are you ready for potty time?

Getting toilet training right requires having impeccable timing and a great deal of patience.
By Melanie Rosettenstein

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I recently entered the world of potty training and boy, was I unprepared. Having successfully used the potty a few times, at 23 months my daughter was showing positive signs that she was ready to ditch her nappies. At 24 months, her baby brother arrived and the potty training was postponed while I had my hands full with the newborn. Fast forward a few months and I felt ready to tackle this critical milestone again. But, in that short time, my cooperative little girl had jumped feet first into the terrible twos and all my attempts to encourage her to sit on the potty were met with an emphatic “no”. She would either refuse to sit on the potty or sit on it for half an hour then do her business elsewhere. I tried everything, but she only sensed my growing frustration and wielded her newfound power accordingly. The only logical thing to do was to put those nappies back on.
After a week back in nappies, she insisted on wearing panties again. Her school friends were potty training and since potty time is party time for toddlers, she wanted in on the action. Not wanting to discourage her, I dutifully helped her back into her panties and asked her to sit on the potty. Again, “no!”. Out of despair, I asked her teacher if she would put her on the potty once a day. She agreed and later reported that she had sat on the potty without a fuss. After a few days, her teacher said she had successfully made a wee in the potty and soon she was coming home from school in panties. But, she still wasn’t cooperating at home, so it was time to get creative. I filled a jar with sweets for rewards and bought her a well-illustrated potty-training book. The bribery worked and my frustration vanished when I saw the pride on her face when she successfully did the deed in the potty. We were finally making progress.
Timing is everything
According to Sister Jenni Johnson of Berea Baby Clinic, Durban, potty training is all about timing. Even though my gamble worked, she said my timing was premature. She recommends delaying potty training until four to six months after a sibling’s birth where there is a two-year age gap. “A little bit of bribery can be useful and in this case following through with the support of the teacher was a good thing,” she adds.
A child needs to be physically, cognitively and emotionally ready to use the potty. The emotional readiness is often the last to come. A child needs to feel ready to let go of the familiarity and comfort of using nappies and venture into new territory. “Wait for the signs before you begin; if there are no signs, try again at two years and four months,” says Johnson. “Don’t worry if your child is not ready, it doesn’t matter if he or she has to stay in nappies until nearer the age of three.” There’s no prize for the youngest potty-trained child. Waiting until the child is a little older can make it a much simpler process.
My daughter still gets distracted and forgets to do her business in the potty, but every day is better than the last. If there is an accident, we just clean it up and carry on. If she successfully uses the potty or toilet, she is rewarded with heaps of praise. I have also set aside lots of one-on-one time for us, which has helped significantly. It’s taken a couple of months, but I can confidently say we have put our potty woes behind us and she is now very proud of being a big girl who wears big-girl panties.
Signs that your toddler is ready
These seven important signs and levels of ability will indicate when your toddler is ready to potty train. Extracted from Potty Training in One Week by Gina Ford.
  1. He is over 18 months old.
  2. His nappy is frequently dry when you get him from his lunchtime nap. A dry nappy a couple of hours since his last nappy change would also be an indication that he is getting some bladder control.
  3. He can understand and follow simple instructions, i.e. “go and fetch your red ball” or “put your toy in the box”.
  4. He is aware that he is doing a poo, i.e. going very quiet and showing signs of concentration, or points to his nappy and says poo or pee-pee when he has done one.
  5. He is eager to participate in taking off his own clothes – shoes, socks and shorts – and understands what pulling his shorts up and down mean.
  6. He can point to the different parts of his body when you name them, for example, “where’s your belly button?” or “where’s your nose?”
  7. He has the ability to sit still and occupy himself or concentrate for five to 10 minutes with a toy, book or watching a video.

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