It’s the moment you’ve been dreading since you bought your first packet of “walker” nappies and realised, “Hmm, we should think about toilet training soon…”
Teaching your little one to use the toilet is no walk in the park, but if you time it just right and go in with a plan, you might just escape this milestone unscathed.
Toilet training a toddler is an interesting experience. There will be unavoidable “accidents”. There will be tears — yours and theirs. There will be many, many underwear changes in one day, more than you ever thought were possible.
But that’s just one side of the coin. On the flip side of the coin is the very welcome knowledge that toilet training doesn’t have to encompass several months of frustrating, frequent and fruitless trips to the loo!
In fact, the whole process can be simplified if you time your toilet training schedule to happen during the ideal age range and treat toilet training as exactly what is it: just another milestone in your toddler’s extraordinary development.
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What is the ideal age to begin toilet training?
“Unequivocally, potty training is easiest when done between the ages of 20-30 months,” explains Jamie Glowacki, author of Oh Crap. Potty training.
“It certainly can be done before and it can be done after those ages. Most children younger than 20 months won’t connect the dots as fast, which means you’ll be more responsible for acting on their cues, rather than them learning to act on their own. However, before 20 months is unbelievably easier than after 30 months. Kids over 30 months are that much smarter and much more skilled at manipulation. They know choice and will.”
Should you use stickers and treats as rewards?
While many parents attest to the power of treats and rewards for getting their little ones to use the toilet, Glowacki is not an advocate of this method.
“I like to compare toilet training to learning to walk. I’ve always been amazed by kids learning to walk. Let’s face it; they get around much faster by crawling. So why take on this new skill? It’s because it’s in our nature as humans to walk upright. It’s also in our nature to pee and poop in designated areas,” she explains.
Think of when your child learned to walk. It’s likely that you watched them constantly, covered sharp edges with your hands and cheered them on when they made their first few steps.
“When she fell and cried, you picked her up, dusted her off and had her try again. But did you give her stickers or M&Ms for learning to walk? Did you beg and plead and ask her a million times a day if she felt like walking? Probably not!” Glowacki says.
“Remember: Peeing and pooping are primal behaviours. We don’t have to teach them how to pee or poop. You are simply teaching your child where to put their waste.”
How long should toilet training take?
The good news? “It takes roughly three days for the average child to get over the major hump of potty training,” Glowacki says.
But you have to keep in mind that every child is unique and will learn at their own pace. As a general rule, “Most kids will take about three to seven days to ‘click’. Others may take longer, others shorter.”