Toilet Training

Parenting in the Early Years

Toilet Training

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Toddler on pottyYour child must be ready for toilet training in order for the process to be successful and to avoid too much stress. Different children are ready at different ages. Few are ready before 20 months, many are ready at 24 months, while a few aren't ready at age 3.

When to Start Toilet Training

Watch your child for signs of readiness.

  • Your child must be able to understand and cooperate with simple instructions.
  • He needs to have mastered the large muscle skills of standing, squatting and removing pull-ups.
  • He should be willing to perform simple tasks.

Don't start toilet training if your child is ill, if there is a new baby in the house, or if your child is in a new childcare arrangement. Delay the training process if your child is still in the "no" stage or if both parents can't agree to willingly participate in the process. By the end of the contrary stage you will often begin to see a willingness of the child to please his parents and often imitate their actions. This signals the stage of being ready.

The Toilet Training Process

The toilet training process occurs in three orderly stages:

  • Your child must learn and use family words for toilet functions, such as pee, wet, poop, BM, etc.
  • He must learn to associate toilet functions (urinating and stooling) with the bathroom toilet or potty chair
  • Your child's nervous system must be mature enough that the involuntary act of toileting comes under voluntary control.
  • Your child needs to learn to recognize the bodily sensation telling him or her to urinate or have a bowel movement. He will learn to "hold it" until reaching the bathroom and remove his underpants before releasing into the toilet.

This is a complicated process!

Your first step is to teach your child your family's words for urine and stool. Use these words over and over.

Show your child his own stool in the diaper and draw attention to it. Put the stool in the toilet or potty chair and tell him that he can put it there instead of the diaper.

Let your child watch you use the toilet.

Begin the process by having him sit on the potty chair with clothes on. When he seems ready to try the next step, remove the diaper and let him sit without insisting that he do anything. It is very important that you do not focus on failure, but celebrate his successes.

Your child may use a potty that fits on a regular toilet or one that sits on the floor.

The small potty chair permits the feet to be on the floor rather than dangling. Use a foot-stool for your child's feet if using the regular toilet.

Children start by passing both urine and stool together while sitting down. The toilet training process focuses on stool first. Later the boys will try urinating while standing and this learning procedure is much enhanced by imitating their older brothers or father.

The most difficult part of toilet training is teaching your child to tell you before he urinates or stools. At first, your child may tell you after having gone in the diaper. This is good! It means your child is starting to identify the product and the body sensations involved.

Watch for behaviors that indicate your child's need to urinate or stool. When your child starts the "bladder dance" or hides in the corner and looks glassy-eyed, point out your child's need to go to the bathroom. Take your child to the bathroom, remove his clothing and sit him on the potty chair. Your child will probably sit a while with no results, tell you he is finished and then promptly go in the diaper. Don't worry, your child is practicing the process.

It is common for children to withhold stool or become constipated when toilet training. If constipation occurs, talk with your doctor about using diet or medications to soften the stool. Back off toilet training until the child has soft, painless stool.

Going Solo

Accompany your child on every bathroom trip until you feel confident your child knows the words for toilet functions and knows about the potty chair.

Become familiar with your child's cues indicating his need to go to the bathroom.

When you feel ready, choose a day when you have lots of time and few distractions or pressing problems. Spend the day in rooms where the floor is easily cleaned and undress your child below the waist.

When you see the signs that your child has to go to the bathroom, immediately place him on the potty chair. Tell him, using your family's toilet words, to urinate or stool in the potty. You'll have to do this many times before your child catches on, and there will be many accidents. Be patient.

You will need many training days. As long as your child is willing, keep trying. If your child gets too upset or disinterested, or if you feel your patience thinning, stop for a few days or weeks. Then begin again.

When success occurs, praise or reward your child. Unless the flushing frightens your child, let him help you dispose of the urine or stool in the toilet. At this point you can change from diapers to training pants. Allow him to pull them up or down himself, thus permitting him more independence.

Realize this procedure is for daytime only. Night control may be achieved at the same time, but most children are not consistently trained at night until ages 4 to 6.

Learning any physical skill takes practice and patience.

Continue to teach in a positive and non-threatening way. Consistency always helps. And remember, "no one learns to ski in a day." Reinforce the steps outlined in the toilet training process. Children love to imitate the big people in their lives.

Remember, all children achieve toilet training eventually, with or without your help. Very few children go to kindergarten in diapers.