All children develop at their own pace. As a result, there is no set age for a child to begin toilet training. Therefore, it is important that a child be ready to begin toilet training. Age 2 is a good time for parents to begin looking for signs that their child is ready to begin toilet training, keeping in mind that some children may show interest earlier or later than this age. Boys generally take longer to develop toileting skills than girls. There are many outside pressures to toilet train. Cost of diapers, family pressure, a child not being accepted into daycare or school until he or she is toilet trained; however, it is important to wait until your child is ready.
Signs your child may be ready:
• Is able to communicate wants and needs
• Can sit on and get off of the toilet/potty chair
• Shows interest in the toilet
• Has regular bowel movements
Parents should avoid toilet training when a child is stressed. This includes times when major life changes occur (e.g., moving, birth of a sibling, etc.). Parents should plan for frequent toilet breaks. Therefore, it is important to begin toilet training when you are able devote time and energy in helping your child learn this new skill. Have your child sit on the toilet after a nap, an hour after eating or drinking, and at times when your child regularly has bowel movements. While your child is on the toilet, talk to him or her about nice things or read a book. Your child will eventually “go” in the toilet. When that happens, show your child how excited you are.
Some children have “tells” that they are going to use the bathroom, for example, hiding or going to a specific location in the house. If your child has a “tell”, redirect your child to the bathroom and encourage him or her to use the toilet.
Keep toilet training positive. Learning to use the toilet is a big task for children. Be prepared for accidents to occur. If your child has an accident, stay calm and encourage your child. Let them know “It’s okay, everyone has accidents sometimes.” Avoid using punishment during toilet training; this often causes delays in a child learning to use the toilet. When your child uses the bathroom, use praise and rewards to encourage your child.
• Children feel more stable and comfortable on the toilet when their feet are flat. Get a stool for your child to rest their feet on if using a full sized toilet to train. Potty seats that attach to the toilet will help your child feel secure as well.
• Take note of where the bathroom is when out in public.
• Keep an extra change of clothing available in case your child has an accident in public.
• Never leave a young child unsupervised. If your child requests privacy, wait just outside the door.
• Teach cleanliness such as proper hand washing and wiping. Check your child’s wiping as they may not do a thorough job. Girls should be taught to wipe front to back to avoid infections.
• Night wetting is common through age 5.
• Medical problems including frequent constipation may make it difficult to teach your child to use the toilet. If your child is 4 ½ to 5 years old and is still unable to toilet train, or if you have any concerns that there may be a physical problem or are unsure if a medical condition will affect your child’s ability to toilet train, talk to your child’s pediatrician.
How have you encouraged your child to feel comfortable using the toilet?