Potty Training: When, Why, and How

Bringing up a child brings a host of new, unique experiences. Your child is exploring the world and learning new skills. As a parent, it’s your responsibility to guide them through this process. 

Potty training is one of these new skills and can be a tricky learning curve. In fact, potty training is something new parents may dread. There’s plenty of advice available online, but that can leave us feeling more confused than anything else. 

Of course, no parent wants to leave potty training too late, but is starting too early just as bad? Are there tips and tricks that can make the process easier? Let’s find out.

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When to Start

It’s important to understand that bowel and bladder control is something children develop as they grow. Starting much too early can leave your child feeling unhappy and miserable that they can’t learn this new skill, even though their bodies aren’t sufficiently developed yet. 

Each child is an individual. Don’t worry too much if it takes your child a little longer than you expected to learn how to potty train. However, you may also be pleasantly surprised at how quickly your child learns!

However, most children are able to stay dry all day by the age of around 3. By 5, most children are more or less potty trained. It’s good to start at around 2 or 2 and a half. It’s entirely possible to potty train your child in the space of a few days, presuming your child is cooperative. 

Of course, these are rough estimates, and there may still be accidents if you child is excited or nervous. Bed wetting is a problem which may last a little longer. Be patient with your child.

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What to Expect

A good first day of potty training is a calm one, with no distractions or incidents. It’s a good idea to get your child used to the idea of a potty. Ideally, your child might already be telling you if they need the toilet, so you only challenge is convincing them to go in the potty. 

If you’re starting young, it’s important to teach your child about what happens in their nappy. They might see an older sibling use the potty, if they have one, or see you use the toilet, flush, and wash your hands. Many children learn by copying. 

If you intend to start potty training, try and clear a few days to work on it. Having your child relaxed at home, in their own space, can help move along the process. It also means that any accidents will be easier to handle. Have a potty somewhere you can reach it easily and put your child in clothes that are easy to take off. If your child warns you that they need the toilet, you may not get much time to react! 

What You Should Avoid 

Some children take to potty training very quickly, and others don’t. It’s extremely important not to overreact if your child has an accident. Don’t scold them or make a big deal out of it. If your child learns that potty time equals punishment, teaching them to potty train is going to be almost impossible. 

Stay calm if your child has accidents and praise them when they go successfully in the potty. It’s important to reward the behavior you want to see in your child. Sticker charts and reward systems are a great way to make your child feel good about themselves and encourage that behavior. 

However, avoid using sweets, toys, or bribes. Your child is at an impressionable age, and teaching them that they can ransom off good behavior in exchange for something they want is a bad, bad idea!

Mistakes to avoid when Potty Training

Charts and Reward Systems 

An excellent way of rewarding your child and tracking their progress at the same time is to use a reward system. Potty sticker charts are very popular. You reward a child with a sticker every time they go successfully in the potty, and this allows you to see at a glance how your child is doing. 

The sticker system is handy because it rewards your child for good behavior, without causing them to fear punishment for not performing. Remember, toilet accidents from children of this age are just that – accidents. It’s unfair to punish your child for something they may not even be able to control or understand. 

A sticker system requires you to add a sticker to the chart when you child has a pee, a poo, washes their hands, or even just sits on the potty and tries. This can help encourage your child to try. Aside from encouraging your child, a sticker system can help you as a parent keep an eye on when your child is likely to need to go again, as well as identifying any problem areas. 

Potty training charts with pictures can also be a great incentive. For example, does your child have a favorite TV show or movie? Chances are, you can find a sticker chart with the same theme. Themed sticker charts can get your child excited about potty time, which makes your job much easier! 

If you’re looking for a potty-training chart, there are plenty of free PDF downloads available online. Simply print out one you think your child would like, or you could even let them choose their own chart. 

Next, buy some stickers! Once again, you might want to let your child pick their own stickers. Involving them in the process can make you child feel like potty training is something fun that you’re doing together, rather than a chore or something unpleasant. 

Keeping to a schedule is something else you might want to consider. For example, after your child has eaten a meal or drank something, chances are, they’ll need to use the potty. Getting your child used to sitting on the potty at a certain time every day can help to get them into a routine quickly. 

Of course, you may need to be flexible. There’s no point in making your child sit for ages on the potty when nothing is happening. In fact, that could hinder your progress. Be prepared to make compromises on small things.

The 3-Day Method and Other Potty-Training Tricks

Potty training can be easy, or it can be a nightmare. This depends on you as the parent, and on your child themselves. For example, a child who gets uncomfortable in wet or soiled nappies and warns you when they need to go will likely take to potty training quickly. 

The 3-day potty training method is something that can get your child comfortable with a potty as fast as possible. However, it’s important to do it properly, otherwise you’re wasting your time. 

First of all, clear your diary. You need to spend 3 days at home with your child, free from distractions and interruptions. This means that you can’t leave the house or take your eye off your child! 

It’s generally best to avoid pull-up nappies during a 3-day training run. While pull-ups are considering a handy bridge between traditional nappies and regular children’s underwear, they can confuse your child. 

Secondly, stock up on food, especially things that will make your child need the toilet. This includes drinks, salty food, ice lollies, and so on. You need to give your child plenty of opportunities to use the potty.

Next, it’s time to throw away the nappies. Yes, throw them away. This means that you’ve burnt your bridges – you’ve committed. You can get your child involved in throwing away the nappies, and this can help them to understand what’s going on. Have your child stay bottomless for the first day or so. This is why you need to stay at home! 

Of course, this means that you need to keep an eagle eye on your child in case of accidents. The first day is often the hardest. Your child will start to pee or poop at some point, then you’ll pick them up immediately and take them to the potty. 

As you can imagine, this method can get messy. However, it can help your child immediately understand that their full bladder equals an uncomfortable mess, rather than something that gets helpfully collected in a nappy. Frequently ask your child whether they need the potty. 

That’s just day 1! After the first day, a parent will likely be able to tell whether or not this method is working. If a child doesn’t seem to notice the effects of their peeing and pooping, chances are, they aren’t ready to potty train just yet. 

The main trick for a parent is patience and perseverance. This can difficult, especially if your older children learnt to potty train quickly. 

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The Game-Changer 

There’s no one-size-fits-all method to potty training. Once your child has successfully peed in the potty around 10-12 times, they will usually get the hang of it themselves. That means that the 3-day potty training method can put your child firmly on the road to potty training, and saves you a lot of time – and cleaning – later on.

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