By Robin Stevenson
It’s summertime and the living is easy, right? So maybe this is the season to start potty training with your child.
Dr. Jeremy Friedman, head of pediatric medicine at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, says there are two good reasons that the summer months are an ideal time to start potty training: fewer clothes on kids (who wants to wrestle their toddler out of a snowsuit?) and less stress (maybe due to vacation time) on the family.
“It does make it an attractive time to attempt this interesting exercise,” says Dr. Friedman.
Ready and Willing?
So how do you know your child is ready to ditch their diapers? Dr. Friedman says to look for signs, including:
Still waiting? Dr. Friedman reminds parents that while children can be ready psychologically to train at 18 months, others won’t be ready until they’re three years old.
So, if your child seems ready, now it’s time to do your part, and that means keeping the experience a positive one. “This is not a time for a punitive approach. Punishment is not the way to go about this,” says Dr. Friedman.
He also suggests everyone involved with the child (parents, caregivers) be on the same page when it comes to the technique they plan to use. “Mixed messages will make it very difficult.”
Choosing the right technique for your child’s personality is also critical. Is your child always on the go? Then expecting her to sit on the potty for five to 10 minutes until something happens is probably not going to work, says Dr. Friedman. The same goes for a child who is going through an independent phase. “Asking him “do you have to go? Do you have to go?’ every hour will likely result in him rebelling against the efforts.”
While having your child pick out their own potty and choosing where it should go may make training more pleasant, “you have to be tuned in with where your child is developmentally,” he says.
So Close Yet So Far
Just when it seems your child has got the hang of the potty, there will be days when he won’t make it in time. Parents must manage their own expectations and “realize that accidents do happen,” says Dr. Friedman. “Accidents are not usually a conscious act by a child to frustrate and annoy you. It does put you in a position where you want to shout and pull your hair out but that sends the wrong message to the child.”
If your child seems to be regressing, Dr. Friedman suggests taking the pressure off everyone and trying again in a couple months.
The End Result
“It can be a trying time, but it doesn’t have to be,” says Dr. Friedman. “Parents need to be a bit more relaxed about the whole thing.” He also says there is no relationship between the age a child potty trains and their intelligence (much to the relief of parents everywhere). “No one is going to ask them at their first interview how old they were when they got potty trained.”