Potty training is a very important event for toddlers and their families. It's a step towards growing up and a significant source of self-confidence. The message behind it is “I'm not a baby anymore. I'm big now and I can control my body.”
Even so, parents often have mixed feelings about potty training. On the one hand, they look forward to their child getting trained and not having to buy diapers anymore. On the other hand, they feel anxious about the inevitable accidents and worried that the whole experience will be very exhausting.
In order for potty training to go well, the most important thing is to be calm, patient and understanding, and know that eventually it will work out. It also helps a lot to be prepared for what lies ahead. This article will give you useful information and advice on what methods to use and how to make the process easier.
When do we start?
There is no exact age to start potty training your child. Some experts recommend starting before the first birthday, while others recommend waiting until the child is 2 years old and is able to understand and communicate better. There is also the baby elimination communication method, according to which we can train our baby to pee and poo outside the diaper as early as the first few months after birth.
Our main advice is to start potty training when your child is ready. You should learn how to follow their signals and trust them. The first requirement is being able to sit steadily, which babies start doing around 8 months. Other signs that the time is right are staying dry for at least 2 hours or showing interest in the toilet.
On a physical level, most children develop the ability to control their bladder and bowel by 18 months. Therefore, parents most often start potty training when their toddler is 1.5-2 years old. On an emotional level, however, some toddlers become ready only after their second year.
At what age should a child be fully toilet trained? A good reference point is the beginning of kindergarten, because children are then expected to be fully out of diapers.
In summer or in winter?
Some pediatricians advise parents to wait until summer to stop using diapers. The convenience of summer is that you can leave your child walking around only in underwear and changing clothes after accidents is easier. On the other hand, an advantage of the winter period is that we spend more time at home and we basically have everything we need at hand - the potty, spare clothes, sink, shower, washing machine, etc.
There really isn't a single right time to stop using diapers. Your decision should depend on whether your child is ready for potty training and whether you are ready to take the time to train them
Potty or toilet?
In the beginning, children feel more stable on the potty because they can safely step on the ground. If you decide to put them on the toilet, provide a potty training seat and something to rest their feet on so they don't dangle. Keep in mind that some children are afraid of the toilet and it may take longer for them to get keen on using it.
- Show the potty to your child even before you take off their diaper. Let them sit on the potty to get used to it.
- Read books and play songs about potty training. Start preparing the child in this way even before you begin the process.
- Ac out how to use the potty using your child’s favourite toys. Put the toy on its own “toy potty” while your child is sitting on the real one.
- Let your child see a family member go to the toilet. Big brothers and sisters give a great example .
- Let your child choose what potty or underwear to buy, if possible. Celebrate the transition to real "big-kid" pants together.
- Dress your child in clothes that are easy to take off. It’s best if they can take off their underwear on their own.
- Make going on the potty part of daily routine. Keep track of the times your child usually urinates or has a bowel movement and put them on the potty accordingly.
Be as supportive and reassuring as possible. Encourage the child with words like "Next time it will work."
What makes things worse?
- Don’t try any negative parenting techniques. Pressure, coercion, punishment, scolding and shaming with words like "disgusting", "filthy" or "stinky" can only make the situation worse. You risk the child developing an even more negative attitude towards the potty or triggering other psychological problems.
- Don’t leave your child on the potty for too long, as this may also lead to more potty resistance. The recommended time is 3-5 minutes.
- Don’t make your child sit on the potty too often. A good interval is about every 2 hours, as well as immediately after waking up in the morning and in the afternoon.
- Don't constantly ask the child if they have to pee or poo. Instead, prompt them with "It's time to go potty now."
- Once your child stops using diapers, don't put them back on just to be on the safe side. The only exceptions are diapers at night and special cases like long train rides. Putting the diaper back on confuses children because it masks the natural consequences of having a bladder or bowel movement. It’s important that all caregivers follow this rule.
If your child strongly resists going to the potty, cries a lot and just refuses to sit down despite your repeated attempts, they are probably not ready yet. The same is true if they keep wetting or soiling their pants. Take a break from potty training and try again in a few weeks.
What else should we keep in mind?
- It’s impossible to go through potty training without wetting or soiling accidents. We should be patient and understanding. When your child is going through a more emotional period (like moving house, starting nursery or kindergarten, the birth of a new sibling), the number of accidents typically increases. It’s best to choose another time to start potty training.
- Children usually learn how to pee on the potty first. Pooping can be more problematic because it’s associated with more fears. Sometimes the so-called stool withholding occurs, when children are afraid of having a bowel movement and try to hold it in as long as possible. It often starts with a bad experience like a painful bowel movement. In order to prevent constipation, which worsens the problem, we must make sure that children drink enough water and high-fiber food.
- Bedwetting typically happens even after children have been potty trained during the day. Most children learn to stay dry at night between ages 3 and 5.
- Potty training often coincides with the so-called terrible twos phase. During this stage children like saying “No!” to everything. This means that even if potty training has gone well so far, your 2-year old is likely to go through some regression and more accidents.
"This publication was created with the financial support of the Active Citizens Fund Bulgaria under the Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area. The entire responsibility for the content of this publication lies with the Health and Social Development Foundation and under no circumstances can it be assumed that this publication reflects the official opinion of the Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area and the Operator of the Active Citizens Fund Bulgaria."