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Goodbye diapers, hello underwear

November 27, 2020 • read

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Goodbye diapers, hello underwear

Toilet training is a major developmental milestone. But unlike mastering the pincer grip or learning to sit up, potty training shouldn’t be associated with a specific age. Anywhere from about 18 months to three years (or more!) is normal for potty training, and boys tend to take longer than girls. And while toilet training can be stressful, with a lot of patience and a good attitude, it doesn’t have to be. Read on for tips on how to make any toilet training method easy (well, easier).

At what age should a child be fully potty trained?

Age isn’t the best way to determine when to potty train. Toilet training age can range widely depending on everything from where your kid is developmentally to their gender (girls tend to do it sooner). Given that kindergarten teachers don’t change diapers, however, most kids should be using the toilet by the time they reach age four.

Daytime and nighttime potty training are two different things though. The bladder can take a long time to mature, so your little one might be ready for underwear at 22 months, but still wearing diapers at night long after that. Some children can’t stay dry overnight until about five or six and bedwetting until then is totally normal. The exception is if your child suddenly starts wetting the bed after being dry at night for six months or more. In this case, something else might be going on so it’s best to bring the issue to their doctor for further investigation.

Signs your child is ready to potty train

Your child has to be able to do certain non-negotiable things before they can begin potty training. For starters, they have to be able to signal their need to go. Whether that’s asking to use the potty in a full sentence or simply making a pssssss sound, if they can’t express it, they won’t be able to do it consistently. 

Next up, your child needs to be able to pull down their own pants. Potty training and independence go hand-in-hand. If they can’t deal with their pants it’s going to be difficult for them to succeed at potty training (especially if they’re in daycare). Once they can do those things, some other signals that they’re ready include asking you to change them when they’re wet, going off to a private place to pee or poop in their diaper and staying dry longer. The timing of their BMs is also a big one — if their poops are happening at the same times every day, it could be a sign they’re ready to take the plunge.

Toilet training methods

There are tons of potty training methods out there from infant potty training (yes, it’s a real thing) to the three day method (hint – it involves covering your house in garbage bags). But whichever toilet training method you choose, consistency and praise should be central to the process. Potty training is a habit and your child is more likely to stick with it if they feel good about the process. Shaming, yelling and tears will make it miserable for everyone. If you find that potty training is getting out of hand, your child might not be ready (even if they’ve used the potty successfully multiple times). Take the pressure off by putting them back in diapers and try again in a few weeks. 

Potty training must-haves

Every child is different, but in most cases you’ll likely want to start with a potty because it’s the right height for little feet to rest comfortably on the floor. There’s no need to shell out for one with all the bells and whistles though. Most kids are happy to go in a plain, utilitarian potty. Some kids even prefer a child-sized seat that goes on the big toilet coupled with a stool instead.

Besides a potty or child toilet seat, praise has to be part of the equation no matter which potty training method you’re using. If your child starts telling you that they need to go or that they’ve just gone, encourage this! Praise them for telling you and offer to change them right away. You can also ask if they want to sit on the potty (if they haven’t gone yet). Even if nothing happens, congratulate them just for sitting on it — this is a BIG step.

Hiccups and regressions

Some kids are so ready to potty train they basically do it themselves, while others struggle a little more. If your child seems ready initially and later has a regression, don’t take it personally. It’s not a sign that something is wrong with them. Potty training is a really big deal and kids decide they want to stop for lots of reasons. Some children develop a fear of losing a part of themselves when they poop, while others are afraid of the toilet (that flush is pretty loud!). Many just don’t want to take a break from playing in order to go. If your little one backs off, give them some time and space. Whatever you do, don’t force the issue. Putting too much pressure on your toddler to potty train can cause them to hold in their pee and poop. And not only can you not force them to go to the bathroom, it isn’t good for them physically. Kids who hold in their poop can end up with impacted stool and even fecal incontinence. Giving your little one some extra time will usually make potty training easier in the long run.

Toilet training tips

  • Familiarize your toddler with the toilet. Let them push the handle to flush and even watch you pee (if you’re comfortable with that).
  • Encourage your toddler to sit on the potty at the same time every day. Start with short increments of a minute (or less) and increase the time gradually.
  • Make potty training fun! Read a book or sing some songs on the potty. Time passes pretty slowly when you’re little and sitting for a minute can feel like an hour. Reinforce that potty time is fun.
  • Don’t force potty training! If your little one freaks out and starts crying at the thought of it, revisit the whole thing in a few weeks. They’re not ready.
  • Use a sticker chart, but only once their potty habit is starting to establish. If they’ve gone a few times and you feel like they need an extra push, a sticker chart is a great way to do that. Keep it by the potty and have them add a sticker to it each time they go. But be warned, if your little one is hesitant and you add a chart, they might see it as extra pressure and it could backfire.
  • Be patient! Just because yours is the last kid at nursery school to potty train doesn’t mean something is wrong. Everyone goes at their own pace and they’ll get there eventually. No one walks down the aisle at their wedding in a diaper.

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