The When, What and Hows of Potty Training

For some parents, potty training is one of the most difficult developmental milestones to achieve. Parents tend to dread it because they need to stay committed from start to finish.

There are no set rules when parents should start potty training but in general, children show signs of readiness around 18 and 24 months. However, this is not to say that every child MUST be ready by then. There are some who might not be ready until they are at least 3 years of age.

1. When

There is no fixed time as to WHEN parents should be potty training but there are tell-tale signs WHEN your child is ready. The most obvious one is when you notice there are fewer diaper changes and more regular bowel movements. Your little one is starting to develop better bladder control and this is evident when they remain dry during nap time. 


Another sign is when your toddler starts showing signs of needing to go potty. He or she may not be able to vocalise this just yet, but you might still be able to tell from their facial expressions and hand gestures near the groin region. 


Others go straight to the point and start developing an aversion for soiled diapers where they refuse to wear them completely! If that’s the case, potty training might need to start whether you like it or not!


Of course, some toddlers may still pee quite often around the 2-year-old mark. But if they are able to stay dry for an hour or so, then potty training is a go.

2. What

WHAT should parents do first?


First of all, it is important to check yourselves. Potty training takes a lot of patience, consistency and encouragement on your part. Are you ready for that kind of commitment? Are you ready to clean up after accidents and still assure your little one that it is okay? Potty training takes perseverance and you should never think that it has anything to do with the child being smart or less smart. Shaming and losing your cool during toilet mishaps will only backfire on you.


When you are ready, start by choosing what words you will be using. Do say potty or toilet? Do you say wee-wee or just pee-pee? By being consistent with your words, your little one will slowly associate these words to the action itself.

Next, introduce your child to the potty by letting them sit on it fully clothed. Once they are comfortable with sitting on the potty you can progress to showing them how to pull down their pants before sitting down on the potty. Be sure to dress your child in clothes that are easy for them to remove. 


Start by getting your little one to pee in the potty first thing in the morning and right after naps. You also need to schedule 1-2 hour potty breaks thereafter, guiding your child through the full motion, including cleaning up and standing up when everything is done.

In the beginning, your little one might just sit there without doing number 1 or 2. That’s okay, continue to offer positive reinforcements and tell them they can try again later.


Be attentive and catch the signs your child might show, to tell you that he or she needs to go potty. Some might squirm, squat or even grab their genitals so you need to respond quickly. This helps your child to recognise the signal to stop whatever they are doing and to go and sit on their potty. 

3. How

Above all, never neglect the importance of self-hygiene. Even though it might take a while before they do a really good job, it is never too early to teach them HOW to clean up after themselves.


Show the girls how to wipe carefully from the front to the back. Teach both boys and girls how to dispose of soiled toilet paper and to flush after they are done. This can be taught once they have progressed from a potty to a toilet set. Last but not least, teach them how to wash their hands thoroughly to wash off germs and bacteria after every potty session.

Always expect accidents to happen and do not scold or shame your child when it happens. Be mindful about how your reaction could affect their progress. Above all, always be encouraging with your words and continue reinforcing every success. It will be challenging the first two weeks, but continue to push through and soon you’ll be ditching those diapers. 


If your child is ready and you have tried everything with no success, talk to your family doctor about it. He or she might be able to provide some insight and examine your child for any possible medical conditions.

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