The World of Pregnancy

When Should I Start Potty Training My Son?

Most adults of present days have been placed on the potty ever since they could stand on their feet. When we were little there weren`t any diapers, at least not like there are today, so our mothers waited for us to get around 6 months old to show us the cold plastic of the potty.

When Should I Start Potty Training My Son

When Should I Start Potty Training My Son?

The doctors and psychologists of our times condemn the early potty training that is done today, but how many of us can ever consider to be an issue the fact that we learned to use the potty before we learned to walk? Indeed, the comfort offered by today`s diapers has influenced the age when our children give up using them, this being with at least 12 months more than 2 or 3 generations ago.

It`s generally believed that there isn`t a specific age that is suitable when potty training needs to start, but rather this depends on the level of development of the child. However, there are some specific signs and methods through which you can tell if your little one is prepared to give up his diapers and start using the potty.

The Child`s Physiological Development

To be capable to do his needs when he desires (voluntary or not), the child`s sphincter muscles need to be mature enough to delay the excretion for a short period of time. The latest research show that children reach the maturity of the muscles responsible with the elimination of their needs somewhere around 12 to 24 months, but the average age of the complete sphincter control is around the 18th month of life.

So, how does a parent know if the sphincter muscles of his child have reached maturity? The answer can be found in the behavior and reactions of the child.

Around his first anniversary, the child starts to recognize the sensation of a full rectum or bladder, showing signs that he wants to do his needs. His awareness of wanting to eliminate can easily be noticed when he starts squatting or growling when needing to poop or pulling his diapers when needing to pee. During this age, most children aren`t capable to delay the elimination, but they need to start making the connection between the felling of full bladder or intestines and the act of excretion or urination.

Averagely, at the age of 18 months old, the sphincter muscles will mature and the child will slowly start refraining on his own for a short period of time. At first, the child will obtain control over his intestines during the night (he won`t poop during the night), then later he`ll gain control over his bladder during the day (he`ll refrain from peeing) and then also during the night. Things will happen as it follows: while he`ll grow, you`ll notice he`ll stop pooping during the night; then he`ll remain dry several hours during the day; he`ll wake up from his afternoon sleep without peeing anymore, then after a period he`ll wake up dry even in the morning.

You`ll know that he`s physiologically prepared for potty training when:

  • He`s aware he needs to eliminate – he`s squatting, growling or he tries to hide his need to poop or pee.
  • He stops pooping during the night.
  • He maintains a dry diaper for several hours in a row (for example, after his afternoon nap).
  • He`s urinating a lot at once (then several times a day).
  • He doesn`t like to feel wet or dirty.
  • You notice he has regular stools.

All these signs will appear around 18 to 24 months, but it`s not unusual for a child to still use diapers around the age of 2 ½ to 3 years old. Normally, kids are more prepared for potty training first physiologically and then emotionally, and often girls before boys.

If you consider that your little one has complete control over his sphincter muscles, then it means he`s prepared to put him on the potty. If a child is physiologically ready to use the potty, it doesn`t mean that it has the motor, verbal, cognitive, emotional or social skills for the entire process of potty training.

Motor Skills

Averagely, kids start to walk around 12 months old. Once walking or running aren`t an issue for your child, he may show interest in learning other skills through which he wants to show that now he`s a “big man”. The main motor ability is the coordination of his hands and fingers to dress/undress, especially giving his pants down and then putting them back.

You`ll know when the motor skills are improving when:

  • Your child will be able to undress alone or,
  • Your child will be able to take his pants down alone or,
  • Your child will be able to take his diaper down alone.

Cognitive & Verbal Abilities

The process of using the potty requires a complex combination between the physical and cognitive tasks. The child needs to become familiar with his body`s functions, to associate the physical sensation with the action itself, to imagine what he wants to do, to make himself a plan regarding the possibility to reach the potty, to be able to give his pants and underwear down, and after that to be able to urinate or poop in the potty. He must remain on the potty as much time as he needs to eliminate, these actions requiring concentration and memory.

While you are teaching him all these steps, the child needs to be able to understand all your explanations, all your commands and reactions, he must be able to put it all together and to understand the entire process (very complex for him, as you can see).

When you are thinking to the potty training in the light of all of the details above, you`ll figured out on yourself while your child must have all these cognitive and verbal skills to succeed in learning all that is required from him. It all starts with the awareness of his body and his functions, and his ability to associate the sensation of feeling full with the result, in our case with the ability to urinate or poop. The association isn`t made automatically – you need to repeat this association each time, based on your observations: he may start squatting, growling or blushing. He may also stop from the activities he`s performing. – Check this out!

