toilet, let him/her have bowel movements in a diaper to prevent constipation. Constipation resulting from holding it in, can make going to the bathroom painful, something that will certainly make toilet training more difficult.
When to seek help?
Talk to your doctor if:
- Your child still refuses after several tries or
- Your child is older than 4 years of age
Pediatrician DR.PAUL Roumeliotis is certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. The information provided above is designed to be an educational aid only. It is not intended to replace the advice and care of your child’s physician, nor is it intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. If you suspect that your child has a medical condition always consult a physician.