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Toilet / Potty Training Guide

Jun 29, 2008
Toilet or potty training can be a challenging and sometimes frustrating time for parents and toddlers. This guide offers a common sense guide to preparing for toilet training and navigating to success.

Toilet or potty training can be a frustrating time for parents and toddlers. My wife and I are getting to the end of toilet training with our son, but I wish we had prepared a bit earlier to make the process easier for all of us.

Most children learn to control their bladders and later their bowels, between two to three years of age. Girls often before boys. Most parents, (well at least my wife and I!) only really start to think about toilet training when their child reaches around two.

But there's a lot of preparation that can be done before this age to make a child feel comfortable and acclimatized to he idea of going to the toilet before the experience begins.

Discuss with your child when they need to go to the toilet. "Are you doing a wee? Are you doing a poo?" Teach them through encouragement to tell you when they are emptying their bladders or moving their bowels.

Nappy time is ideal for these discussions. "You've done a poo. Soon you will do to the toilet to wee and poo like a big boy/girl." Talk about it weeks or months before putting them on the toilet.

Read stories and watch children's programs or DVD's about toilet training (such as Elmo's Potty Time). Let them watch adults or older siblings when they go to the toilet and see that it is a natural and regular occurrence.
Let them flush the toilet and buy a special seat and foot stool for the toilet and sink so they feel safe and are able to easily wash their hands afterwards.

Around the the age of two, your child should be well prepared and able to sit on the toilet at every nappy change. At first it's usually quite easy to get them to sit, as they enjoy the thrill of being a big boy or girl. After the excitement wears off it can be hard to encourage them to stay seated.

Praise them for sitting on the toilet, regardless of their success. Give them a clap, a cheer a high five, stamp or sticker everytime they sit on the toilet, no matter how briefly. Then put them back in a nappy (reuse the same nappy if dry), then follow the toileting routine of using a small amount of paper, flushing the toilet and washing hands.

Praise them in front of others about how grown up they are for sitting on the toilet. They love that! Our son loved to show visitors how he could sit on the toilet all by himself.

To encourage success while they're on the toilet, they'll need to spend some time there at first. It's a good idea to keep a little basket of books in the bathroom so you can sit and read to them while they're sitting there. That first wee in the toilet is a big deal to parent and child!

Put them on the toilet at normal "go" times, such as after waking up, after meals, before a bath and before bed.

After sufficient preparation (weeks or months depending on the child), they will start to show signs of toilet readiness. Sometimes with words, other times through actions such as tugging at nappies or stamping of feet. Now is the time for training pants.

To begin with, take them to the toilet every hour. Don't give them the option by asking them, just tell them, "It's toilet time," and take them by the hand.

Sooner or later most two year olds begin to object when they realise they have to stop playing for a little while to go to the toilet. At this time, don't let them leave the toilet until they've sat down and "performed". They know what to do by now. Encourage them by saying things like "As soon as you've wee'd we can go and draw, play with your favourite toy etc."

Be positive and praise small successes. Accidents happen. Don't scold them. Talk to them and say "Whoops, you peed on the floor. We pee in the toilet don't we? Next time we'll make it to the toilet." You can also encourage them to tell you when they need to go. After accidents complete the usual toilet routine - sit on the toilet, paper, flush and wash hands. If they don't go through the routine they'll soon see the advantages of peeing in their pants.

Once your child is in pants during the day, don't go back to nappies except for sleep periods. It is too confusing for children to work out when they're in a nappy and when they're in pants. After an accident, it's back into pants. Sorry!

Of course there are times when pants aren't convenient. Huggies "pull ups" are great for going out when toilet training. Don't use them like a nappy. But they offer peace of mind in case children don't make it to the toilet in time.

To limit accidents while out:

take your child to the toilet before every outing
take your child to the toilet between shops
take a potty with you in the car for emergencies
take spare clothes with you.

The hourly routine must still be maintained while you're out.

Most children will wet the bed at night long after they're dry during the day. Keep them in nappies at night and take them to the toilet as soon as they wake up.

Consistency between home and day care or other carers is very important. Remember to be positive and delight in your child's every success. Best of luck and I hope this guide will help you through this sometimes challenging process!

This article was compiled with the help of our local childcare centre - The Village Early Learning Centre.
About the Author
Darren Johnson is the parent of a toddler and co-owner of Little Pixie Gifts, specialist provider of high quality gourmet gift baskets, Christmas Hampers and unique baby gifts, delivered Australia wide.
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