Going potty: toilet training
Ah, the great poo dilemma. Every parent knows it. At some point, you can’t cope with any more poo or any more mysterious wet patches on the bed/carpet/your shoes and you scream ‘enough!’ Then you decide it’s time to toilet train your toddler. Easier said than done.
It seems toilet training is less science than mystical path to enlightenment. There seem to be no hard and fast rules, no one recommended method, and no specific age that it should start. And achieving success can be heartbreaking, soul destroying and nerve wracking beyond anything you could imagine. One step forward, two steps back (into a puddle of wee usually).
I’m onto toddler number two, so you’d think I would know what I was doing by now, and yet I don’t (like many other areas of my parenting). Why? Because no two children are alike.
Child number one is now four years old and has been potty trained to wee in the toilet since she was 18 months old. Yet, she still poos in her nappy (and her Dora underpants) and refuses to poo in the toilet. Despite two and a half years of cajoling, bribing, threatening, making up stories, buying treats and trying every toilet training system under the sun.
Child number two, who just turned two, has decided to toilet train himself, having recently just decided one day to take off his nappy, walk up to the toilet, stand on the little step and pee into the toilet bowl like he’d been doing it for years. No word yet on the poo front though. We’re holding our breath and hoping beyond hope we won’t be going through another Great Poo Ordeal like we did with our first child.
So what do the experts say? There are lots of different theories and systems you can try that involve reward charts, books and so on, but most of them agree that staying positive and calm is essential – and that the key is to wait until you see signs that they are ready.
Essentially, if they are unable to identify the urge to wee or poo (ie they show an awareness that they need to go), then there’s no point starting.
Children will learn this at different ages, usually from the age of two years and onwards. Some will begin earlier, some later. Similarly – and this may be the most important thing of all - if the child can’t pull his pants up or down by himself, then there’s no point starting.
So wait until the child indicates an awareness of needing to go, and can easily remove and pull up his or her pants. In terms of bed-wetting at night, most children have stopped this by the age of five, however it can be as late as eight years of age. Deep breaths.
It’s potty time
Once you’ve determined the child is ready (which should be telling you before he wees or poos and is able to take his pants of himself) then you need to determine whether you’ll just use the potty, start on the toilet or use both the potty and toilet. Then you need the gear – a potty, a step for the toilet and a training seat that sits inside the large toilet seat.
Reading a book about toilet training or watching a movie can be a good idea. Talking about the whole business a lot helps. Choose a day to start – preferably a day where you don’t have to go out.
Let the child choose some underpants and wear them all day – nappies are now only for day naps and night sleeps. Instead of starting with underpants, some people recommend training pants or pull up nappies as these allow the child to feel when they are wet or soiled. The choice is yours.
Personally I recommend skipping the pull ups (some mums say they are too similar to nappies so the child thinks they can still go in them) and going straight for the cute undies.
Try putting the child on the potty at certain times (like shortly after a meal or bath) and ask regularly if they want to go to the potty or toilet. Give your child plenty of praise, even if nothing happens and they’ve just sat on the toilet. Then heap on the praise when you have actual success.
- If the child doesn’t seem interested, just wait and try again another time.
- Don’t force the child stay on the toilet – five minutes is long enough, otherwise it seems like a punishment.
- Try using a reward chart with stickers to encourage them and reward progress.
- If there are accidents don’t make a big deal out of it. Reassure the childe that it doesn’t really matter and there’s no need to worry. I even told my daughter that I used to have accidents all the time when I was little and this seemed to comfort her immeasurably.
- Make sure the potty or toilet is easily accessible at all times.
- Don’t push the child or show disappointment or frustration. It can be a long process and staying positive and calm is paramount. The child wants to please you so stay encouraging and happy – tension or stress may make them avoid the toilet all together.
by Sunny de Bruyn
Do you have any foolproof toilet training tips? Tell us below!