Planning for the potty is all about timing… it’s when your child is ready! You will know when the time is right when your child has developed enough physical skills to be able to walk and climb the stairs, to wash their own hands, and are showing an interest in what is happening in the toilet. They also need to be ready to communicate and to take instructions from you, and be familiar with such words as ‘wee’ and ‘poo’ when they are doing them.
Some parents like to wait for a holiday to start the training but anytime is the right time if you feel your child is ready, it can even be tackled as a crash course over the weekend.
The first stage is to have the potty ready in the bathroom or toilet, with loo paper and wipes easily to hand, and a small step for your child to reach the sink to wash their hands. Talk to your child about how it’s going to work and maybe even have a trial run with a favourite teddy. Let them practice sitting on the potty as this is a skill in itself. If they refuse to sit on it, don’t force them. It’s probably not the right time to start. Always try to change your child’s nappy in that bathroom or toilet so that they associate the location with routine. When you are both ready, you can make a fuss of buying some special ‘grown-up’ pants with your child, and away you go!
Take your child to sit on the potty just before and about twenty minutes after meals and snacks. Stay with them and help if required. Be enthusiastic about any successes and keep to the routine of hand-washing afterwards. You may want to read or tell a short story as you wait for your child to go, or sing a song together.
Most children are interested in looking at their poo and there is no harm in that before you flush it away. Make sure you are not negative about the smell if your child proudly shows you what they have done! Use incentives to encourage your child, cuddles and a cheer can work wonders for your child’s learning process, and a sticker chart for successes can be fun.
Take your child to the potty before you go outside and when you come in, and you can use these opportunities for discussions with your child. When you first go out, keep trips quite short, and take a spare potty in a bag with a spare change of clothes for accidents.
Of course accidents will happen, but this is the way your child will learn to react to what is happening, so don’t punish them. Be very matter of fact about the accident and give it very little attention. Make sure you teach your child how to clean up after themselves. It will be a stressful time but if you do get angry or frustrated, don’t let your child see it. Always carry spare clothes, tissues, wipes and plastic bags ready for a change when required. If your child is in crèche, talk to your child’s key worker and share that you are starting to potty train so that you work together to support your child with the process.
If you find your child is not having any success, maybe they weren’t quite ready to start, talk to your child and tell him that it’s ok and try again at a later stage. Don’t give up as some children may take up to six months to finally master the process, just keep positive and keep praising the successes. Your responses to your child’s behaviour when learning to use the potty will have a great effect on how successfully they learn!