Tis the Season for Potty Training!

Posted by Britney Peterson
Britney Peterson
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on Thursday, 20 June 2013 in Parent Education

If you are the parent of a Toddler the good news is the days of diapers will soon be over.  The bad news is, it won't happen overnight.

There is a huge difference between Toilet Learning and Toilet Training.  The ultimate goal of toilet use is that little ones become independent.  Training a child usually results in the child training the adult to watch for signs that indicate we better get to the bathroom NOW.  Of course, toilet learning does not happen overnight but works for the purpose of children becoming independent in their toilet use.  It empowers the child to be involved in the process.




What Can You Expect From Your Child Developmentally?

Around 12 months children commonly become interested in the bathroom.  Playing in the water, exploring, and watching parents or siblings is common.

Around 15 months children become interested in wearing underwear and is dressing and/or undressing themselves.

Between 13 - 15 months children may become interested in sitting on the toilet.

Around 18 months children enter a sensitive period in which they can most easily gain control of their much more developed nervous system.  Most children have both the physical ability and the interest to control their bladder and bowel.  This is an ideal time (if the child has shown previous appropriate signs) to put the child in underwear.  It can be helpful to introduce toileting before the "Terrible Two's" set in.


How do I know if my child is ready?

Physical signs of readiness include:

  • Can stay dry for longer periods of time (2+ hours or overnight)
  • Knows the feelings that signal they need to use the bathroom
  • Can pull pants up and down independently
  • Can get themselves to the toilet independently (walking)
  • Can get on and off the toilet independently
  • Recognizes when they are having a bowel movement
  • Briefly postpones urges when awake
Mental and Language readiness include:
  • Can follow simple directions
  • Can point to wet or soiled clothes and asks to be changed
  • Pays attention to physical signals when they are otherwise engaged (this is a challenge for most children and the common result of accidents)
  • Knows the words for using the toilet and can tell as adult
  • Has asked to wear underwear
  • Understands the purposes of the toilet
  • Prefers clean diapers and likes to be changed immediately
  • Understands key words such as potty, dry, wet and clean
  • Understands the connection between using the toilet and having dry pants
  • Able to communicate either with words or with gestures
Emotional readiness includes:
  • Seeks privacy when going in diaper
  • Shows interest in using the toilet - may want to put paper in and flush (even if they haven't been able to "go")
  • Shows curiosity at other people's toilet habits
  • Has decided he/she wants to use the toilet
  • Not afraid of the toilet
  • Wants to wear underpants and use the toilet
What is the best way to approach toilet training?
Be matter-of-fact
Avoid the power struggle
Overlook failures
Avoid pressure or punishment
Don't lecture
Avoid constant reminders
Avoid extreme excitement or anger
How do and I start and when is the right time?
Start slow at child's first interest
Allow child in the bathroom with you or siblings when you use the toilet
Start with simple things like:
Practicing flushing
Change diapers in the bathroom
Change diapers standing up (when possible)
Are there times I should avoid Toilet Learning?
Any major changes in the child's life:
New sibling, new school, new house
Switching from crib to bed
Weaning of bottles or pacifiers
Major illnesses
Sleep deprived
Any other stressful situations
What should I do when my child has an accident?
Accidents WILL happen....but it's okay, its a learning process.
The time line will be different with all children. For some it will happen quickly and for others it will take more time.
Some children wet the bed up until 8 years old, this is normal and no cause for concern.
Allow children to change their own clothing with minimal help when they have an accident.
What are the best diapers to use during the Toilet Learning process?
Once your child has begun the process of using the toilet and has been introduced to cloth underwear it is important that you don't go back to disposable diapers except at bed time.  Pull-ups are a glorified diaper and because they look and feel to the child like a diaper they prevent a child from adjusting sensorially to underwear.

How should I reward my child when they are successful using the toilet?
If a child gets a reward for doing something that is a normal part of development, it can lead to a child expecting a reward for any accomplishment.  Sometimes, rewards put undo pressure on the child and cause anxiety.  It is beneficial for children to learn to follow their internal instincts, reach  milestones individually and at the appropriate and normal stage in their development, and learn early to appreciate the intrinsic value of accomplishments.

What if my child is afraid?
Fear is a normal reaction for children when it comes to Toilet Learning.  It is important to address fears before beginning Toilet Learning.
When you do decide its time to start the process its important to make sure that all of the child's care givers are on the same page.  The routine should be consistent for the child no matter who is caring for them.  Send your child with a lot of extra clothing when they are with a care giver.  Also, be sure that your child is dressed in clothes that they can get on and off themselves.  (Avoid belts, too many layers, etc.)
  • BE CALM!
  • RELAX!!!
Thank you to Alia Boyle Hovius for gathering and sharing this information.