Every toddler is different when it comes to toilet training, but here are some basic tips on what you might expect.
From understanding whether your toddler is ready to start toilet training, tips on using a potty versus a toilet seat and some toilet training techniques to help you on your journey.
Basics of toilet training your toddler
Toilet training toddlers can take anything from a few days to even 6 months, often with a few little accidents along the way, so time and patience from you is of the essence.
Some toddlers might also toilet train in stages as they learn to control their bladder, starting with weeing in the toilet or potty, then pooing and then staying dry at night, rather than having the skills to be fully toilet trained all at once.
Is your toddler ready for toilet training?
There are several ways to tell if your toddler is ready to start toilet training.
Potty verses toilet seat - which one should toddlers use?
When toilet training your toddler you have the option of choosing a potty, a toilet training seat or the usual toilet seat in your bathroom. However, it really comes down to personal preference.
In some cases, using a potty may be the most convenient option, but in other cases, training a toddler on the adult toilet can prove to be more efficient. It all depends on your toddler and what works best for your family.
Potties may seem less intimidating to a toddler learning to potty train. A potty will be the right height/size for them and may even be a fun colour or design, making it more appealing than an adult toilet.
Your toddler will likely be able to go into the bathroom and sit on the potty without any help from you and will therefore take ownership of the potty and get used to having it around.
Potties are very safe for young children to use. They are already child-sized, there is no concern about your toddler falling off or into the potty.
Some potty chairs even serve as a step stool when the lid is down, allowing your toddler a safe method for reaching the sink and washing their hands.
Some toddlers may prefer to learn to use the bathroom with the adult toilet that they are used to seeing in the family bathroom.
Toilets can be made safe for toilet training. Toilet training seats fit on the toilet seat and are designed to make a smaller seat and opening for a toddler. Some come with handles for toddlers to hold onto while using the bathroom.
Let the toilet training begin!
Put the toilet training seat or potty in the bathroom or play area and let your toddler sit on it without a nappy on to get used to it.
You may like to read them a book on potty training during this time so they will start to understand what they are meant to use it for.
Watching a parent use the toilet can be a good motivator, as can aiming at a target in the toilet or potty.
Sit your toddler on the potty several times a day, perhaps every 2 hours or so, and even if they don’t do anything in the potty praise them for trying.
If your toddler won't use the toilet, it may be because they are afraid of it. In this case, use a potty to establish a comfort level. Or, it may a sign that they are not quite ready to be potty trained. If so, leave it there and don’t force the issue, they may surprise you after a few weeks by starting to sit on it by themselves.
Sometimes a previously potty trained toddler can suddenly begin to have accidents. It is important not to get frustrated as they don’t do it deliberately.
If there are any changes to your toddler’s routine such as the arrival of a new sibling or starting a new kindy or daycare centre, it may throw out their usual routine and cause them to seek what they think of as familiar, which is most likely using nappies.
Talk to your toddler about any changes and encourage them to use the potty or toilet again. Make sure you give them lots of positive praise and use a reward chart if you have one. Extra attention and cuddles will help your toddler when they are stressed or anxious.
Try not to revert back to a nappy, but instead use toilet training pants again until they decide to use the potty again. This may take a few weeks so be patient.
Your toddler may go through a phase of getting upset at seeing a ‘part of them’ being flushed away, so they may resist using the toilet or try to hold on. This is completely natural and a part of their development.
Try to remain patient. This phase will pass and your toddler will soon be able to use the toilet and flush again.
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Children grizzling, whining, moaning, droning when making requests or comments- is not a new thing. However, it can be frustrating and annoying for parents – especially when it goes on and on.
Whining is a drawn out, complaining, relentless manner of talking in an irritating tone of voice. Once your child is old enough to talk, using a whining tone of voice can become habitual – especially when you reward this behaviour by giving them what they want. When children drone or whine, they need you to help them by encouraging them to learn appropriate ways of communicating.
Sometimes the grizzling is minor and the cause is unclear. Whining or grizzling for no apparent reason is best ignored as it is not directed at you. Perhaps your child is simply ‘out of sorts’, grumpy or having a bad day. Avoid reinforcing this behaviour by paying attention to it because giving your child attention in this instance is unlikely to lead to a cessation of whining.
There are a few possible reasons for children talking in this ‘inane voice’:
1. They may have been trying to get your attention for some time and having failed to do so, have resorted to this approach.
2. You may want your child to do something that they don’t want to do, so they adopt whining in an attempt to ‘make you renege’, so they can avoid or ‘get out of’ compliance and have their own way.
3. If a child wants something, sometimes they think they have a better chance of getting it if they whine. – (Who knows why they would think that? Whining is most irritating!) It’s very important that you do not to give into any request made via whining because when you do, you inadvertently reinforce your child’s behaviour and your child will most likely implement the whining approach in future. Why? Because it works and your child is smart!
