Tips for potty training your toddler

Tips for potty-training boys and girls

If there’s anything I learnt from potty-training my kids, it’s this: always have wet wipes on hand, always pack spare clothes and underwear when you leave the house, never underestimate the value of a rewards chart, and always follow their lead. Kids are “ready” to potty-train only when they’re ready and willing, and not when your bestie’s toddler is successfully on the loo, or when you feel like speeding up the process because you’re tired of changing nappies.

Our pediatrician told us that the general age range for potty-training is between 18 months and three years, with the average being around 27 months.

Sometimes it will be a quick process, and other times it might take a few months or up to over a year to transition, especially at nighttime or when it comes to pooping (some toddlers might master weeing in a potty while still wanting to poo in a nappy). Most children can stay dry at night from the age of four or five. Remember that every child is different and will go at their own pace – don’t beat yourself up if your little one is going “slower” than their peers, and if you’re concerned, you can chat to your healthcare provider for guidance.

How to know if they’re ready

Look out for these signs to assess whether your little one is ready:

  • They tell you when they want to pee or poop, or that it’s already happened
  • Their nappies stay dry for two hours or more
  • They wake up from naps with a dry nappy
  • They show interest in the toilet and how it works
  • They show a desire in wanting to try out the toilet or potty
  • They can pull down and pull up their pants
  • They can follow instructions and communicate with you

Getting started

The first thing you’ll need is a sense of humor as well as time to spend helping to potty-train your child. Between the coaxing, motivating and waiting for them to empty their tummies, potty-training can take some time, and it’s not a great idea to tell your toddler to “hurry up” because you have things to do. If they feel rushed and pressurized, they might lose confidence and the willingness to learn to use the potty.

You’ll also need a potty or training seat for your toddler – I got my kids to choose their own, which made them excited about the process.

We opted for training seats that sit on top of the toilet rather than a standalone potty because I didn’t want the hassle of emptying and cleaning out a potty. I also wanted an easier transition to the toilet, rather than my kids having to learn to first use a potty and then a loo. I found this especially useful when we were out  – I never wanted to haul a potty around with us.  It’s up to you and your little ones what to get though. Your child will also need underpants or panties, and they might want to choose their own to feel like real “grownups”.

Another key element is consistency – stick to the plan and ensure all other caretakers are on board and following the training too. Try not to revert to nappies even if it feels like the easier option.

Tips for success

  • Have a rewards system: a sticker or star chart works well, along with a little toy once they’ve collected a certain amount
  • Explain the process to your child and try to be as encouraging as possible
  • Create a little schedule and encourage your child to go to the potty at set times – for example when they wake up from a sleep or nap or after a meal, or at a specific time each day, like 6.30pm. You can even set an alarm that plays a tune to create a bit of excitement for your child.
  • Be patient and let your child sit for at least 10 minutes until some action happens. If there’s no movement, don’t berate them – just keep trying.
  • Sing a song or read a book while they’re on the potty to relax your child
  • Give your child lots of praise after they’ve used the potty
  • Be careful of flushing too soon – sometimes the sound can scare kids and put them off using the potty
  • If there’s an accident, be forgiving and don’t berate or punish them
  • Remind them how grown up they are, and how smelly and inconvenient nappies can be

Differences between potty-training boys and girls

The process for boys and girls is similar, but the latter need to be taught to wipe from front to back to prevent bacteria from entering the urinary tract. For boys, it doesn’t really make a difference in which direction they wipe.

Boys will eventually need to learn to wee standing up, but you can start out by teaching them to sit and to push their penis down into the loo/potty before peeing. Some parents prefer teaching their boys to pee while standing up from the onset and encouraging them to aim properly.

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