When to start toilet training is a question frequently asked by parents. With so much information available through the internet, mother’s groups, grand parents, child health nurses, parenting forums, daycare centres etc it can be hard to focus on what I consider are reasonable expectations of development that indicate toilet training is a “go”. There is no perfect age to start , most children will show interest and some readiness between 2 and 3 years of age. How long it will take to breath that sigh of relief and say “yes my child is toilet trained” will vary greatly between each child and family. For some it make take days others weeks some months and yes in some cases years. It is is important to remember a few things in the journey of toilet training 1) you can’t make them do it, 2) yes your child will have regressions and this is normal, 3) accidents are going to always be part of the learning process and 4) the time taken to learn toilet training is not an indicator of behavioural problems or poor IQ.
READINESS SIGNALS A GUIDELINE
Can pull pants up and down– children need to be taught to dress and undress themselves. The more independent they are in the bathroom the more confident they will be.
Imitative behaviour – you are constantly teaching through your own behaviours. If they are copying you in the bathroom or dad weeing on the lemon tree. If they can tell you what to do in the bathroom then they are showing understanding of the process they need to follow.
Can sit still for five minutes – for many children this can be hard. In order to wee or poo you need to relax the muscles that allow urination and bowel movements. This for many will take 3 to 5 minutes. If your child is struggling with sitting try using a timer and do activities throughout the day that involve completing a task sitting still for up to five minutes.
Can follow simple instructions – when asking a child to use the toilet you are expecting them to following 11 steps in a sequential order. For many toddlers getting them to bring you a pair of shoes is hard enough. Start getting them to complete small tasks in order. Provide cue cards to remind them of what they need to do when they are on the potty or the toilet.
Mastery – children love to please. Are they keen to complete a task and be praised or rewarded. Are they enjoying and keen to learn new skills.
Pack away – are they showing an interest it putting things away in a particular pattern or place. Example – can you put your shoes in the wardrobe. This shows they are interested in learning where things go. Can they tell where their poo and wee should go.
No no no – if these are their favourite words it may not be the right time to start toilet training because chances are they are not open to change and it will be something else in their extensive list to say no to.
Sausage poo – are they having soft, smooth sausage poos. Any history of constipation is likely to re-occur when toilet training. If the first memory of using the potty is a painful poo chances are they are not going to go back. Make sure they are pooing daily to second daily it is soft and smooth and your child is not complaining of any discomfort when pooing. If you are concerned then speak to your GP
2 hours dry – Muscle control is important. Once your child is staying dry for two hours this shows bladder capacity and muscle control to hold and store urine. This control will only improve once toilet training is commenced and successful.
“I need to wee” – is your child ripping their nappy off if it wet or dirty. Are they asking to be changed. Are they telling you that I am weeing. These are all first signals of recognising urge and sensation. VERY IMPORTANT.
Wee or poo – use the correct language and watch for signs they are telling you that a wee or poo is coming. The wee dance when a wee is imminent or the hide behind the sofa for a poo are all non verbals that need some verbal direction.
Toilet training is an adventure. For some the journey will be without a hiccup for others it will be one that you look forward to telling you child about when they are older. Whatever the case remember you are their greatest coach, ally and teacher. If it gets to much don’t lose it or wave the white flag of surrender. Re- group, get creative, get support and know that as with all developmental milestones it will be conquered just sometimes in is in their time not yours.