I've trained my share of potty goers over the years and would like to share three important related facts to start:
1. When children are ready, things will go much more smoothly, so timing is everything.
2. Too early and frustration and battles of will ensue -- no one is happy and potty learning goes on too long.
3. Too late and habits have formed that are difficult to break. Potty training becomes a stressful race against the clock to be ready for preschool instead of a naturally occurring life event.
Montessori-based educators state the sensitive period for potty training is between 12 months and 18 months, which is right for some children. Other experts say that the parent is the one being trained, as they are responsible for making sure the child sits on the potty at specified times of the day, but still it can be successful.
In my experience, 18 months to up to 2 1/2 years is the window of time that seems successful for most children.
In order to begin using the potty for bowel movements*, children need:
1. An understanding of the language of their body parts and functions
2. A predictable or regular schedule of bowel movements
3. Practice in pulling pants (loose fitting and elastic waist) up and down themselves
4. A parent or caregiver who is willing to dedicate a period of time to the initial learning process (at least one full week of consistency and routine if possible. If not, a long 4-day weekend may get you started on the road to success).
This step is especially important as the child will need guidance, reminders, and positive reinforcement to achieve this huge developmental milestone! This will mean missing story time at the library or other scheduled activities, but it will be worth it.
*Urination sensations can be more complex for children to understand. The best indicator of physical readiness for urination is diaper dryness after a nap period. A child may still need a daily diaper, pull-up, or training underwear for occasional wetness, but may use the potty for all bowel movements until he or she can control urination.
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