Steps to Successful Toilet Training: Yes, Patience Is Key

Successful toilet training not only requires timing and patience on the part of parents, but also physical and emotional readiness on the part of the child.

While most children may show an interest in toilet training between 18-24 months of age, others may not be ready until 30 months or older. The important thing to remember is that you cannot rush your child. Toilet training may take longer if the child is not ready. Most children achieve bowel and day-time urine control by the age of four years old. However, it may take months or years before they are able to stay dry at night.

How to tell if your child is ready for toilet training

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  • Bladder readiness — your child is able to stay dry for at least two hours or longer during the day.
  • Bowel readiness — your child recognises the need to defecate.
  • Cognitive readiness — your child is able to indicate their wants and needs, and follow basic instructions. They are interested in the potty/toilet and are interested in using the potty or toilet.
  • Motor readiness — your child has the skills to sit on and rise from the potty.

Steps To Toilet Training Success

When you start toilet training a child, it is important to be consistent among all the child’s caregivers. Caregivers need to understand that accidents and setbacks are common. To increase the chances of success, begin toilet training when the child is not experiencing any other major changes.

Accidents are frequently seen when the child is tired or distracted during play, or when they are stressed with changes occurring in the family e.g a new baby. If your child does not want to use the potty, you can also use a seat that fits over the toilet seat and provide a stool to brace their feet.

Begin by encouraging your child to sit on the potty chair with or without a diaper. These should be brief and as soon as your child becomes restless, they should be allowed to get up.

Help your child understand the purpose of the potty. Toilet training books/videos or using a doll/stuffed animal may be helpful.

Schedule potty breaks for a few minutes several times a day e.g. 30-45 minutes after drinking large amounts of fluids or if it has been two hours since your child last urinated.

Praise your child for trying even if your child simply sits there, and tell them that they can try again later.

Your child may display the following signs when they need to use the toilet: squirming, squatting or holding the genital area. When you notice these signs, stop whatever your child is doing and head to the toilet, then praise them for telling you when they have to go.

Consider incentives such as a sticker or star chart. Be positive even if a trip to the toilet isn’t successful. Consistent encouragement is important.

Some children may be afraid of the flush, for fear that they will be sucked into the toilet if it is flushed while they are sitting on it. Letting your child flush the toilet may lessen this fear.

If your child resists using the potty or toilet, chances are that they aren’t ready. Take a break and try again in a few months.

Dr Wendy Liew is a paediatrician and paediatric neurologist at Healthway Medical Group. Her areas of expertise include paediatric neurological diseases, especially neuromuscular diseases such as myasthenia gravis, spinal muscular atrophy and Duchnne muscular dystrophy.

Also read: Essentials Needed For Potty Training Success

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