Toilet Training

A very important question for most parents is when to begin potty training a child. You may have already been told by your elders that a child should be potty trained in the first year itself. The sad reality is; however, that before about 2 years of age it is not the child that is trained, but the parent. You can learn to anticipate and prevent but at this stage she has not even learnt to associate that stuff with herself. And nor does she have any control over herself as yet.

True toilet training means helping a child to recognize his own full bowel or bladder and then to do something about it-like telling his mother or going to the pot. He cannot begin to be trained until he can recognize his own ‘need to go’.

Until around 15 months old your child passes bowels and urine automatically. He doesn’t know when he is doing it or even when he has done it. By 1 ½ year he connects the feeling of urination or passing a motion what is produced. Now he knows after he has performed but still doesn’t know when he is going to do so.

Physiological readiness begins only after 20 months or so

Signs of potty readiness you should watch for –
– Regularity and predictability of bowel movements.
– Awareness of such movements in the toddler.
– An interest in being clean and dry.
– Ability to communicate the need.
– Ability to pull down underpants.
– Curiosity in the bathroom habits of others and a desire to imitate these habits.

Bowel movement control will come before bladder control. Between noticing the sensations of a loaded rectum and actually passing the motion a child has plenty of time to get to the pot. But there is no time at all between noticing a coming pee and producing a flood.

When the majority of signs point to his readiness to be trained, try these tips for making the training easier on both of you-

  • Switch from nappies to underpants.
  • Bare his bottom occasionally so that he notices his body functions
  • Watch him closely to pick up minute signals just before he needs to go sit on the potty.
  • Check his timings closely and encourage him to sit on the potty when he is due for a bowel movement.
  • Don’t force him to do anything he doesn’t want to do or the training sessions will be completely unproductive.
  • Make a ‘sh…’ sound or turn on the tap to encourage the flow of urine.
  • Remember, even if he reports after the event, it’s a step in the right direction
  • Be an enthusiastic audience but not so enthusiastic that your toddler gets suspicious and uncooperative.
  • Motivate him by explaining that sitting on potties is what older children do or by giving small rewards. Children like to imitate their parents, so can try explaining to him how mammy and papa sit at the potty.
  • Show him how to check himself for dryness regularly. Make a habit of asking him regularly but casually whether he needs to go “potty”.
  • Be patient with relapses.

What not to do : –

  • Don’t expect too much too soon.
  • Don’t punish, scold or ridicule for failure to get it right.
  • Don’t deny drinks especially at night, in the hope of preventing bedwetting.
  • Don’t give suppositories or enemas to encourage bowel movements at the time of your choosing. Such a practice can be extremely dangerous.
  • Don’t nag him – it will only build up his resistance besides making him self-conscious and possibly constipated.
  • Don’t force the issue (or the child) to sit or remain on the potty.
  • Don’t make toilet training good or bad – it is just a skill that he will eventually acquire, not a statement of his worthiness or otherwise.
  • Don’t discuss progress or lack of it in front of the child.
    Don’t take slow progress personally – it is not a reflection on you or your parenting style.
  • Don’t give up hope.

Bladder training willcome once the child learns to ‘clench his bottoms’ for momentary control over coming urine. The muscles that enable him to do this are too low down for efficient control till his body is ready for it.

Even after she becomes fairly proficient, accidents will still happen. The main causes are –
– Stress – any major change will trigger accidents.
– Fatigue
– Excitement
– Concentration on some other activity
– Parental pressure
– Waiting until the last minute or inability to lower the pants fast enough.
– Urinary Tract Infection.
– Physical problem causing leakage

In case of the last two medical treatment should be sought. But such cases are rare – if you are patient, you may find that the dreaded battle never takes place at all. Once a child finds out that “dry” is better than “wet”, she will learn sooner or later to use the potty. So don’t worry – a relaxed approach is much more likely to get you quick and positive results than worrying.

Related Links

An infant’s point of view
Toddler concerns

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