When and How to Potty Train Toddlers
Just as parents cannot force a child to eat, they cannot expect to force a child to use the potty successfully. Potty training is a process of teaching the child how to comfortably and routinely know when he has to use the potty, how to indicate this to the parent, how to lower the pants, sit down and then void and/or release the bowel movement.
Some children show readiness after 18 months of age, but many are not interested or able until after 2 or 2½ years of age; boys usually potty train later than girls.
A potty chair on the floor, rather than one that fits on the toilet seat, is commonly preferred by the toddler. The floor potty allows for more independence and control, typically a place for them to put their hands, and allows toddlers to assume a more comfortable position.
There are some toddlers, however, that want to sit on the big potty just like mommy, daddy or older siblings. Let your toddler guide the decision. Toddlers are much more interested in activities in which they have a say. If your toddler does choose the toilet, be sure to have a comfortable fitting potty seat, a foot stool so the legs are not dangling, and consider one with built in handles he or she can grab onto for positioning and balance.
Parents should start potty training when the child shows readiness and interest, and the ability to undress. Imitation is the best way to learn. Have the child sit while the parent sits. Do not expect the child to use the potty, just begin the routine. If your child sits patiently while you sit on the toilet, give praise, clap, make a big deal of it.
Children should not be expected to sit on the potty for extended periods of time. Five minutes is sufficient. They can be placed on the potty at times when elimination is likely to occur, such as 20-30 minutes after a meal. It is at this time that the intestines are getting a signal from the stomach to make room for the food that was just consumed. The intestines then squeeze, moving the bowels.
The training process should be as pleasant as possible with praise and reward for appropriate toilet behavior. Start with praise for sitting on the potty. Increase praise and rewards for voiding and stooling on the potty.
Once your child show some consistency in using the potty, buy big-boy or big-girl underwear, and take them to the potty frequently. Accidents should be expected and should not be punished. They learn better by getting rewards for meeting goals. Many parents choose to commit to a weekend of potty training, setting a potty alarm every hour, in an effort to prevent accidents. Some choose to keep their child’s lower half naked, others choose big kid underwear. As is the case with sleep training, there’s no single best way. You can try either or both. Success with one versus the other is largely dependent on your child’s personality and motivations.
Physical punishment has no place in the training process. It does not teach the child, and results in bad feelings and possible parent-child conflict.
Children who resist the training process should not be forced. Parents should back off, not expecting further performance, and after a waiting period restart from the beginning with positive reinforcement and praise.