Potty training your child

First rule of potty training your child – don’t force the issue! You must understand your child is very unlikely to know how to control his/her bladder and bowel movements before 12 months of age. Most children are only ready between 18 to 24 months or even much later. It depends on your child’s physical and emotional readiness and not a specific age. Starting before your child is ready does not mean you can train your child any faster, it might take even longer.

When to start potty training your child

You can tell your child is ready to be potty trained if he/she shows the following signs.

  • Has predictable bowel movements and an ability to keep a diaper dry for more than 2 hours during the day.
  • Understands and follows basic instructions.
  • Shows an interest in how other people use the toilet.
  • Can sit down quietly in one position for 2 to 5 minutes.
  • Shows 'need-to-go” signs like squirming, squatting, holding the genitals or through words or facial expressions.
  • Has good motor skills like the ability to walk, pull his/her pants up and down as well as sit and rise from the potty chair.

How to start potty training your child

Start by letting your child sit on a potty chair with or without a diaper for a few minutes every day. There might not be any immediate outcome but your child needs to get used to the feel of it. Give your child a book or a toy so it doesn’t seem like a punishment. Start training at home as your child will feel more secure and comfortable with the familiar environment. Sit with your child as he/she gets used to the idea. It is also important that you choose the right time to potty train. Don’t push it if your child has gone through a period of change like the arrival of a sibling, a move to a new house or if you are going to leave him/her with a new babysitter. It will only add to the stress. Be patient and don’t scold your child when there are 'accidents' as potty training takes time. Praise and encourage your child every time he/she does it right.

Choosing the potty

There are a lot of cute potties these days. If possible let your child choose his/her own potty. You may be able to find one incorporating the design of your child’s favourite animal or cartoon character. This will make your child more enthusiastic in wanting to use the potty. You should also consider getting a potty with a removable seat, which you can place on the toilet once he/she is ready. Make sure your child’s feet touch the ground or a stool so he/she can place his/her feet down firmly. This will help your child feel stable and eliminate the fear of falling in. Consider decorating the potty with stickers and placing it in the playroom or living room for a start. This will make the whole process seem less intimidating.

What your baby should be able to do by 18 to 24 months

Each child develops at his/her own pace. Some may be way ahead in some areas, like motor skills but may not be as developed in their language skills. There is no cause for concern unless your child lags far behind in several areas.

Generally, the development milestones will include:

  • Being able to gradually self- feed with a spoon.
  • Say at least 20 words a day and slowly string the words to phrases.
  • Name some of the pictures in a book, scribble and do some simple puzzles.
  • Being able to walk up and down the stairs with some help.
  • Run, throw and kick a ball (especially if he/she had started walking much earlier).
  • Some will start imitating the behaviour of others.
  • Most children can also understand opposites like hot and cold.
  • By now they should also be able to have better control of their bladder and bowel movements.
  • If teething had started they may get their canine teeth and some can even brush their own teeth.
  • They would have also developed a sense of self, that is, the ability to see themselves different from others.
  • It is also around this age that most toddlers will start losing their baby look and begin to look like a ‘little girl’ or little boy’.

The above are general milestones and vary from toddler to toddler.

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