While diapers are great for dealing with immediate emergencies, solving the problem of using the toilet more permanently is necessary.

The potty training process can be challenging, but it’s one of the more rewarding things you’ll do as a parent. Learn more about potty training, when to do potty training, and some of the steps in potty training your child.

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What is potty training?

Potty training is the stage of life when you teach a young person to use the toilet independently without needing a diaper. At the end of the process, your child should be able to go to the toilet entirely on their own, without any issues regarding cleanliness or using the toilet properly. This is one of the most critical parts of a child’s development, as a child that can use the toilet on their own can become more independent more quickly. This includes being able to go to school independently and having play dates around at a friend’s house.

When does potty training start?

Most children show signs of being ready for potty training between 18 and 24 months, but this varies depending on how the child develops. Some take three years to be ready, whereas others can start toilet training in just a year. After starting potty training, the process could take around a year, depending on your child’s attributes, such as their intelligence and how they adapt to new situations. Children with developmental disorders such as ASD can take longer to complete their potty training as they absorb and interact with information differently.

Steps in potty training

There are several steps in the potty training process, some of which you complete once, with others being more constant throughout the training. Some of the main steps in potty training include:

1. Choose your words

Start by choosing the specific words you’ll use in the training process. By using consistent words, your child forms a connection between these words and using the toilet. This includes choosing the word for the toilet, the substances your child releases in the bathroom, and what they are doing there. Children not only understand what you’re saying when you used these words but can communicate what they need to do at the later stages of their training.

Avoid using negative words wherever possible. Using terms such as dirty, stinky, or unclean makes your child feel ashamed of what they’re doing in there rather than knowing that it’s an entirely normal process. This can prevent the potty training process, which ultimately harms your child’s development.

2. Get the equipment ready

At the very start of potty training, ensure you have all the equipment ready. This includes having a potty chair wherever your child spends most of their time and one in the bathroom, just in case. By having the potty chair wherever your child spends most of their time, you get them used to being around it and normalize the idea of sitting on or near it.

Encourage your child to sit on the chair fully clothed early in the process. This gets them used to sitting on it and means they have more familiarity with the toilet. Check that the potty chair is the right size for your child, with some of the more critical aspects including:

  • Their feet can reach the floor.
  • The potty chair comfortably holds the weight of the child.
  • Your child’s bottom comfortably fits on the chair.
  • The angle of the chair is comfortable for your child.

3. Schedule your breaks

A simple and understandable schedule is a fundamental part of all forms of education, including potty training. This includes having your child sit on the potty chair or toilet without a diaper for a few minutes every couple of hours, first thing in the morning and immediately after naps. Even for boys, it is easier to learn how to urinate when sitting down and then graduate to standing up over time.

Spend as much time as possible with your child on these breaks. For example, you can try reading a book together or talking to them about what they want to do later in the day. Ensure you praise your child throughout the potty training process, encouraging them to spend even more time trying to get potty training right. Even if they fail, offer them encouragement and praise as long as your child tries.

4. Move quickly

When your child needs the toilet, things can move incredibly quickly. This means that you need to be just as fast. By responding quickly to signs that your child needs the toilet, you can get them to the bathroom before any accidents happen, so they are sat on a potty chair by the time they urinate or defecate. This builds a link between sitting on the toilet and using it, speeding up potty training.

Moving quickly relies on reacting to any signs that you notice that your child needs the toilet. Different children communicate this in different ways, with some common methods being that the child is more agitated, grabbing their genitals, or generally squirming in discomfort at the fact they need relief. Learn some of these signs, and even encourage your child to tell you when to use the bathroom. Praise your child when they do so, as it’s a significant sign of their development.

5. Focus on hygiene and cleaning

At the earliest stages of the potty training process, focus on increasing hygiene and emphasizing the importance of being clean to your child. Regardless of age, germs can still affect a young child, with bathrooms being some of the most germ-filled places. This includes teaching your child how to wipe, with poor wiping technique potentially leading to issues such as yeast infections.

In addition to ensuring that your child uses the toilet properly, ensure that they know how to wash their hands and exactly when they need to do so. Washing your hands is an important habit that keeps people safe and secures them while setting a positive impression. As one of the most important parts of cleanliness, targeting good hand-washing techniques is a fundamental part of potty training.

How to react to accidents

Your child won’t always get to the toilet, which is normal. After all, there are plenty of cases in which people struggle to do so as adults, such as having an illness. Responding in the right way means that this doesn’t harm your progress. The best way of reacting to potty training accidents includes:

  • Staying calm and taking your time to resolve the problem.
  • Being prepared in advance, such as keeping a spare change of clothes available.
  • Reassuring your child that accidents happen and to get it right next time.
  • Let your child know the steps to avoid this mistake.

Remember that children can take up until seven to stay dry at night, meaning potty training incidents in a child’s sleep are entirely normal. Try to improve this where you can, but understand that nighttime training takes longer than standard potty training.