For Parents

Toilet Training Tips for Pediatrics of N.E. PA Parents

Every child experiences potty training a little bit differently, and what may be an easy process for one may be incredibly difficult for another. As a result, our pediatricians often encounter questions from parents about toilet training and how to help their child succeed at mastering this important milestone, which is why they would like to offer some recommendations on the proper timing and technique for toilet training.

Knowing When Your Child Is Ready for Toilet Training

There is no defined age at which a child is absolutely supposed to start learning bathroom hygiene habits. While many parents would prefer this training to start sooner rather than later, it is up to the child on when this development should occur. When they truly are ready, most kids will be able to:

  • Keep their diaper dry for at least 2 hours
  • Realize the body’s natural urge to urinate or defecate, and communicate these urges with caregivers
  • Follow basic instructions
  • Pull down their diaper or underwear by themselves
  • Mimic using the toilet by walking up and sitting on it for an appropriate amount of time
  • Show a genuine interest in using the toilet

Most often, children will begin to show signs that they are ready for potty training to begin around the age of 18-24 months. It is common for girls to exhibit these signs a bit sooner than boys, so do not panic if your toddler has not reached this point just yet.

Common Challenges with Potty Training

Any number of things may cause a child’s delay in learning how to use a toilet properly, even when they are at an old enough age to do so. If physical ability is not the answer to these challenges, it may be that:

  • They are afraid: Being much smaller than adults, many children fear their instability when using a toilet. It is also common for kids to be afraid of the flushing noise of their home’s toilet. Utilizing a smaller training toilet can help children to gain confidence in balancing on a full-sized toilet, and showing them the mechanics behind how a toilet flushes can also be very beneficial to their understanding what causes it to flush. Public restrooms are another frequent stressor for kids learning to potty train, but parents can resolve these fears by offering their support and assistance when the family is outside of the home.
  • They are anxious or embarrassed: Kids who have experienced accidents in the past often become a little traumatized and are hesitant to speak up about their urge to use a restroom. Parents should encourage their child to ask for assistance when these urges come, and they should also do their very best to stay calm if an accident does occur. Be sure to bring a spare change of clothes just in case, and talk with your child privately about any issues if needed.
  • They are stressed: It is not wise to begin potty training during a period of significant change in a child’s life. For example, the birth of a new sibling or moving homes will often cause kids to become overwhelmed or stressed, which makes it difficult to focus on their own needs in the bathroom.
  • They are stubborn: If every attempt to toilet train your child turns into an argument, there may be some bigger problems at work here. Typically, this challenge is a result of an imbalance in control between the parents and the child. Kids who resist their parent’s teachings during potty training should be made aware that help will always be there if it is needed, but that ultimately it is their own responsibility to use the restroom properly. Many kids in this situation also benefit from incentives for success, such as earning a small piece of candy or getting to choose their outfit for the day.
  • They are constipated: Some kids may be unable to “go” even when they have the knowledge and desire to do so. These issues can be resolved by changing the child’s diet to include more fiber-rich foods, but if it becomes a chronic issue parents should seek further treatment from Pediatrics of Northeast Pennsylvania.

Additional Tips on Toilet Training

Parents who believe that their child is ready to begin potty training should help their child develop successful habits by first making sure that they are prepared with all the necessary equipment. This usually means buying a special potty training toilet for your child to practice using. Be sure to explain the purpose of this new toilet, and express the importance of good behaviors like using the toilet and alerting an adult to when it is needed.

Once everyone is on board, parents should respond quickly to any signs that their child needs to use the toilet. Even if this is not verbally communicated, children often give indicators like squirming, squatting, or holding their genital area when they have an urge to urinate or defecate. Last second accidents may be avoided by scheduling potty breaks throughout the day to give the child an opportunity to use the toilet regardless of whether or not they have the urge to do so. Try taking these breaks once every couple of hours for just 10 minutes at a time.

In addition to explaining the basics on toilet training, it is also critical that parents give their kids instructions on proper hygiene. Girls going through this process should be taught how to wipe from front to back in order to prevent spreading harmful germs from the rectum. Boys typically benefit from first learning how to use a toilet when sitting down, and can later transition to standing up once they are able to more clearly recognize regular urges to use the bathroom. All children also need to be made aware of the importance of washing their hands after using the toilet.

Nighttime accidents may still occur after the child has had success in using the toilet throughout the day. Remain patient through this time and try to avoid accidents at night by limiting liquid consumption before bed, use training pants only for overnight, and use a protective mattress pad that is easy to clean if needed.