Many parents get nervous when they think about toilet training their young child. The folklore about toilet training may have a lot to do with their anxiety.
For example, parents hear stories about children being toilet trained at six months of age. Those kinds of stories are ridiculous; a child who can’t walk cannot possibly go to the toilet without help, which is what being toilet trained means.
You can toilet train your child effectively and efficiently if you keep in mind some basic guidelines. Do these four things before you get started with potty training:
Relax. Toilet training is often the first task that parents take a strong stand on. Sure, it is important to you, but adding tension and pressure to the process will not make it any easier for you or your child. Remember, unlike eating, sleeping, and playing, there is no natural, immediate payoff for your child when he or she uses the toilet. Your child may not always cooperate with you during toilet training, but your tension will just make things worse.
Wait. Most children are toilet trained when they are 2, 3, or 4 years old. A few children are ready earlier, but just to be on the safe side, wait until your child is at least 2 years old.
Make sure you are ready. Do you really want to find out where the bathroom is in every store and restaurant you go to and on every highway and street you drive? Are you ready for potty interruptions all day long?
Make sure your child is ready. If you are really ready to toilet train, see if your child is ready.
You can take some steps now that will help your child when, at some time in the future, you begin toilet training. Let your child watch you. Your child can learn a lot about how to use the toilet correctly by watching a parent. Frequently let your child come with you when you go to the bathroom.
Teach your child to raise and lower his or her pants. You can do this gradually when you are dressing or undressing your child. With your daughter, for example, you can first pull down her pants with little or no help from her. Then, do less pulling and let her do more. This process may take many weeks, but it is worthwhile.
Help your child learn to follow your instructions. Make sure you have your child’s attention when you give an instruction. Immediately praise your child if he or she does what you ask. If your child does not follow your instruction right away, gently guide him or her through what should be done, and do not give another instruction until the first one has been followed.
Set out a potty chair. A few weeks, or even months, before you think you will start toilet training, make a potty chair available to your child so that he or she can get used to it. Put it in the bathroom or in another room so your child has a chance to investigate it.
Praise your child. Every time your child does something the right way, be sure to let him or her know. Praise your child with words that are brief and to the point, such as “You did a good job pulling down your pants.” Or, give your child a smile, a hug, or a kiss. This attention is how you teach your child what behavior pleases you.