Toilet Training Your Child is a Big Deal – For Both of You!

Toilet Training Your Child is a Big Deal – For Both of You!

Toilet training your young child is a major event in the life of your child – not to mention in your own life as well. After two or more years of changing diapers and waiting for the big day to arrive when your youngster begins to notify you that she has to go – and she actually does use the potty successfully – is like a day of liberation. It’s one less concern in the daily care of your child.

However, getting to that day can be a real challenge – both for you and your child.

For instance, here is what one parent said recently:

“My son has been somewhat slow in parts of his development, such as his speech. However, physically he has always seemed to be on schedule, but one thing that hasn’t happened yet is his use of the potty. I’ve been encouraging him to use the potty for a year, but even though he just turned three he seems to have no interest in using it. He just prefers to wet his pants. Am I doing something wrong?”

Another parent said: “My daughter seems to be afraid of the potty chair. She cries if I put her on it. I’ve tried praise and rewards, but nothing seems to make any difference. She is two-and-a-half years old, and I thought she would be using the potty at this stage of her life.”

Most children are ready to begin toilet training by somewhere between the ages of two and three. The average age is about two years and eight months. Many parents, however, think that they can have their child trained by age two, but many children are just not physically mature enough prior to age two to control their urination or bowel movements.

You may think that it is just a matter of will or of compliance, but children first have to be aware of the sensation of a full bladder. That usually doesn’t come about until later in the year between ages one and two. However, in addition to recognizing the signs of a full bladder, then they have to have a certain amount of control over the muscles controlling urination so that they can postpone urination until they get to a toilet or potty. Again, that control may not appear before age two.

The same process is true of bowel movements. First the youngster has to recognize the fullness of the lower bowel and then has to be able to indicate that need. And that, too, doesn’t come about until between ages two and three. Not only do they have to recognize their readiness to go to the toilet, but they have to be able to get to the potty in time to eliminate there. As it turns out, both nighttime bladder and bowel control comes before daytime bladder and bowel control.

That’s the physical part, what about the temperamental part?

You usually need to take your cues from your child in order to decide the right time to begin toilet training. Starting too early can create problems as some children become oppositional about using the potty when they feel pressured and this may delay the overall accomplishment of successful toilet training. However, most children, if you are fairly relaxed about the start of toileting training will give you the major signs as to when they are ready.

Those signs include their staying dry all night and waking up dry after a nap, having bowel movements on a fairly predictable schedule, showing that they don’t like being wet or having a soiled diaper, and having an understanding of the words that you will use in toilet training – such as “wet,”  “dry,” and “potty.”

What is the best way to teach toileting behaviors?

There are a wide variety of approaches and both your family background and your cultural expectations will play a part in how you think you should teach your child to use the potty. But, the use of a potty chair often works well because it is easier for a child to use and might not be as intimidating as the regular toilet.

If you have come to recognize your child’s patterns of urination and defecation, you can call attention to what is happening (for instance, where your child is grunting at a regular time after a meal) and then associate this with using the potty (“When you feel like you have to poop, then I can help you use the potty”).

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