Parenting doesn't come with an instruction manual, so it can be difficult to determine when to teach your child certain behaviors, such as learning to use the toilet. Potty-training, much like other skills children learn, doesn't follow a quick and simple "one-size-fits-all" approach. Instead of looking only at a child's age when deciding whether they are ready to begin potty-training, look for a combination of signs of readiness that are likely to result in a successful attempt.
Ensure that your child is physically ready to begin the process before you decide to potty-train. Control of the sphincter muscles is necessary in order to successfully get a child out of diapers. This control typically develops between the ages of 12 to 24 months. Some signs that he's ready are squatting when he uses the bathroom, and staying dry through naps and bedtime.
Motor skills are also essential if you want to be successful when potty-training your little one. Your child should be walking steadily and have the fine-motor controls necessary to pull his pants and underwear up and down when he needs to go. You will need to help at first, but he should have enough control to get the majority of it done without assistance to prevent an accident in case you can't be there to help at the exact moment when he needs to go.
Potty-training isn't only physical. Your child also needs to have the proper cognitive skills to get out of diapers. A child needs to recognize that he has to go to the bathroom and take the initiative to go into the bathroom, pull his pants down and use the toilet. He also needs to be able to link the sensation of a full bladder with needing to go use the toilet.
Emotional readiness can also predict when your child is ready to potty-train. Many young children are motivated by the concept of being a big girl or boy like an older sibling or their parents. The praise is a beneficial motivator to encourage a child to continue to use the toilet to get out of diapers once and for all. The process could take days or even weeks, depending on the child and how well he grasps the concept.
It is wise to avoid trying to force a child to potty-train when they are not ready. Forcing the issue or giving negative reinforcement can actually lengthen the process and cause more frustration and difficulty than needed. A major life change such as moving to a new home or the birth of a sibling can also negatively affect potty-training. If your child doesn't appear to be ready when you want to potty-train, it might be wise to put the idea away for a few more weeks.
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