As you see your toddler developing new abilities and growing at a rapid rate, you may be asking yourself “When should I begin potty training and how will I know if the time is right for my child?” As the toddler teacher at Kimber Hills Preschool, I actively work with children on this life skill. Here are my observations not only from this teaching experience, but also as a mother of a young preschool-age child.
SIGNS THAT YOUR TODDLER MAY BE READY TO EXPERIMENT ON THE POTTY
- Your child shows a desire to use the potty and to wear underwear.
- Your toddler is able to verbalize that he or she is having a bowel movement either during or right after.
- Your child has increased control of bowel and bladder function. This may mean that there are no longer bowel movements overnight, and the child my have bowel movements at the same time each day.
- Your child’s diaper may stay dry for a longer period of time, usually two or more hours.
- Your toddler may be dry at naps as well as overnight; however this is not a necessaryskill to begin potty training.
- Your child demonstrates the basic cognitive skills that are involved in understanding the concepts of using the bathroom.
- Your child is starting to obtain the motor skills necessary to use the potty, such as removing clothing, climbing onto the potty, and washing their hands afterward.
Above all, your child must have a desire to use the potty. The potty training process only works when the child is on board and willing to cooperate. Your child cannot be forced to use the potty, just as you cannot make your child eat or sleep. Power struggles that arise will only serve to discourage both you and your toddler and will most likely extend the time it takes for your little one to acquire this life skill. If you notice any signs of resistance from your child during this process you may want to take a step back and try again at a later time.
HOW TO SUPPORT, ENCOURAGE AND REWARD YOUR CHILD DURING THIS PROCESS
As you enter into this new adventure with your child you will want to provide as much support and encouragement as you can. Openly discuss the potty training process and be sure to keep things positive. Some ways to encourage your child during this process are to provide positive reinforcement and lots of praise. Children (just like adults) love to hear that they are doing a great job. Let your child know that they are becoming a big boy or girl and how proud you are of them. This is a big achievement in their development, and the more praise they hear the more likely they are to keep trying. A special outing that is intended for ‘big boys and girls’ is a great motivator for your child to use the potty. Special one-on-one time with mom or dad is also a great way to provide positive reinforcement for the skills that you are trying to help them achieve.
It is important to not ‘punish’ your child for failed attempts or accidents they may have during the process. Like any learning process, there are sure to be mistakes along the way. Avoid embarrassing your toddler; the goal is for the child to feel comfortable with their bodily functions as they strive to master these important life skills.
IF YOUR CHILD IS SHOWING SIGNS OF DISTRESS
If you notice that your child is showing any signs of distress during the potty training process take a break and return at a later date. Trying to continue the process will only cause frustration for both you and your toddler. To ensure that the potty training process is successful you will also want to avoid times of high stress or times when the family may be experiencing major changes. Remember that each child is different, and what works for one child may not work for another. The age at which children will potty train varies with each specific child. Ultimately, the child will learn to use the potty when he or she decides that they are ready.
Here are some helpful websites and books from the pediatric medical community as well as child development specialists that help answer the question of when to begin potty training as well as much more on the subject.
Au, Sara and Peter L. Stavinoha Ph.D. Stress Free Potty Training: A Commonsense Guide to Finding the Right Approach For Your Child. New York: Amacon, 2008.
Cortney Helton is the toddler teacher at Kimber Hills Preschool and has served the children and families for more than seven years.
Written by: chelton