You reckon your mini-me is ready to be toilet trained because you aren't just changing fewer diapers lately, junior stays dry during naps. Get the job done with our tips...
1. Pick your moment
You may miss the window of “readiness” if you wait too long. “Your toddler may become more headstrong and be unwilling to try,” says Diane Titterton, who co-wrote How To Potty Train. The average age to potty train is usually between 18 months and 3 years. Read on to learn how to spot your toddler’s “ready” signs.
2. Do the two-hour spot check
Look out for at least three of the following signs of readiness. Psychologist and potty-training expert Emma Kenny says, “If your child stays dry for two hours or more at a time, indicates that her wet diaper is uncomfortable, can follow and understand simple instructions, asks to use the potty or underwear, or can remove clothing unaided, she could be ready.”
3. Are you both ready?
Yes, your toddler needs to be ready, but if you’re feeling unsettled for any reason, that could affect your focus and your toddler may well pick up on the signs and feel unsettled herself. “That means holding off if you’re about to have a new baby, are moving house or going through any kind of emotional upheaval like a divorce,” Titterton says. And don’t feel unduly pressured by others, even if your mother-in-law is adamant her children were potty trained by 2. Every child — and situation — is different.
Don’t feel unduly pressured by others, even if your mother-in- law is adamant her children were potty trained by 2.
4. Get them excited
“Let your toddler pick out the potty she wants to use and the underpants she’ll wear,” says Jayne Miller from Eric, a UK-based continence charity. “Anything that hands a bit of control back to your child will help with training.” And a potty that’s shaped like a car, or plastered with princess stickers is always going to get them more interested.
5. Don't expect a quick fix
While some US-based experts claim to be able to train a toddler in two days, Titterton recommends caution on such promises. “They might be able to teach her how to sit on a potty, but learning the cues of when she needs to go can take longer and shouldn’t be forced.” The only way she can learn is through trial and (plenty of) error(s) and that takes time — sometimes, up to three months.
6. Time for treats
As far as your toddler is concerned, the move from diapers to underpants doesn’t make sense. Why should she change something she’s been doing since birth and that has no obvious benefit to her? “That’s why she needs some kind of reward,” Miller explains. “Sticker charts, sweets, books or quality time with you, all make good rewards.”
7. Potty vs toilet
Some toddlers skip the potty and go straight to using the toilet, while others are reluctant to use a loo. Let’s face it, big toilets can seem pretty scary to a small person. “No matter your child’s preference, the important thing is to ensure that you use the same techniques to get your child to use the potty and the toilet,” Kenny notes.
Being consistent in the potty-training approach will make your tot feel more confident.
8. Going public (Gulp!)
It can be daunting leaving the house in the hazy first days of potty training, but you can’t hide at home forever. “Pack plenty of spare underpants, tights and trousers, wipes, antibacterial hand gel and rewards,” Miller advises.
9. Consistent = Confident
If your toddler goes to nursery or spends time with family or friends on a regular basis, make sure the training is uniform. Titterton says, “That means ensuring the carers know the kind of language you and your toddler use for the toilet, so it feels similar and your child knows where to go when she’s there.” Being consistent in the potty-training approach will make your tot feel more confident.
10. Night training
Unfortunately, you can’t teach nighttime dryness — your toddler doesn’t know when to use the toilet if she’s asleep. “It’s something they will have to grow into, so it’s fine to continue using diapers at night,” says Titterton. “It can take up to the age of 7 for your child’s bladder to grow big enough, so she can hold on until morning.” If you notice a run of dry morning diapers, try going without and put a waterproof sheet on the bed. But if your toddler starts having wet nights again, don’t feel bad about going back into diapers.
Coping With Setbacks
Tackling toilet terror
If your toddler is scared of sitting on the loo, try giving some toys or books to distract her. “You could also lay a paper towel over the bowl, fixing it under the seat. Not only will it go soft when your toddler does a wee, but the paper will cover the dark hole of the toilet which can seem scary,” Titterton states. A training seat is also a good idea (such as the Sit Right Potty Seat, $44.90, by Oxo Tot, so your toddler can sit on the loo without feeling like she’s going to fall in.
Issues with number twos
Your toddler may have mastered using the toilet or the potty to do a wee, but point blank refuses to do a poo unless she’s wearing a diaper. "Withholding poo can happen for a variety of reasons — the main one being fear,” Kenny points out. If this is the case, put her in a diaper just for a poo. "Phase it out by sitting her on the closed toilet with the diaper on while she poos, then try it with the lid up, and then cut a hole in the diaper before putting it on her,” says Titterton. What can you do if your toddler will sit on the loo but won’t go? Give her a whistle or balloon to blow as the action of blowing uses the same muscles you use when doing a poo. Genius!
It is common for children to take two steps forward, then one step back when it comes to potty training. “It could be caused by anything from a new sibling — your toddler sees the baby in diapers and wants the same attention — to starting nursery or being ill,” Miller explains. Go back to basics to get back on track. "Resume the routine of regular potty use, remind her to use the potty or toilet when she’s playing and give lots of praise,” Kenny advises.
Check out these stories, too…