This article could be summed up in five words: 'all good things in time.' As soon as your baby moves out of the infant stage and into the full-fledged 'baby' stage people will start talking to you about potty training. I'm not kidding, your baby will barely be sitting up, and you will begin to hear the barrage. You will receive copious - and most likely unsolicited - advice about potty training from a myriad of sources. You will learn that you have already missed that 'magic' window of opportunity, or letting your child run around naked is the only effective method, or whatever you are doing, planning to do or even remotely thinking about doing is wrong. I was more scared of potty training my oldest child than I was of actually giving birth to her.
The reality is, there is no magic formula to potty training
The reality is, there is no magic formula, special time or precise method to potty training. As each child is unique, your potty training process will have to be distinctive. It's important to remember not to feel pressured to have your child wearing underwear and accident-free by age 3: every child has their own internal time frame, and it will all come together eventually. There are, however, some basic tenants to toilet training. First of all, there are the signs of readiness:
- Staying dry for at least 2 hours at a time
- Having regular (and predictable) bowel movements
- Being able to follow simple instructions
- Being uncomfortable with dirty nappies and wanting them to be changed
Once your child shows one (or more) of these signs. It's time to take action. However if you know some big changes are coming up such as a new sibling joining the family, starting a new school or moving you may want to wait until the seas are calmer before taking the potty plunge. And if you've been trying for three months without success, that's a sign your toddler's not ready despite showing some signs of readiness. Wait a few weeks and try again.
To get started, have your child pick out a potty chair - there are so many on the market these days. My youngest daughter loved the 'princess throne' that made a "ta-da" sound whenever she urinated in it. It proved hours of fun for the whole family. Then whenever your child shows signs of needing to urinate or have a bowel movement, you should ask him if he wants to sit on the potty chair. Always explain what you're asking of him and why. For instance, if he/she doesn't wish to sit on the potty, then empty the dirty diaper into the potty chair and explain that this is where poop and pee go, in the toilet. There are also a plethora of books out that you can read to your child that explains the ins and outs of using the toilet in a way that they can relate to and understand.
Throughout potty training, flood your child with positive reinforcement. Many people swear by the 'M&M' method where you give your child an M&M each time they go on the potty. Personally, I am completely against rewarding children with food. I believe that leads to a whole host of other problems, but that's for another article. And honestly, most kids prefer hugs, kisses, and positive words better. If you still feel like you need a 'prop', you can give your child a sticker each time he/she is successful.
The most important thing to remember when trying to toilet train your child is that accidents will definitely happen (and most likely at the most inconvenient time). Your toddler will have numerous accidents before being completely potty-trained. Don't get angry or punish him. Just calmly clean it up and suggest (sweetly) that next time he try using his potty instead. While you're trying not to gag on the mess you're cleaning up, close your eyes and let yourself imagine it's the day when lugging around nappies, wipes and a change of clothes is but a faint memory. Know that it's a process and that eventually you will get there.
For my first child, I was so stressed that it was taking too long and she would never get it. I actually cried on her third birthday because she was wearing pull-ups. But a good friend talked me off the ledge. Once I backed off, she was trained within days. So before you get yourself all worked up, know that your child will not be the first child in the history of time to start pre-school (or even primary) in nappies: it will all come together in good time.