Potty training made easy


* This article first appeared in the May/June 2017 issue of Your Baby magazine. 

Potting training doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, it can take days, weeks, and sometimes even months to master – depending on both you and your child. One thing that is consistent, though, are the potty training obstacles that you’ll have to overcome along the way.

1. Your expectations 

According to Cindy Homewood, clinic sister and co-owner of the Bowwood Baby Clinic in Cape Town, when a child starts to indicate that he’s ready to be potty trained, parents automatically think that he is ready, but they need to lower their expectations.

Neurologically, children are at varying degrees of maturity and that’s where the problem arises. Parents think that once they start, potty training is a step-by-step process, but it isn’t. They need to understand that there isn’t a great connection between their child’s brain and the sensation to poo or wee, and it takes time to mature. So just because your child’s saying he’s ready to use the potty doesn’t mean he’s completely ready – it’s just the start of it,” she explains.

2. Accidents happen 

While your child might be successful on more than one occasion, there will be accidents. “Mishaps are to be expected and are just another part of the process. In order to overcome them, you need to re-evaluate your expectations and accept that they’re part of potty training,” says Cindy.

“Pack an extra set of clothes in the nappy bag, maintain your sense of humour, don’t be embarrassed and never get angry. Emotionally, there’s huge pressure on that stage of development, and you don’t want your child to feel dirty or like he’s failed, as it could have an effect on him child later in life.”

The trick, she says, is to try to have fun with potty training. Because the more fun you have, the more relaxed everyone’s going to be, and the more it’s going to work. “Any anxiety you have could cause some regression.”

Also see: Potty training by example  

3. Back to the beginning 

True regression, however, is more serious than the occasional accident and needs to be addressed.

“This is where a child doesn’t just take a few steps backward, but goes back in nappies. This could be the result of an emotional problem, though, triggered by either a move, the arrival of a new baby, a divorce, fighting in the family, or even sexual abuse,” says Cindy. A new playschool or strict teachers who scold your child for having an accident can also cause regression. And severe constipation can cause involuntary leaks too.

“Try to figure out what’s causing the problem. If there’s obvious cause and the problem doesn’t resolve on its own you need to just let it run its course, then consider seeking advice from a reputable play therapist in order to help diagnose and deal with the problem,” she urges. 

4. Fear of the loo 

Children have great fears, and toilets are one of these. Not only are they afraid that they might fall into the loo or be sucked in by it, but also the splashing of the poo and the sound of the “plop” are scary for them.

To overcome this, Cindy encourages parents to put some toilet paper in the bowl beforehand to lessen the splash. She also suggests that you give your child something to rest his feet on, like a footstool, so that he feels secure.

By doing this, you’ll also be placing your child in the right position for a successful bowel movement.

“Remember, though, that your child’s gone from the security of his nappy to having nothing on at all — this is why some children only want to poo in their nappy, even once they can wee happily on the loo. For those reasons, your child might only poo on the potty six months after weeing in it.

5. Holding one in 

Just because your child might feel the sensation to poo, it doesn’t mean that he’s going to poo as soon he gets to the loo, as the sensation might not be as acute as it was.

Once he gets there, he might then hold it in. Cindy suggests, then, that you give your child a book to read on the potty (while you could mimic him on the loo). That should hopefully help him and his sphincter muscles to relax, and allow nature to take its course.

“It takes time, and you need to be patient,” she stresses, adding that you might have to make several trips to the potty a day before your child finally poos. The last thing you want is a child that holds in poos as this leads to constipation. While the poo sits in the bowel, it gets harder and harder, and is ultimately difficult and painful to pass. Your child will then be even more inclined to hold one in as passing a stool hurts — and so the vicious cycle starts. 

How are you doing with potty training your toddler? What advice can you give to other potty training parents? Tell us in the comments section below. 

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