Your child around the age of two will be making all kinds of attempts to control their own life without your help. Dressing themselves, opening the door on their own (while you hope it won’t slam on their fingers), taking lids off jars and cleaning their own teeth…. and having the occasional tantrum when it doesn’t all go to plan. Toilet training is the first time your child will really have control in their life.
Facts: There is no one right way to toilet train. There is no point starting toilet training before your child is physically ready. Parents who boast that their child was toilet trained at 11 months, were themselves trained – their child was not.
Mind Set & Tips: Are you ready? You need to be. Relax - success is guaranteed. No one ever went to university wearing a nappy. Eventually, everyone is toilet trained but it doesn’t need to be achieved at an emotional cost to your child. If you are up tight, your child will be too. Take a chill pill, adopt a relaxed attitude and be available to help your child. They love you, they want to please you, they want to be like you - and you don’t wear a nappy. Yes, there will be accidents – of course there will. You are the adult and you are not so perfect yourself when learning something new. Manage your responses when mishaps occur and be available to help. This is something you are doing together. Hold this lightly and make if fun. For your child, it’s an adventure!
The goal here is to support your child to learn to be in control of their body and staying dry should be the child’s goal and not the parent's or a result of social expectation.
Approach: Sometime, in your child’s second summer (convenient with the warmer weather and the need for less clothing to be worn), is a good time to look at toilet training. If your child is ready to be toilet trained, your role is to help her towards independence. You will know she is ready because she is between 20 months and two and a half / three years of age (therefore physically developed), she is aware of when she is urinating and/or defecating and she is talking to you about it - telling you when she has ‘poohed’ or wet. Typically, bowel control is achieved before bladder. Being dry in the day is achieved before being dry at night. Clearly, it also helps, if you have an open and pragmatic relationship with your child and they know that you use the toilet, ideally see you use the toilet and that it is a routine and normal part of daily life for all people.
Get yourself sorted, clear the diary and set a weekend aside to stay at home and make toilet training the focus. Turn off your cell phone and do not let anything else hijack the priority for this weekend. Once your child has a handle on using the toilet at home, it won’t be an issue for the training to continue at preschool or day care. However, you as the parent need to get toilet training started and successfully established at home (particularly bowel continence) and then your preschool can support your efforts when your child is in their care.
In terms of equipment, you will need a stool to enable your child to independently climb onto the toilet seat; you may use an insert or supplementary seat on the toilet so your child does not fear falling into the toilet, or a potty or potty chair which may be a bit less intimidating for your child. Make it fun. Sit there with her, keep it light - read books, chat or play a game.
Keep your child well hydrated and have them wear light clothes, maybe a pair of special grown-up undies, training pants or pull ups. I personally think that the less they have on the better because your child is more likely to notice when they do inadvertently wet, than they would if they were in a pull-up and the urine was immediately soaked up. Sometimes putting the potty chair outside on a summer’s day and letting your child run around with either nothing on or a special pair of grown-up undies, raises their awareness of when they need to sit on the potty and facilitates the quick removal of whatever it is they are wearing, if anything. When these little ones realise they need to go – they need to go RIGHT NOW!
If inclement weather necessitates that training takes place inside, keep your child well hydrated and ask them every 20-40 minutes if they are ready to use the toilet. If they say ‘no’, then drop it. If they wet a few minutes later, then you will have an idea of how often they actually do urinate and next time, can be more encouraging and directive regarding visiting the toilet. Be consistent, respectful and supportive. If they say that they don’t want to go because they are engrossed in an activity (often the case at Preschool), let them know that the activity will be there for them on their return, just as they left it. If you are using a potty, have it handy and preferably on a non-carpeted floor.
At this age, when your child is so interested in everything that you do, take them into the toilet with you and let them watch you. Tell them what you are doing. Boys can do the same with Dad and put toilet paper in the toilet and aim to hit it – so much fun! When your child flushes the toilet after a successful elimination, wave “Goodbye” to wees and poohs as they disappear from sight.
Toilet training is time for fun, positive attention and celebration of successes accompanied with much clapping, praise, treats and calls to grandparents with the wonderful news of continence. When things do not go as planned, as they won’t always; no problem, never mind - a quick clean up with no indication of annoyance or inconvenience and move on.
You must be patient. This will take time, but you will get there. Do not go into battle over this with your child. You will never win a battle over toileting and why would you go there in the first place? Your child is learning a new skill and all may not go well on the first attempt. Never mind. Just pop them back in nappies and, ‘we will try again soon’. It’s about readiness, practice and more practice, patience and more patience.
Conclusion: There is no one right way to toilet train. Toilet training cannot be learned in a day. This is a developmental process that your child will ultimately master at his own speed. Your toddler and you have to find what works for the two of you. But one thing is sure, your child will succeed. The important thing is, ‘How’? Modelling, trial and error, imitating and a good sense of humour are the sure keys to success. Learning to use the toilet independently, is no different from any other skill your youngster is learning: dressing themselves, doing up buttons, zips and laces, managing cutlery at the dinner table, opening their lunch-box, sweeping the floor, ‘making their bed’ and helping to fold the washing. It’s all mental and muscular co-ordination in concert and requires maturation of his gastro-intestinal tract and central nervous system, practice, encouragement and patience. All kids get there, but they do it in their own time and at their own pace.
The most crucial element is your relationship with your child – it always is in every aspect of our parenting. A healthy and positive relationship means there is a high trust model between you and your support and guidance will enable your child to begin to see himself as a competent, resourceful and responsible person who views his body with dignity, respect and value.