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Many toddlers master potty training with ease, particularly once they are able to verbalize their bodily needs. But for others, it can involve a protracted power struggle.

When to potty train a toddler?

Refusal to defecate and poor toilet training can lead to functional constipation which may sometimes be very frustrating to the parents. Pediatricians also find treating a child with functional constipation a difficult task. Knowing some potty training tips would be very helpful for the mother and her toddler.

The key factor for parents to recognize in successful potty training is the readiness of the child. The average age of successful potty training is 27 months with a range of up to 3-4 years. Potty training should be started at appropriate age. This is because early potty training before the age of 2 years can lead to chronic retention of stool and encopresis. Encopresis refers to the passage of feces in to inappropriate places.  Very early toilet training may lead to a prolonged training process which would increase the frustration of the parents.

How to know that the toddler is ready for potty training?

If the following questions are answered affirmatively, it indicates that the child is ready for potty training:

  • “Does your child communicate with you before the passage of urine or stool?”
  • “Can your child hold on for a minute or two before urinating or defecating?”

Thus the process of potty training is decided on the readiness of the child and the developmental stage. The following is the normal development of bladder and bowel control.

The bowel movements become regular; this is followed by bowel control; bowel control is followed by daytime bladder control and later by nighttime bladder control. Complete bowel control is usually achieved by 4 years of age and bladder control by 5 years of age. Girls achieve control earlier than boys. The child should be ready for potty training both physically and emotionally.

The following are some more pointers for the readiness of a child for potty training:

  • A child showing interest in the potty chair
  • A child showing interest in wearing underwear
  • A child feeling uncomfortable  in wet diapers
  • A child who is able to follow simple instructions
  • A child who is able to ask simple questions
  • A child with the ability to stay dry for two hours or longer
  • A child who is able remain with dry nappies during sleep

Potty training may be avoided in children in the following circumstances:

  • Very early age – It is advised to avoid potty training in children less than 2 years since it may lead to a prolonged training process and also to chronic retention of stool and encopresis
  • If the child is not willing for potty training
  • If the answer is no to most of the above mentioned  pointers and questions
  • If the child is about to face a major change such as a move or going to have a new sibling

Chronic medical problem though can prolong the process of potty training is not an issue to postpone the process of potty training.

Potty Training tips

The process of potty training the toddlers basically involves positive reinforcement by the parents after they assess the readiness of the child. Minor hurdles in potty training process such as fear of sitting on the toilet should be met with calm and understanding approach. The secret of successful potty training lies in the parents maintaining patience.  The following are some of the potty training tips for toddlers.

  • Educating the child on potty training – Initially the child may be encouraged to sit on a potty chair with or without diapers. The mother may dump dirty diaper to show the child the purpose of the potty.
  • If the child starts showing interest in sitting on the potty, he may be allowed to sit on it without a diaper for a few minutes everyday. The child should be well praised whenever he sits on the potty chair.
  • Whenever the child shows signs of the need to go to toilet like squatting or holding the genital area, the mother should respond quickly and take the child to the potty. The child should be taught to understand these signals. The child should be taught that whenever he gets these signals, he should stop whatever he is doing and go to the potty.
  • Mother should consider giving incentives if the child does not wet the diaper and uses the potty correctly.
  • Whether it is the mother or any other child care provider the same potty training schedule should be followed by them.
  • Accidents are inevitable. When it happens the mother should stay calm.

Common potty training problems

Parents may face many problems during potty training their toddlers even if the process of potty training is well planned. The common potty training problems include:

  • Training resistance- If a child does not even try his part in potty training, then the readiness pointers should be assessed again to see if the child is really ready for potty training, physically and emotionally. Sometimes the child may try and fail in his effort. If this is the case the mother should involve in positive reinforcement and praise the child for the things he can do no matter how small it is.
  • The child throws tantrums when made to sit on the potty – The child may sometimes consider sitting on the potty a punishment. If that is the case either potty training should be postponed for few days or potty training should be made more fun. Playing music, singing or storytelling may be tried to make it more fun.
  • Excessive accidents- In spite of meticulous planning and potty training, toddlers sometimes may go in their pants rather in the potty. The mother should clean up the accidents quickly and praise the child for every successful potty visit. Creating a potty area closer to the child’s play area may sometimes be helpful if the child finds difficult to control the bowel on the way to the potty.


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