What to do about whining: Tell your child what to do: When you child speaks to you in a whining voice, stop what you are doing, walk over to them, bend down so you are close to them and at their eye level and tell them to speak nicely/normally to you. “Sally, please ask me using your normal voice”, or, “Sally, please ask nicely if you can watch television”. Try to keep your communication positive by remembering to tell your child what you do want, rather than tell her what you don’t want. e.g. “Sally, don’t whine when you ask to watch television”. Sally hears that you won’t want her to whine but you haven’t made it clear to her what you are expecting her to do. By telling her what you want, she inherently receives both messages because her doing what you ask for automatically eliminates what you don’t want her to do.
Model what you are looking for to your child: When your child whines, show her what you would like her to say, “Sally, if you would like to watch TV, say: ‘Mummy, can I watch TV please?’” Model this request in a pleasant voice and using vocabulary that your child can master. You are not disciplining your child here; you are teaching your child a communication skill by modelling your expectation calmly and agreeably. Ask them to say this back to you.
When they ask nicely, praise them: When she asks nicely, whether it’s at your request or spontaneously, praise her. “That was nice asking. Well done”. You don’t have to make a big deal of this praise. You are expecting this from your child and simply acknowledging her when she complies.
If whining continues, give one reminder: If your child does not ask nicely when you have modelled to them how to ask, repeat the above once only, to remind them (in case they did not understand) - “Sally, say: ‘Mummy, can I watch TV please?’” Remember to watch out for being dragged into the ‘nagging parent trap’ where you find yourself repeating over and over your request while your child continues to ignore you. Model to your child what you want, give them the benefit of doubt and tell them once more to be sure they understood. That’s it. Next:
Logical Consequence for your child’s chosen action: If your child still does not ask nicely, provide her with a logical consequence. The most logical consequence is that she does not get what she asked for – to watch television. “Sally, you have not asked nicely. The TV is not going to be turned on. When you are ready to ask nicely you can try again”. OR, “The TV is not going to be turned on for 10 minutes and then you can try again” (You can use an old fashioned sand egg timer so they can watch the sand falling through. Children don’t really have a concept of time but they can see the sand falling from one chamber to the other. It’s also provides a calming distraction).
Respond to your child’s request: When your child does use a pleasant and normal voice, you can then respond. Remember, do not answer their question until they have asked nicely. You will either be answering ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ – You are not obliged to let your child have what she wants just because she has now asked pleasantly. That’s okay. Growing up involves understanding that we can’t always have what we want and sometimes we will be given the answer, ‘No’. So say, ‘No’ in a calm voice and give your reason. “That was nice asking Sally, but it’s dinner time now”. You may decide (or not), to add, “Perhaps we can have TV on for a while after dinner.” This answer may lead to further whining because your child has not been given what they want from you.
If this happens, turn away and pay no attention until your child stops whining. Do not look at, or speak to, your child. You may need to walk away. This in turn may cause the whining to escalate before it gets better. Under no circumstances give in to the whining at this point. Capitulating would only serve to reinforce to your child that all they need to do to get what they want from you, is keep whining longer and louder until you finally cave in! Your child needs to learn that they will never get what they want by whining. Giving up on this opportunity for your child to learn a valuable communication skill, also teaches her that, you can and do change your mind and therefore don’t mean what you say. If you have said ‘No’, stick to it. Being consistent will teach your child that when you say ‘No’ you mean ‘No’ and that doesn’t change.
As soon as your child quietens down be quick to praise them. Don’t miss this opportunity because you want to reinforce to them that you are on their side, supporting them in their learning. “Thanks Sally for talking nicely. That’s great”.
What to do when Whining becomes entrenched and your child is still protesting: If you have given your child an instruction and they continue to protest via whining in order to get out of complying, do not be distracted, ignore it. Remember, at first, your child’s behaviour may get worse when you change your response to whining. Your child may become aggressive – hitting or kicking your or have a tantrum. If this happens, then ignoring behaviour is no longer appropriate and you will need to adopt other strategies. However, continue to back up your instruction as described above. Now, with your child’s aggressive behaviour, you are looking at noncompliance and the need for you to support your child in learning internalised self control – Another subject.
Conclusion: With your support and through consistent modelling, your child will succeed in learning how to speak nicely to others. Modelling, trial and error, imitating and a good sense of humour are the sure keys to success. Learning to talk respectfully to others in a safe place where failure is embraced is just another skill among the myriad your child needs to learn in order to live alongside everyone else in our lives. Your home is the practice ground, a safe place, filled with unconditional love and adults who are committed and available for your child to learn alongside and where mistakes are okay.
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 himself with dignity, respect and value.
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.