Potty training: Are they ready?

Having a toddler graduate from diapers to becoming fully potty trained is a tremendous accomplishment for a child (and a huge relief for parents). Parents with more than one child may see that their first child was out of diapers by two, while their second child was not out of diapers until much older. This is because potty training has little to do with age and everything to do with physical, emotional, and behavioral development. Therefore, potty training cannot happen until they are ready. 

Is it time?

A good rule of thumb is to see if the child is interested. If your child shows curiosity about the toilet, is interested in “big kid” underwear, stays dry for up to two hours, and can communicate when they need to go, then they may be ready! This doesn’t happen with every child, some children would happily stay in diapers until kindergarten and might need a little encouragement.

The power of treats

Positive reinforcement, praise, and rewards are the keys to successful potty training. The treat needs to be what your child is interested in and responds to. For example, when I was a nursery teacher, a child would love to collect stickers while another child would love stamps, and some children love a good old-fashioned high-five! As early childhood educators and as parents, it is important to hone in on their interests to make the most of this experience. 

Children typically have an easier time going pee on the toilet rather than pooping. It can be because they are intimidated, or don’t have the attention span to wait around on the toilet (what a boring place when they have adventures to go on!). It can be frustrating for parents, but it is entirely normal. 

One way to tackle this is to bring out something extra special for them. Again, this depends on the child. One of my nursery student’s mother was a pediatrician, so you can imagine candy and chocolate were sparse at home. When it came to pooping in the toilet the child had no problem when she knew there would be an M&M in her hand afterward (this tactic was parent-approved, of course). Another child had a difficult time pooping in the toilet, so his parents bought him a toy that he wanted, and said it was his when he pooped on the potty. Not even a week later he was playing with it!

Naps and Nighttime 

Diapers are typically still needed when the child is asleep. When they wake up they can take it off, then put on their underwear again. Usually, children are unable to stay dry throughout the night until 5 to 7 years old. 

Accidents happen  

         One of the most frustrating parts of potty training is accidents. They can be weekly, monthly, or right after they just used the toilet. Be patient with them, and make sure to talk with them calmly and nicely. Children get wrapped up in adventures, dance parties, or tea parties which can make them forget. Remind them that since they are wearing the big kid underwear they need to use the potty, then hug them and send them back into their magical universe for more play. 

Everybody is different! Some parents use positive reinforcement to encourage potty training, while others choose to wait until their child achieves this milestone at their own pace. There are many different ways to accomplish potty training, so the only right way is the way that works best for you and your child. 

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