Last updated January 7th, 2021
Diapers have become an everyday essential commodity in your house. Everywhere you see, diapers are stacked- in your drawers, in the bathroom, in the top shelf of the pantry, and even in the glove compartment of your car. Your kid is now 2 ½ years old, and you think it’s time for your baby to go diaper-free and for the ‘big kid underwear’ and get on with the potty training process.
But, pump the brakes on your thoughts, have you considered once whether your child is ready for the whole sit-on-the-potty-till-you-go process that you have in mind. Kids don’t work on our clocks; they will only do things when they are ready to take the step like the first time they rolled on their tummy when they started sitting or walking. They sat, crawled and walked when they were ready, not when we wanted them to do so.
Being potty trained comes to them naturally in time, with little assistance and enthusiasm on our part. You can start teaching your kid when they are around 18 months old. Some kids might master the skill of going to the toilet unassisted by 20 months while some kids don’t master till they are 4 years old. Your kid will learn how to go to the potty after they show signs of readiness like fewer wet diapers, the ability to know when they have to go and tell you that they have to go the toilet. Teaching your child before they show signs of readiness will yield little to no result. You can fasten the process of teaching how to use the potty, by telling them what you’re doing in there, reading books to them about the potty, praising them when they are able to go on the potty, easing any fears they have, and being patient with them.
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Is your kiddo ready for potty training?
By now, you must have recognized a few facial expressions or grunt that your kid makes before pooping. I remember my little one’s nose would always flare up and he would grunt before he’s pooping in his diaper, and every time he would do that, I will change his diaper immediately after he’s done.
To start teaching your kid to poop on the toilet, or rather I’ll say to start child-led potty learning, there are signs to look for which will let us know that your child’s cognitive, physical and emotional skills have been developed that will let them go on the toilet with fewer accidents.
- She can walk to and sit on a toilet
- She has predictable bowel movements
- She can follow basic instructions
- She shows curiosity about what happens in the toilet
- She can hold her pee for some time
- She recognizes that she has to go potty
- She tells you that she has to go to the potty by clearly saying ‘I have to go potty.’
- She has fewer wet diapers in a day
- She’s able to dress and undress unassisted
- She shows a desire for more independence
Potty training – Do’s
Install a potty seat in every bathroom
This way your kid can go to any bathroom she wants to go and a potty seat will be available for her, and they can practice whenever they want to.
Tell your child what you’re doing in the bathroom
Most kids learn through copying what you do in the bathroom. So, tell your kid what you’re doing inside the bathroom or let your kid watch. Your child can accompany the same-sex parent to the bathroom and watch what they are doing. This satiates their curiosity of what happens behind closed doors in the bathroom and is willing to try what you’re doing.
Recognize when they have to poop
Kids around this age will go in a corner and poop in their diaper for privacy. Learn their cues before they poop, and when it’s time, ask them questions like, ‘Do you want to poop?’, ‘Do you want to poop in the bathroom like a big kid?’ Tell them that bathroom is a great place to go to whenever they want to poop.
Initially, kids will poop in their diaper inside the bathroom and once they are habituated to doing so, ask them whether this time they would like to try the potty.
Ask them if they want to sit on the potty naked
My kid wasn’t comfortable for a long time on the potty, and I never understood why. Later on, I tried making him sit on the potty naked, and he was quite happy. With kids, we don’t know what will necessarily work for them. All we can do is try different methods.
Read to them books on potty
Buy a couple of books on potty and read it to them while they are on the potty. Toddlers get bored very easily, so you have to make the time you spend in the bathroom interesting.
Make going to the toilet a habit for your kid
This doesn’t mean you set a timer of 15 minutes and ask your toddler to go to the bathroom now and then. They’ll get bored and will completely refuse to go to the bathroom.
Instead, when you see signs that your kid is going to poop, persuade them to go to the bathroom every day. Slowly, this becomes a habit, and they will associate pooping with going to the bathroom.
Appreciate them when they pee or poop in the toilet.
Kids are encouraged to do more when they are appreciated, much like adults. Clap or cheer or do a celebratory dance with them when they pee or poop, and this will encourage them to go to the toilet more often for the appreciation.
But don’t overdo it, as this can make them feel pressured when they are not able to go on the potty. So, make sure to applaud other good actions too.
Let them be a part of the potty seat shopping
Find a training seat that they love, so this makes them go to the potty more to try it out often. There are potty seats available that make music when something is dropped in it.
Ease their fears
If your child has hesitation while going to the potty, ask them what their fear is and try to ease into it. My second kid had a great fear of a monster climbing from inside the toilet and I had to show her by sitting on the toilet myself, and that it was completely safe for her. For your kid too, there can be any random reason for their hesitation. So, help them with their anxieties over using the potty.
Fears can also lead to constipation. If they are afraid to go to the potty, they will hold in which will make their poop harder, and it will be more painful to pass. If your toddler has constipation, consult your pediatrician before things worsen.
Potty training – Don’ts
Don’t react negatively when there’s an accident
Don’t scold, or shame or discipline your kid when there’s an accident or when they refuse to use the potty. If you show disappointment when there’s an accident, you are setting the bar too high for them to reach.
This will make your child not go to the bathroom ever again and rebel. Instead, just respond by shrugging and calm them. Tell them that it’s okay and there’s nothing to feel bad about it.
Don’t rush into it
The moment they are 3 years old, don’t make your toddler forcefully sit on the potty till they go or make them go diaper-free suddenly. Kids will learn how to use the potty in their own time once they are ready and comfortable to do so. If you try rushing or forcing them to go on the potty, then you’re in for a long haul of them rebelling and refusing to go to the bathroom.
Don’t pressurize them
This also applies when they are on the potty seat but not able to go. Don’t make them sit on the potty till they go; this will make them scared of the potty seat and see it as a punishment for something they did. As I always tell fellow parents, “Get the ‘patient hat’ out and wear it”.
You need to be very patient and kind with your children, no matter whether they are 12 months or 30 months old, the world is a new place for them, and they are still in the process of learning new things. So, be patient and wait for them to be ready.
Don’t get into power struggles
If they don’t want to go to the bathroom, don’t get into a power struggle with them. Nobody wins a power struggle when it’s between the parent and the kid. If your child is not ready to learn to use the potty, then go back to diapers for a while and try after a week or two.
How long does potty training take?
It varies from toddler to toddler. While some may take a few weeks, others might take months to master the skill of using the potty fully. It also depends on your behavior and method for your kid to learn. Most children will learn to control their bowel movements between the ages of 3 to 4 years.
Potty training for children with special needs will start much later than other children. The whole process might be mastered by the age of 5 or sometime after that. If you think your child is showing signs of readiness, then meet your pediatrician for guidance specific to your kid’s needs.
All in all, I have to say is every child is different and sooner or later they will learn to use the potty by themselves, unassisted. The process of potty training, for some parents, can be frustrating, but make sure not to lose your cool.
Be patient and take it a day at a time, and if things still go sideways, know that it is alright to take a step back and try again after a few weeks.
Located in India and a mother to a joyfully mischievous son, Kelin is the wife of the world’s most patient man and a busy homemaker. When she’s not running after her kid, Kelin is busy reading, travelling, and penning down words on her laptop. She believes the world will always try to instil ‘mom guilt’ in new mothers, but she goes by the maxim ‘a mother knows best’.