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Potty training

Potty training – The when and the how

By family, Potty training
by Harriet Crouch
Parent and Childcare Consultant

When it comes to potty training, the thought alone can feel completely overwhelming. It’s not quite as simple as; ‘Your child is now 2 so let’s ditch the nappies’. In fact, there are a number of signs to look out for before even thinking about starting on your potty training journey. Attempting to get rid of nappies too quickly can result in withholding which can cause a whole host of other issues so it is always best to wait until your child is definitely ready.

So, when do we know when our little one is ready?
Generally, children will be ready around the 2 to 3 year mark and from there, there’s a number of things to look out for – they may have longer periods of dryness, awareness of what is in their nappy or letting you know when they are having or needing a wee or poo. Some children may begin to seek privacy by hiding when they are pooing. It is important to say that of course, all children are individual and may be ready earlier or later than this general age band.

Once your child begins to show signs of readiness, you don’t need to book a week off work or rush to the shop to replace all nappies with pants. Instead, take a gradual approach and remember that potty training isn’t just about your child being able to sit on the potty for a wee or poo -it’s much harder than that. They’re learning a whole new set of skills – recognising the feeling of needing to go, communicating that to an adult in good time, getting themselves to the potty and then they need to undress themselves before they have an accident. These are things that up until now, they’ve not had to think about.

When you start to notice your child may be getting ready to potty train, set them up to succeed by encouraging them to dress and undress themselves, talk to your child about their body and what it’s doing, talk to them about what’s in their nappy and let them watch you on the toilet too. You are your child’s best role model so talk them through everything you’re doing as you do it. For example, when getting dressed; “One arm in, the other arm in, legs in” and so on.

Withholding can be really common in young children and can be triggered by a fear of the potty, a painful bowel movement or even being scared of seeing their poo in the toilet! After all, it’s unlikely your child has seen what’s in their nappy during a change. It is therefore, really important that in the preparation for potty training, you show your child what is in their nappy and encourage them to describe it – “Wow, that’s a big brown poo”. Avoid using negative language around their bodily functions. Although it is usually a joke to hold your nose and say “urghh stinky”, it can cause your child to become self-conscious and may lead to withholding when potty training occurs.

In the lead up to potty training, have the potty available for your child to use should they choose to but without any pressure to. It can be a nice idea to have it next to the main toilet so that they have the option to sit on it whilst you’re using the toilet.

So, what do we do now?
Your child is showing signs of readiness, they’re now able to pull their trousers and nappy up and down, they’re telling you when their nappy needs a change and you’ve spoken about poo more than you ever thought imaginable… Now is the time to get to the shops, child in tow, to pick some cool pants! It’s really important that you make it more exciting by getting them involved in the process.

Stick to tackling day times first. Nights can take a little longer and that’s very normal.

Most importantly, try not to put too much pressure on yourself or your child but be confident that you’ve set them up for success by preparing them before this stage.

Harriet Crouch is a Parent and Childcare Consultant providing non-judgmental support and advice to families with children 0-7years.
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