Around 2 years old, children become aware of their body parts, being your responsibility of teaching him what everything is for. Use simple words that you can use whenever necessary, reminding him of their role in the “potty” operation. The next steps requires the baby`s ability of symbolic thinking, planning, problem solving and memory actions. The child needs to be taught that when he wants to use the potty, he needs to find a way to reach it, undress and then poop or urinate.

The child needs to think complex, draw his own conclusions and solve the problem. He needs to understand that when the moment comes, he needs to stop whatever he`s doing and try to reach the potty.

Verbal & Cognitive Signs that Show the Child Is Prepared to Learn

  • He knows and understands the necessary vocabulary for the potty training. Using simple words like pee, poop, potty, toilet, wet, dry, pants or any other words that you use to describe the actions or body parts involved in the process.
  • The child can follow instructions from the simple ones (show me your nose!) to more complex like arranging all the toys in their place.
  • The child can imitate a behavior and is able consider a model of action.

Social Awareness & Emotional Development

This is the most difficult ability to quantify, especially when the little ones pass through all the different stages of development. The components that will help you determine the emotional and social maturity are the ability for self-control, desire of approval and social awareness.

Being able to have control over his body or the environment around him is a powerful desire, a characteristic of each and every toddler. You may often hear him “I can do it as well!” or “I`m a big girl/boy!” and these are all signs of his desire for independence. – Read more!

Sometimes, the desires for self-control over his own body is shown in unintended ways, such as hiding his need to use the potty or an accidental stool for his own satisfaction to oppose the decision on the location where he needs to do it, or even sometimes his refusal to use the potty which may lead to constipation. When some of these situations happen, you should stop from forcing him to use the potty and try again a bit later when he might be in a positive phase of self-control.

Parents are often underestimating the power of the child`s desire to get parental approval. As an adult, think of your feelings you have for your parents. Do you still care what they think about you? Do you still want for them to be proud of you? Most children show the same desires, except the rebellious outbursts that are normal during childhood. The desire of children to satisfy their parents and to receive their approval and praise is a very good method to use in the process of potty training.

Social awareness represents the ability to observe the others around him and the desire to be liked them. At the age of 18 months, children become fascinated by the behavior of other children of same change as them or older. That`s why the 2nd or 3rd child of a family uses the potty earlier than the first child. Around the age of 2 – 2 ½ years, children begin to be aware of the sex differences between them and start to focus on imitating the behavior of the parents of the same sex as them.

Your child is prepared emotionally and socially to use the potty when:

  • He shows the desire of self-control regarding his body or the environment around him – “I can do it!”, “Let me do it!” or “I`m a big girl/boy!”
  • He wants the parental approval.
  • He`s imitating others around him and he shows the desire to be like them.

By answering to all the points outlined above, you`ll realize on your own if your child is prepared to use the potty. Although most children start to use the potty after the 2 years old, this isn`t exactly a rule, and you as a parent shouldn`t be frustrated in any way if your child isn`t able to give up diapers just yet.

When Is the Right Time to Give Up Diapers?

First we must say that is rather inappropriate to generalize and say that 6 months is too soon or 4 years is too late. Every child has his own rhythm, and if the mother talks about her experience, we shouldn`t consider she is bragging or that she doesn`t know what she`s talking about. However, it`s important to know the right age to give up diapers is when the child has reached a certain level of neuromuscular, emotional and intellectual maturity.

Your child will be ready when:

  • He`s aware of his physiological needs and he shows signs before and not after;
  • He walks on his own, runs and he`s even climbing stairs;
  • He understands what`s required from him and knows how to obey voluntarily (he passed the systematic opposition phase around the age of 2);
  • He knows the words pee, poop, diaper and because aware of the potty`s role;
  • He likes to imitate people around him and starts showing a desire not to wear diapers.

Normally, all these things happen when children reach the age of 2 ½ years old, although it`s also normal for some children to reach this stage at 1 ½ or 3 ½ years old.

If all these small conditions outlined above are met, you are on the right direction and you`ll soon be able to start the “potty” operation. However, you`ll need to be very patient and understandable to be able to pass over this period. Whatever you do, try to avoid stressing the child.

The whole process doesn`t need to occupy too much of his time. For instance, a session on the potty should not last more than 5 minutes. Don`t forget that he should now be pretty aware of his own body parts and instincts.

Image courtesy of New Jersey Family
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