Bowel and bladder movements are reflex actions for babies. However as they grow physically and emotionally, they begin to gain better control over these movements through training. For success at potty training, a calm attitude, regular routine and consistency are important.


Ready signs

To avoid potty training being a long, frustrating process, your child must be ready and willing before starting it. Children are usually ready sometime between their 22nd and 30th month, which is about when they start pre-school or nursery. However, some children are ready as early as in the 18th month while others may not be ready till the 36th month.

Readiness is not only about the physical, emotions are also involved. Hence your child must be both physically and emotionally ready in order for success to be guaranteed.

Are you wondering if your child is ready? These signs will tell…

  • He is interested in potties, toilets and/or wearing underwear
  • He tells you of his need to ‘go’ through words, facial expressions or postures such as squatting, grunting, holding his nappy, etc
  • He tells you when he has done a wee or a poo
  • You know he is having a bowel or bladder movement through words, facial expressions or postures such as squatting, grunting, holding his nappy, etc
  • He is eager to be changed from a wet or soiled diaper
  • There are longer hours between his wet diapers (at least a two hour gap)
  • His bowel movements occur at regular hours e.g. after a meal
  • He takes interest in you or anyone else going to the toilet
  • He imitates you going to the toilet
  • He can unstrap his diaper himself
  • He has mastered the basic motor skills such as climbing, talking, removing his clothes, etc
  • He is more independent in other areas of life
  • He understands and follows basic instructions
  • He has gone past the stage where no is the automatic response to every question


Sequence of Bowel and Bladder Control

Your child will have control over his bowels, before his bladder and he is likely to master daytime control before night time. Below is the sequence to expect. However note that it may vary in some children.

  • First, Bowel control at night
  • Second, Bowel control during the day
  • Third, Bladder control during the day
  • Fourth, Bladder control at night


Potty Options

When buying a potty, you have two options:

  • Stand alone toddler size potty chair with a bowl that can be emptied into the toilet
  • Toddler size seat that can be placed on top of a toilet seat for comfort and security. If going with this, ensure to get a stool which will aid your child in going up to and down from the toilet and be sure he is not one of those terrified of falling into the toilet


Potty Training tips

General Tips

Stage 1 (Before the actual training begins)

  • Whenever changing your child’s diaper, use words like ‘pee’ and ‘poop’ to describe his bladder and bowel movements
  • Get him involved in buying a potty. Choose a child-size, stable one which your child can comfortably get on and sit on. One with a splashguard is a good idea for the boys.
  • Position the potty close by and be sure it is easily accessible by your child. This is because the gap between when he realises he wants to pee and when he actually pees, is really short
  • Help him warm up to the potty by letting him play around with it and sit on it fully clothed
  • Help him understand what the potty is used for by dumping his dirty diaper in it before shortly throwing it away
  • Closely observe his bowel and bladder movements and note any regular patterns such as his tendency to always ‘go’ after breakfast, or every two hours etc. After taking these notes, create a routine which you will be later adopting. For example the routine may involve encouraging him to sit on the potty every two hours or immediately after every meal, etc
  • Get potty training picture books and videos which you and your child can read and watch together
  • Prepare yourself for ‘accidents’ that are bound to happen and be determined never to lose your cool

Stage 2 (Now the training begins)

  • Begin at a calm time. Avoid starting the training during periods of change or stress such as when your child is sick or making the transition from a crib to a bed, moving to a new house, welcoming a new sibling, etc
  • Keep him dressed in clothes which are easy to remove such as elasticated trousers, potty training pants, etc. Clothing items such as belts and overalls must be avoided.
  • Stick to the routine you earlier created. That is, encouraging him to sit on the potty every two hours or after every meal, etc. As he does so, you can keep him company by chatting with him or going through one of his potty training books or videos
  • The body’s natural reflex is to have a bowel movement after eating. So, it won’t hurt to encourage potty time outs after every meal
  • Outside your routine, if you notice signs such as ‘standing still’, ‘crying and pointing’, ‘hiding’, ‘squatting’, etc, which indicate he is about to have a ‘go’, quickly get him to the potty
  • If he has been dry for some hours, encourage him to sit on the potty for a bit, because he is likely to have a ‘go’ soon
  • Regularly ask him if he wants to pee
  • Encourage moments when he will run around diaper free, with the potty close by ofcourse. This is claimed to help him master the ‘art’ faster
  • Encourage him with praises every time he uses the potty. Even if he ends up not not having a ‘go’ in the long run, still be enthusiastic about the fact he was cooperative enough to sit on the potty. However, don’t make too big a deal out of every trip so that he doesn’t get overly conscious about potty trips
  • Whenever an ‘accident’ occurs, immediately clean up and calmly encourage him to use the potty next time. One way you can do this is by taking him to his potty and dropping the dirty diaper in it

Other pointers

  • After a successful ‘go’, show him how wiping is done and let him help you in emptying the potty and flushing (i.e if the flushing sound doesn’t startle him)
  • Get him to wash his hands after every potty use
  • Avoid fizzy drinks, squash and tea which will make him pee more often
  • When he is potty and toilet confident, encourage him to use potties and toilets, other than his. This is to ensure he is comfortable and confident enough to use toilets outside the familiar four walls of home
  • After several weeks of success, celebrate your child, encourage him to share the news with family and friends and give him the privilege to pick his own ‘Big Kid’s’ underwear. However before taking the big step of ditching the diaper during outings, be very sure that he is past the stage of accidents

Tips for boys

  • Involve dad for suitable demonstrations (similar to what is done with girls)
  • At the beginning, it will be easier for him to sit down for both pees and poops
  • When he begins to stand to pee over the toilet, drop some blue food colouring in the toilet bowl and the experience will be more fun as he watches the colour turn to green during every pee. Or, you can float a few pieces of cereal in the toilet bowl and encourage him to aim at them
  • Encourage him to potty train a special toy

Tips for girls

  • Encourage her to join you during your own toilet trips and verbally take her through the process of pulling down your pants, doing the ‘job’, cleaning your bum, pulling your pants back up, flushing and then washing your hands
  • Wipe her bum from front to back in order to prevent vagina infections
  • Encourage her to train a special doll


Common Potty Training Concerns

My child is not interested in potty training

Try not to worry and avoid making it a battle which is bound to make the process so much tougher.Truth is, soon enough your child will want to be dry for his own sake.  So for now, put potty training off and try again in a few weeks time

My child keeps wetting himself

You could go back to diapers for a while and return to the potty after a few months. Or you can patiently keep at the training, but be prepared for lots of clean ups

My previously dry child has started wetting himself again

Your child is almost certainly not doing it on purpose and is very likely to be upset by the relapse. So be patient and understanding and also, investigate the possible causes (whether emotional or medical) of the sudden challenge.

Possible medical causes are bladder infection, constipation, threadworm, type 1 diabetes, etc. Emotional causes could be disruptions in his routine such as the arrival of a new baby, etc

Talk about this with your doctor

How long does potty training take?

It is not uncommon for the whole potty training exercise to last between 3 – 6 months. Some could be longer, others could be shorter. Understand that each child is different. So, be patient even if your child seems slow.

In addition, note that most children will still need help with wiping their bum until they turn 4 or 5 and until they turn 5 or 6, they will also need help when having a ‘go’ in unfamiliar places. Girls are usually faster boys.

(Source: Torbaycaretrust, readysteadytoddler, nct uk, nhs uk, webmd, mayo clinic, kids health)