Ready to go potty

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

Parenting columnist Ian Munro discusses knowing when it's time to toilet train your child.

Ian Munro
Ian Munro

We’ve been toilet training this Christmas break.

The youngest in the family has reached that point  so, while you can’t determine it’s something that will happen when you want, we’ve given it a go.

Being summer and having several adults in the house to monitor has helped.

Toilet training isn’t something that can be forced, because it’s actually another learning phase. Just as for walking and talking, readiness will come in fits and starts and progress will be the same.

There’s a whole readiness thing and lots of situations  can throw the process off course; stress in the household, unwellness or tiredness in the child, an unpleasant experience or discomfort during the "training" or just plain obstinacy.

Be aware, too, of well-meaning relatives and friends who feel  your toddler should be toilet trained by now. It’s not a competition and it’s not about age. You’ve nothing to prove; it’s about when your youngster is ready.

So, how do you know when that is? Well, these are some of the good indicators we used. You really need a "yes" answer to each of them.

• Is your toddler managing better bladder or bowel control with fewer nappy changes? If so, it also means their storage capacity is greater.

• Can they recognise what’s happening when it is happening and tell you so? It’s vital that they have this awareness; otherwise your training will be pointless.

• Are they able to follow and remember a sequence of actions? They need to be able to do this, from putting the seat down through to flushing and hand-washing.

• Can they pull down and pull up their pants? They need to be able to do this with ease. When you’re toilet training, think carefully about this when dressing them. Summer is always a better time to train than winter because they usually wear less and summer clothing is simpler to manage.

• Can the toddler happily sit still for a reasonable period of time? Some patience and calmness is required on their part.

• Have they shown an interest? This could be an interest in big boy’s or girl’s pants or in staying dry or clean or being like Mummy or Daddy or older brother or sister.

• If there are some "nos" as answers, then there is some pre-toilet training or practice you can do:Getting their pants on and off themselves.

• Hand-washing.

• Talking about potties and looking at them in shops, even getting them to choose the one  they’re going to use.

• Sitting on a potty with a book with no expectation that anything will happen.

• Getting them to tell you when they have an urge.

• Working on simple sequences of actions. 

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