Mom and child standing near a potty while toilet training

Eating food and going to the toilet are two very basic human activities but starting potty training your child can be as stressful as introducing solids. What’s essential to potty training is sticking to four important principals, namely readiness, time, diet and consistency.

When should you start potty training your child?

Not all children potty train at a specific age. As with other milestones there is a range of normal and your child may fall anywhere along that range. Generally, the range is between 18 months and 3 years, with the average being around 27 months.

The other thing to keep in mind when you want to start potty training is that your child will most likely potty train for pee sometime before he or she is ready to poo in a potty – a poo is quite a step forward and does often take a little longer to master. Finally, it does take longer to be dry at night. Most children are dry at night between the age of 4 or 5 years old.

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The 4 important principles to remember when potty or toilet training your child:

  1. Readiness

There are a number of signs that show when your child is ready to start potty training – watching out for these signs will make it easier to decide if you and your child are ready to toilet train. These include:

  • Starts telling you he wants to pee or poo or that it has already happened.
  • Often the child will stand up in the bath and pee. They’ll become aware of this function and communicate what they’re doing.
  • Pulling at a dirty nappy or asking for it to be taken off.
  • Hiding to pee or poo. For example, going behind a curtain.
  • Having dry nappies for longer than normal during the day.
  • Waking from naps with a dry nappy.
  • Is interested in what you are doing on the toilet.
  • Expresses a desire to use a potty or toilet.
  • Is able to follow instructions.
  • Has the ability to pull down his or her pants.

Little boy sitting on a potty in his nursery

  1. Time

We live at a very fast pace with loads of demands and, unfortunately, potty training takes time. The old idea of sitting on the loo with a magazine or your favourite book has huge merit – if you are under work pressure then now is not the time for potty training your child.

You as the parent or caregiver need to be focused on the child to be able to anticipate their need to use the potty or toilet. You need time to sit with your child in the bathroom while he or she tries for the umpteenth time to make a pee or poo. Finally, you need to have the patience to change the 4th set of underwear should an accident happen.

The child also needs time. He may sit on the potty or toilet for quite a while without doing anything. That’s ok. No one can perform under pressure. In fact, the anus won’t let you perform under pressure. To pass a stool comfortably, any individual needs to be relaxed and have at least 10 minutes of toilet time. Going forward a child should be allowed at least 10 minutes after each meal to sit on the toilet to maintain healthy bowel habits.

3. Diet

I cannot stress this factor enough: a healthy diet, which includes at least 5 servings of fruit and 5 of vegetables a day, wholegrains and adequate water will ensure that the stool is soft, sausage shaped and easy to pass. If your child is constipated then the stool will be hard and may cause discomfort and pain so they won’t happily sit on a potty. Before embarking on training please ensure that your child is having at least one stool a day without discomfort.

  1. Consistency

Once you have decided to begin potty training, consistency is the name of the game. It’s really important to stick to your plan and not to begin training and then revert back to nappies. For the child to get used to sitting on the potty or toilet and understanding that it’s part of the routine, you have to persist until there’s success. Potty or toilet training is a bit like sleep training. You have to push through the upsets and setbacks in order to get the result you are looking for. This means that all caretakers need to involved – your child cannot sit on the potty at home and then be allowed nappies at school or with Granny. The potty or toilet seat must become a feature wherever the child goes and the same routine must apply in all settings.

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