How to Recognize When it’s Time to Go

As parents, it is easy for us to observe our child’s habits and to recognize certain signs. This is especially true when they have to go to the bathroom. My son used to hate interrupting his activities just to go. So he would wiggle and squirm in desperate attempts to hold it in. No matter how many times I’d ask him if he had to go, he’d flat out deny it until he went dashing to the bathroom and sprayed pee all over the seat. Eventually, I had to take control and make him stop what he was doing so he wouldn’t hold it in.

The Problem With Holding it In

According to Dr. Steve Hodges, M.D., of the website, when a child retains pee or poop, or maybe isn’t voiding completely, it can cause health problems that include urinary tract infections and constipation. Constipation is when a child refuses to poop in the toilet and holds it in for as long as possible. It can cause pain when he or she finally goes. Thus, as a result, what’s going to happen the next time they have to poop? They’re going to be afraid that it’s going to hurt. This causes a cycle of chronic constipation.

When poop is confined to the rectum for an extended period of time, it allows bacteria to grow. That bacteria can sneak over to the bladder and increase the risk of bladder infections. That’s why it is so important for not only you but also for your child to recognize when it’s time to go.

Teaching them to Recognize the Signs

It takes a lot of nagging and consistency, but the work pays off. If you ask your child frequently enough if they have to go — start with every half hour for example — they may start to associate the physical sensations they experience when having to go. The alternative would be to avoid asking them and letting the moments pass. Don’t do that. Those little moments are learning opportunities.

More than likely, your child is too busy to take the initiative to stop playing and ask themselves, “Do I have to use the potty? What sensations am I feeling right now?” That’s your job!

Besides, asking if they have to go, you can recognize the strange little things they do beforehand. For example, they may hide in the corner, squat down and stare at you with eyes that say, “Don’t you come over here. I’m pooping.” Or, they may cross their legs and squirm. They may even act agitated or short-tempered when they have to use the bathroom. When you notice any of those signs, call them out on it, so they are able to connect that sign with the urge to go. Say something like, “You were just squatting in the corner. I bet you have to poop, let’s go sit on the toilet.” Or, “Instead of getting mad that someone just took your toy, let’s try going to the bathroom. You may feel better then.”

Another cue that you can remember is that children often pass gas before bowel movements. According to Dr. Linda Sonna, author of The Everything Potty Training Book (Adams Media Corporation, 2002), this is another chance to say something like, “It smells like you have to go to the bathroom. Let’s go sit on the toilet.”

You can also lead by example when it comes to teaching your child to recognize the signs that they have to go. Children love to imitate their parents, after all. Try telling them, “I feel like I have to go potty. I’m going to go now so I can be comfortable while I play with you.”

Talking to your child about toilet habits plays a big role when it comes to potty training. Never make them feel like it is something they need to be ashamed of.

Additional Potty Training Resources:

10 Signs Your Toddler is Ready for Potty Training 

7 Signs Your Toddler is Ready for Potty Training

Angie Long

Angie is an experienced freelance writer and mother of two. She has extensive experience working in professional training, including the development and evaluation of training and exam material. She has a background in elementary education. Angie has a 4-year-old who still struggles with potty training, yet her 8-year-old nailed it by two years of age.

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