There is no right or wrong age to start this, however 12-18 months is a good age to start. You can start even earlier than this if your child is showing interest in the toilet, touching themselves, starting to do poos at roughly the same time each day etc. It is also ok to start later than this. However, the older the child grows the harder it may become as they tend to leave their sensitive period for toileting at roughly 18 months so it moves from being a skill that they want to do (and will learn easily) to one that they have to consciously choose to learn – you will likely have more tantrums and adversity.
As you start to practice using the toilet, keep in mind that there are many stages to toilet learning:
The ability to notice that they have been to the toilet (they are wet/soiled)
The ability to notice the feeling that they are about to go to the toilet
The ability to notice the feeling that they need to go and then holding it until they are on the toilet (which also involves undressing)
The ability to go to the toilet ‘on command’ e.g. tactical wees
It is unrealistic to expect your child to master all of these stages all at once – celebrate and acknowledge each stage – this is success!!!!
There are many ways to actually commence toileting. Here are some ideas:
Give notice that you will no longer be using nappies as of x amount of days. Take the child shopping and get them to choose special undies and build excitement. No longer use nappies as of that date you set (maybe only use them as back up if you are out of the house for an extended period of time or at night, but use pull ups or cloth nappies). Try and stay home for a few days (or go to the beach/park where accidents don’t really matter) while in the initial stages of learning.
Announce toilet times, “Time to go to the toilet now, you can choose a book to read” that way it is not phrased as a question (which gives the option of saying no).
Alternatively ask if the child needs to go to the toilet, or tell them to tell you when they need to go, and don’t argue this point or coerce. Trust their judgement. In the event of an accident, simply say “You are wet, next time you need to do a wee, let’s go to the toilet instead” in a matter of fact, non judgemental tone. Help your child to change into dry clothes immediately, and involve them in cleaning up the mess. Do not make cleaning up into a punishment, rather as a fact of life – there is a mess, we have to clean it.
Invite the child to potty train their favourite toy (or you) and role-play it.
Don’t be upset if the process doesn’t happen overnight. Your child will most likely not still be in nappies by the time they are 15 – it’s all good (and even if they are who cares – it might just be what they need and that’s ok!)!
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