Potty training – is it the right time to start?

Mark winced and pulled his face. That look was all too familiar. Just like when you accidentally drink a glass full of freshly squeezed limes into your mouth thinking that it was water. It was the same kind of squeezed look I saw on his face. It potentially turned even the most handsome princes into ogres and my boy was no exception. He was lifting his shirt in an upward motion and the next thing I knew, Prrrrr… I heard the sound of wind escaping from his bottom. “Oh no”, I thought, “I have missed it again”.Potty

You see, it was time for me to teach my child one of life’s essential skills- potty training. Everyone thought I was giving him this lesson a bit late because he had just turned three. The mums I knew all talked about how their kids were successfully potty trained at 2 – 2.5 years. Every time the question was thrown my way, I not only said he wasn’t ready but I proudly announced that he was to remain in diapers until I felt he was ready. I was his mother after all. I certainly was not going to let anyone pressure me into potty training my son.

Most of the children described above were already talking and communicating properly but Mark was not. Personally, I feel this is one of the primary prerequisites for potty training. Some form of communication has to be established between you and your child. It doesn’t have to be verbal. It can be non-verbal. What matters is that you can give a simple instruction and your child can understand.

Do not fall into the textbook trap. At times the books suggest ages for potty training commencement. Remember that those ages are suggested based on averages across a wide range of children with different levels of ability. Every child is different.  We just need to stay in control of that decision. In my personal experience, I find that answering these questions can be a good way to start.

(1) Does your child communicate with you? Do you think they understand it when you give them simple instructions?

(2) Does your child have a way of letting you know s/he is soiled?  This may vary from child to child depending on their communication level. While one child may ask to be changed by speaking, a non-verbal child may take your hand before pulling you towards the changing area.

(3) Do you think your child stays dry for up to 2 – 3 hours at a time? You can find this out by taking your child off diapers and leaving them in normal cloth knickers or trainer pants (depending on what you can afford). You can then time how long they stay dry for over a period of time. You can try this on different days to get a sense of how long.

(4) Does your child ask for a potty? If the child can already associate needing the toilet with the potty, then you have made progress. This is quite common with children who have older siblings to copy or where a potty exists already in the home.

(5) Is your child curious about underwear? Perhaps s/he associates diapers with babies (usually common with kids who have baby siblings). You can tap into this to start introducing the potty.

(6) Does your child have a pattern of toilet use? Some children poo after each meal, others at other times of the day, these children have a pattern. However, the last group of kids have no specific pattern. It will be helpful to find out what pattern if any your child has before you begin potty training.

To determine the pattern, it may be a good idea to :

  • Keep a record each time you do a nappy change. You can write this down in a journal or paper consistently.
  • You can record it over a period of time (say for a week or two).
  • Be consistent with the record keeping and you will see if a pattern emerges. This will be a helpful guide during the potty training.

Make sure this record is kept when there is no upset to the child’s normal daily routine. Some children will not “go” if you are in a different environment e.g. on holiday, of visiting and staying over.  You have to bear in mind that the places you take your child to may be familiar to you but anywhere away from home is not familiar to your little one.

If you have answered yes to most of the points raised above, you may be on your way to an exciting journey with your child. It may seem daunting especially when it is your first time but be reassured that it is not an impossible one. We all struggle, even experienced parents know that every child is unique and will attain this milestone in his/her own way. For every parent (experienced or not) the approach and disposition adopted towards this exercise makes all the difference.

Next time, we will explore some things you need to get you started.


Photo credit: Pixabay


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