Let’s face it. Potty training your child is a significant event, and ordinarily, a challenging one. But, add the fact that you want to potty train your child in Nigeria, and things become more interesting. The reason for things becoming interesting is rooted in the typical Nigerian mother’s approach to potty training.

Experts say that to achieve success when potty training your child, you have to consider the child’s physical, developmental, and behavioral milestones instead of the age. To this end, they propose that the best time to start potty training your child is between ages 18 and 24 months, as this is the age range where most children show signs that they are ready for potty training.

They also caution that some children might not be ready to start potty training until they are three years old. Thus, it is essential that you study your child and be sure he is ready before you begin, as starting your child too early might also elongate the time it takes for him to be potty trained. Moreover, there is no rush, and as they say in my part of the world, ‘Dem no dey catch latecomer’, (loosely translated as ‘nobody is handing out awards for the first position’.

What is the best age to potty train your child in Nigeria?

When I set out to potty train my first child, various Nigerian moms regaled me with different opinions on accomplishing the mission. The opinions ranged from the best age to start potty training to the “best” way to go about it. One mother told me that she typically started potty training her children at the age of three months.

Yes, you read that correctly. Three months old.

She said that she would remove the baby’s diaper, place the potty on her thighs and situate the baby on the potty, all the while providing the baby with the necessary support for head, neck, and spine. She swore by this method, claiming that by the time her children were coasting towards their first birthday, they would have typically mastered the use of the potty and avoiding accidents.

Another mother told me she started potty training her children when they clocked seven months. She also said that they typically removed the diapers and led the children to their potties. Also, this study showed that most parents in Nigeria start potty training their children before they clock 12 months.

However, we have established that instead of using age to determine when to start potty training your child in Nigeria, look for signs that your child may be ready to start heading for the potty. The signs include the following:

  • Your child can follow simple instructions
  • Your child can understand and use words that point to using the potty
  • Your child can make the connection between the urge to pee or poop and using the potty
  • Your child can keep a diaper dry for at least two hours
  • Your child can get to the potty, sit on it for a satisfactory time, and then get up
  • Your child pulls down his diaper when he wants to go
  • Your child shows an interest in using the potty

Most children start showing these signs when they are between 18 and 24 months old, but some don’t show at these ages and may not show until later. Most children begin to show these signs when they’re between 18 and 24 months old, though some may not be ready until later than that. Also, experts say that boys often start later and take longer to learn to use the potty than girls. My second child, also a boy, is nearing the time of potty training, and honestly, it is a relief for me to know that I am not starting late with him (he is 15 months old).

What method should you use to potty train your child in Nigeria?

When it came to the “best” way to go about it, I heard plenty of opinions too. The common method was to show the child the potty and then rebuke him if he had accidents. So it’s like this: when the child has the accident, you criticize and then show them the potty. Note that before this stage, you must have introduced the child to the potty. That way, when you rebuke the child for any accidents, the child understands why. Thus, you are not unnecessarily cruel.

My research, however, netted me some other methods that guarantee results without endangering your child’s mental, emotional and psychological well-being. They include:

Get yourself mentally ready

Are you surprised? Don’t be. It’s all too easy to focus on the child and forget about the parents when discussing potty training. However, the fact remains that the journey of potty training begins with you – the parent(s). If you are not mentally prepared, you may find it more challenging to handle the work that comes with potty training.

I mean, let’s call a spade a spade – potty training is challenging and understandably unenjoyable. I definitely do not enjoy it! However, it helps to get yourself mentally ready to handle whatever comes at you during this time.

Have a code word.

Determine which words you will use to communicate the act of using the toilet to your child. Take care that you don’t use negative words like “dirty” or “stinky”. Instead, use everyday words like pee, poop, or potty.

Introduce the supporting star of the show – the potty.

As the second most important personality in this series, you have to be deliberate about the potty your child will use. Unlike the potties of old, potties now come fashioned as chairs complete with backrests to make it easy for children to sit on. I remember when my younger sister was getting potty trained back then. Her potty was a squat plastic that she had to sit on and rest her back against the wall. If we somehow neglected to put the potty snug against the wall, she risked falling off if she attempted to rest her back.

Thankfully, our “modern potties” have better designs. So you can start your child with sitting on it while wearing clothes or a diaper for a few days. This way, he can familiarize himself with the potty before the show begins. I once knew a baby that wept in terror whenever his mom put him on the potty. So, it is essential to get them to be comfortable with the potty before moving on to the next stage.

You can let your child go bare-bottomed when you are sure that your child is comfortable with the potty. However, be sure that you don’t make the child sit on the potty against his will. If things look like there might be some issues, consider showing him how his older sibling (if he has one), or you sit on the toilet and explain what you are doing. Children learn best by watching, so if your child sees someone older using the toilet effortlessly, it will help him become more comfortable with the idea. 

Have a routine

Take advantage of the body’s natural tendency to have a bowel movement after eating, known as the gastro-colic reflex. This typically happens within 15 to 30 minutes after meals or 45 minutes to one hour after drinking lots of liquids. You may also consider putting your child on the potty first thing in the morning.

Learn their cues and use them

Children typically have cues when they want to go, such as squatting, crossing legs while seated, grunting, or taking themselves off to a quiet corner. If you have not noticed this, take time to observe them and learn their cues. Once you understand your baby’s cues, use this as a guide for knowing when to sit him on the potty.

Use positive affirmation

Praises work wonders with children as well as they do with adults. Don’t be lulled into thinking your cute little champ does not understand what you are saying. They understand you perfectly – they are even more sensitive to praise and criticism than adults. Thus, ensure that you heap loads of praise on them when they get it right. When they have accidents (note that I say “when” not “if”), resist the urge to scold or rebuke. Instead, say, “I understand that you are still getting the hang of things. You will get it next time” – or something to that effect. The point is that you should ensure you are positive in your outlook and the way you relate with them through this period.

Cheers to you as you go on this “life-changing” journey; I am rooting for you.

P.S: Perhaps you are a veteran parent and you used some other methods other than the ones shared here to potty train your child in Nigeria. If so, would you please share in the comments section?

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