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Toilet Training for Your Toddler

Mar 15, 2008
Toilet training often provokes great anxiety in parents. Many seem to see it as some sort of competition - the earlier they get their child potty trained the brighter their child must be, and the better they as parents must be. Total nonsense of course! Trying to potty train your child before he or she is ready is a recipe for frustration, frayed nerves, and traumatized children.

On the other hand, waiting until your child is genuinely ready makes the whole process a whole lot easier, happier, and less stressful. Does it really matter if your little Susie is trained three months later than your neighbors Cathy?

Parents should never compare children because every child is different. Not many toddlers are genuinely toilet trained before the age of 20 months. The girls start at around the age of two and boys around the age of three. Almost all children are toilet trained by the age of 4. Some continue with bedwetting till the age of 5. This should put you at ease. You have no need to be in a hurry to toilet train your little toddler. If you force it before he is ready, there will be problems like soiling that can continue for many years into the future.

Here are some tips to prepare your child for the toilet training and how to know when he or she is ready to start.

1. First, talk to your child about the body parts and their functions. It doesn't matter what names you as a family use as long as everyone knows what they mean.

2. Despite concerns shown against it, I think it is a good idea to let your child witness you or other family member, preferably of the same sex, using the toilet. If you do it naturally, your child will get the idea that it is the natural thing to do. Contrary to some misconceptions, it will not traumatize your child. Talk about it as a grown-up thing to do. This will prepare your child for using a potty to begin with and then the big toilet. It instills a sense of anticipation since all toddlers want to do the things that grown-ups do. You can allow your child to flush the toilet to get used to the whole process.

3. Fix a date for starting the toilet training. Bring the small potty out before that and leave it in a visible place. Talk to your child about what it is, and what it is for. Ask him when he would like to use it, but don't start right away.

How to know when the child is ready? Look for these signs:

1. Can she tell you when she is wet or dirty? You can help with this by asking her or pointing out to her immediately after she urinated or had a bowel movement. Whether your spot it, or she tells you, change her diaper as soon as possible. You want to reinforce the idea that being clean and dry is more comfortable than being wet and dirty. If she comes and tells you that she needs a diaper change, offer lots of praise and do it straight away.

2. The second phase is when he has to decipher the signals. This can take a long time. Be patient. Often they get to know at the last moment, and then there is not sufficient time to rush to the toilet and pull off the diaper. By the time the clothes and diaper is removed the deed may have been done. Be prepared for many such accidents. If it happens too often, it is better to wait some more.

3. Your child will take some time to follow directions and instructions. He will have to be taught how to take a piece of tissue and throw it into the toilet. Do that first.

4. Look out for signs of developing bowel and bladder control, such as clear patterns of bowel movements. If your child's stools are firm and well formed, and he is able to stay dry for several hours at a time, he is ready for toilet training because he will be able to control himself long enough to get to the bathroom. However, don't let the child strain to withhold; that can cause more serious problems. If your child experiences pain on passing a motion, you may have to change the diet to make the stool softer and easier to pass.

5. As part of the preparation for toilet training, remove all negative notions about potty from your child's mind. Some children have fears about flushing water or falling into the potty. You need to address these first. Your child should be looking forward to the day he can use a toilet like a grown up.

If you have done your preparatory work well, you will not have much difficulty in toilet training your little toddler. Remember to praise success, but there should be no punishments for failures.

Best of luck.
About the Author
Fed up with your toddler's temper tantrums? For tips on managing pre-schoolers' behaviors and for advice on How to Stop Temper Tantrums vist Dr. Noel Swanson's website, and check out his hugely popular manual, The GOOD CHILD Guide.
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