How to win at toilet training!
What's the magic word when it comes to ensuring toilet training success? Parenting coach Laura Morley says, practise!
In this fast-paced world where there’s an app for most things and we can google the answer to our questions in seconds, toilet training can feel like a drag. If you feel dread at the thought of your child abandoning nappies and want them to get toilet training nailed as quickly as possible, you’re not alone.
Some kids learn to read their body signals and take themselves to the loo very quickly. But for most kids, the process requires patience and practise. If at first, you don’t succeed – try again.
The good news is that parents have a huge part to play in the success of toilet training. We can set our kids up for success with the following goals and mindsets.
HAVING REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS
In our modern culture, we are waiting longer than in previous generations to encourage our kids to abandon daytime nappies. This means we are trying to change a habit that has been formed over many years.
Having realistic expectations that toilet training is a lengthy process takes the pressure off us and our kids to learn this new skill in a short time frame.
Most kids learn to use the loo through repetition and practise. It is unusual for them to read their body signals in the early stages of being nappy-free and wearing undies. In the first week, most kids need help to know how often they should be trying to sit on the potty or loo, rather than it being left for them to initiate.
Toilet training involves not only the physical side of getting their body to do 'the business', but also the behavioural side of feeling motivated to try. With the amazing technology of disposable nappies, many kids are not initiating toilet visits because their nappy feels dry.
HELPING THEM FEEL SAFE
Just like learning to feed themselves and learning to crawl and walk, it was a bit messy to start with. But with time and practise, they got there. The most important message we want to give our kids is that we can learn from mistakes and it’s okay to give things a go.
For many kids who like to feel in control, wetting their pants and having poo accidents can leave them feeling that things are chaotic. When we bring our calm to their big emotions, they are able to feel safe and secure knowing that accidents are part of the process of learning.
Learning to use the loo is about feeling relaxed enough to release wees and poos. If our kids are feeling anxious or frustrated, this can lead to more accidents or withholding to avoid the situation.
When they have an accident, our immediate reaction can be to give them a big lecture and remind them not to wee in their pants. Then follow up with constantly asking them if they want to go to the loo to avoid a repeat. Using your attention as a tool and saving your attention for when they do the right thing can swing things around to feeling a lot more positive.
MAKING TOILET TRAINING A GAME AND HELPING THEM TO HAVE SOME QUICK WINS
Kids learn the fastest when they feel that using the potty or the loo feels like an extension of play.
When they are used to wearing a soft padded nappy close to the bottom and weeing wherever they want, it can feel like a big mindset shift to leave the play area and use the loo instead. Make it a game – “Shall we stomp like dinosaurs or zoom like racing cars to the loo?”
Make using the potty feel fun instead of a chore. For example, using a Weepals sticker on the bottom of the potty can reinforce cause and effect in an exciting way. When a child does a wee in the potty, a little character appears on the sticker. Then, when you wash the potty, the character disappears until next time. For a little person, this can feel like a fun game they want to play again.
COMMUNICATING EFFECTIVELY FOR CONSISTENCY
Bringing up kids is a team effort. When all of the adults looking after your child are consistent with their approach to toilet training, this helps your child to feel supported. Mixed messages and approaches can slow down the process.
Have a chat with your daycare teacher, your family or the other adults who will be taking your child to the loo when you’re not there, and make a plan BEFORE you start toilet training.
Some great questions to chat through could be:
+ How can we work together to support our child to continue to use the loo or potty when they are out and about?
+ Are we going to remind them after a certain time to have a loo stop if they haven’t initiated it themselves? If so, what’s the process for this?
+ What will we do and say when our child has an accident?
MODELLING THE PROCESS
As adults, we can help them to see that using the loo is a normal part of everyday life. Just like brushing our teeth or having a bath, we do it to be healthy. Reading stories that model the process can be a good way of introducing the language. Encouraging your child to sit on the potty while you sit on the toilet can also be a way of showing the process in context.
GIVING THEM TIME TO PRACTISE
Most kids don’t become independent with toileting after one weekend of wearing undies. In the first little while they will often need to practise on the same toilets and potties to get some success. It really helps to reduce the number of outings when your child is in the early learning phase of toilet training, so as to give them consistency and reduce the variables.
GIVING YOURSELF TIME
If you start feeling angry and frustrated when your child is resistant or having lots of accidents, then just know we all experience those feelings. It doesn’t make you a bad parent.
Many of the parents I work with describe toilet training their child as a rollercoaster of emotions: excitement when their child does their first poo on the loo, frustration when they wee on the couch five minutes after a potty visit, elation when they tells them they need to wee and use the potty with ease.
I always joke that toilet training my kids took me to a level of patience I didn’t know I had. What you tell yourself in your head will affect the way you react to your child in the moment. You can reframe those thoughts and ask for help when you need it.
+ I can’t do this > I am doing this
+ I want to quit > It’s a process that we need time to practise
+ I’m feeling angry > It’s okay to step back and breathe
Before toilet training, it helps to go to the worst-case scenario in your head and prepare yourself emotionally. For example: practise what you will say and do when your child does a poo in their pants, so nothing is a surprise that catches you off guard and makes you react in a way that you will regret.
Learning to use the loo is not rocket science; your child will get it. It’s a matter of patience and practise and they’ll get there.
AS FEATURED IN ISSUE 55 OF OHbaby! MAGAZINE. CHECK OUT OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE BELOW