When it comes to potty training, some kids have it easier than others — and so do their lucky moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas.
But it’s perfectly normal for some children to take a little more time to master this important life skill than their peers, and there’s really no need to rush the process, says Dr Michael A Keating, MD of the Florida Center for Pediatric Urology.
As Medical Director of the Pediatric Urology Program at Florida Hospital for Children, Dr Keating provides the following helpful advice to parents and grandparents who are either just starting to toilet train a little one, or may be somewhere along the road to that goal with a slightly older child.
1. Be sure your child is ready for toilet training.
Every kid is different, and despite what you may have heard, the age at which a child is potty trained is not a sign of his or her intelligence, says Dr Keating.
Children’s bodies develop at different rates, including their bladders, and there’s really no reason to push a child into potty training if they haven’t developed the physiologic or behavioral maturity to handle it.
Kids who are able to communicate that they need to go to the bathroom, through language or pulling on their diapers, are more prepared for the training process and might be more interested in pursuing it.
2. Start out slowly, and don’t get frustrated.
Establish a related vocabulary with your child or grandchild. Determine the words you’ll use for their bathroom needs (going “pee pee” or “poo poo”), and a name for the toilet.
When you’re ready, obtain a potty chair. Have the child practice sitting on it while fully clothed. Next, practice it without diapers and see how things go.
Pick out specific times when they will try to use the toilet, such as just before bath time, or 20 to 30 minutes after a meal.
Eventually, you can begin transitioning your child to pull-ups and underwear, which should be a reward for their progress.
3. Anticipate accidents, and practice positive reinforcement.
Remember that there is no room for punishment in toilet training a child, and that there’s really no reason to rush a child who isn’t ready for it.
According to Dr Keating, just 25-30 percent of kids are fully toilet trained when they are two years old — but by age three, about 98 percent will have mastered it.
Those who still haven’t quite made it by then will start to realize that they are the only ones still in diapers, and usually catch up soon after.
4. Identify foods that go through your child or grandchild.
Sometimes even after kids are fully potty trained, they can begin having problems.
Often enough, this is due to constipation; the bowel may be pushing on the bladder. This increases the chances of a child wetting the bed when fully asleep, and can also lead to serious infections, particularly in girls.
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5. Understand that bedwetting is extremely common.
At three years old, most kids may be fully toilet trained during the day — but about half still wet the bed at night.
If this sounds familiar, be patient; your child’s bladder will gradually mature. Making sure that they are eating the appropriate foods to keep their bowels moving can also help reduce the incidence of bedwetting.
6. When necessary, consult a physician about potty training or bedwetting issues.
If the child in your life is having problems and is considerably behind their peers, or if there’s something happening that you feel is concerning, it’s a good idea to visit your pediatrician or a pediatric urologist.
If they are still wetting the bed by age seven or eight, there may be an underlying issue that needs resolving.