Whether you’re a practiced parent or it’s your first time raising a little one, figuring out the right time and way to introduce a new concept to your child can be daunting.
When it comes to toilet training a toddler, the questions you have can be overwhelming. Here are five tips to remember when toilet training a toddler.
What is toilet training?
Before we jump into our tips, let’s explore toilet training. Toilet training is simply the bridge between leaving the diaper days behind and transitioning your child into being able to recognize when their body is telling them it’s time to urinate or have a bowel movement.
It’s also teaching your child how to properly use a potty chair or toilet and how to perform proper hygiene.
Five Tips for Toilet Training
1. Picking the right age
Typically, potty training is most likely to be successful after 2 years of age. But children develop at different rates, even those being raised in the same family.
If you have multiple children, what is right for one child at a certain age may not apply to the others. Some things to look out for when deciding to begin toilet training include making sure that your child can walk well enough to get to the potty chair or toilet, that they can tell you when they need to go and if they have the ability to control the muscles used for going to the potty.
They should also be able to sit, walk and dress (with help) and to pull their pants up and down. When children tell you they need to be changed or take off dirty pull-ups, that's a sign that they are almost ready!
2. Choose your words
It’s important for you and your child to communicate effectively when toilet training. Choose words for your child to use that they can easily communicate with, avoiding negative words to refer to urination or bowel movements.
Using words such as “stinky” or “dirty” can be counterproductive and lead a child to believe that what they are trying to learn is shameful, wrong or embarrassing.
3. Be prepared
Having all your equipment — such as a potty chair, pull-ups, big kid undies and toilet paper — ready to go will allow for an easier transition.
Try having your child just sit on the potty chair or toilet before the official training begins. This will get them comfortable in the bathroom and sitting where they will be training. You can even do this with them fully clothed to start out . Use simple, positive words to explain the process.
4. Schedule potty breaks
In the beginning, it's helpful to have scheduled bathroom breaks with your child on the potty chair or toilet.
Even if they do not urinate or have a bowel movement during these times, give them positive reinforcement. Don't give them negative feedback if they do not “go” during these scheduled breaks.
The breaks are just another step in getting them familiar with using the potty chair or toilet. Also, if your child experiences constipation, talk with your pediatrician about treating the constipation before attempting potty breaks for a better chance of success and reduced frustration.
5. Practice good hygiene
An often-missed step in the toilet training process is including good hygiene practices.
While most parents take measures to teach their children the proper way to clean themselves after using the potty, some forget to include the importance of good hand washing after using the bathroom.
Boys and girls have differences when it comes to good hygiene practices. While toilet training boys, it may be easier to first teach them to urinate while sitting down before urinating while standing. Good hygiene practices after bowel movements also differ between boys and girls. For girls, it’s important to teach them to wipe from “front to back.” This helps prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs). By wiping front to back, you lessen the chances of bacteria from bowel movements being introduced into the urethra and causing a UTI.
While it may seem like an insurmountable task and there will be accidents, remember that your child will get the hang of the process. It just takes time for them to adjust to this new task.
Remember to reward them for their efforts, but do not punish them for their failures. Toilet training is hard, and it’s easy to get discouraged. If you or your toddler become frustrated with the process, it’s OK to take a break for a week or two before trying again!
By making toilet training a fun and positive experience, your child will look forward to leaving their diaper days behind them just as much as you will.
For more pediatrician advice on potty training, I recommend going to healthychildren.org and searching on “toilet training.”