Toilet training can be an emotional event for both mother and toddler. When your child is 12 to 18 months old, you may begin to think about toilet training. The key to determining your child’s readiness to begin this most important milestone is a physical one. His bladder must be large enough to allow less frequent urinations than as occurred as an infant which might have been 12 times a day. The child also has to have control of his sphincter muscles that hold and release urine and feces.
Other signs of readiness include:
- have a predictable pattern each day
- understand and use words such as “potty, pee and poopoo”
- can pull their pants down
- can wash their hands and
- indicate discomfort with soiled pants
Coordinate with your child’s caregiver and agree on words, methods and schedules. Extend the conversations you have with your child to include showing the child that you put the ‘poopoo’ from the diaper into the toilet. Let him press the flush handle.
Offer casual opportunities to lean about the toilet. Tell stories and read books about going to the potty. Provide a clean potty and a doll that can sit on it. Invite the child to sit on a potty with clothes on to ease potential fears.
If you have noticed your child’s elimination pattern, you may be able to anticipate bowel movements. Encourage your child to sit on the potty with diaper and pants off at the expected time, but no longer than about 10 minutes.
Accidents will happen, so expect them and treat them matter-of-factly. Offer praise and encouragement for trying. When your child is successful, express approval but avoid over-praising or giving rewards. Ideally children will want to learn toileting to feel good about themselves, not to earn prizes. Show him how to pull out the appropriate amount of toilet paper and to wipe. When your child begins to have some successes, begin using training pants. Remember, disposable training pants are still diapers to your child. When your child can go for a few days without an accident, you might switch to real underwear.
Learning to use the toilet can take a long time and will require a lot of patience on the part of the parent and the child. Many children will continue to need help until the age of 4 or even 5 years. If your child has lots of accidents or is just not interested, go back to diapers and try later.