Sunday, 5 August 2012

Professor Mom’s Top Ten Toilet Training Tips

I am not actually a fan of the term “toilet training”, but most people are familiar with  this term. I prefer to call it “toilet skills”, because learning to use the toilet is a basic life skill that we all need to learn at some point. There is a lot of advice out there on how to “train” your children to use the toilet, so try not to get caught up in all the hype. Beware of toilet training books or sites that suggest you can “train” your child to use the toilet in a day…or even a week. Learning to use the toilet takes time, just like any other life skill.

That being said, I hope that you find this list helpful. These tips have been working for us and so I wanted to share them with you.

1.    Monkey See, Monkey Doo-Doo
The reason that I put this as number one on my top ten list is because I believe that it is fundamental to the process of learning to use the toilet. If your children see you using the toilet (yes, this includes #1 and #2) they will not only be interested in using the toilet, but they will learn much faster. Children learn better (especially when they are young) when they can visualize what it is that you want them to do. So, don’t be shy…leave the door open and let them wander in (and they will!). When they show an interest in what you are doing, describe to them what is happening and then show them the result. Let them see the process all the way through to flushing the toilet and washing your hands. I know that many parents may find this difficult, especially when we get so few minutes to ourselves – but keep in mind that your children will benefit from visual cues and it will help them learn to use the toilet much sooner.

2.    Ready, Set, Go!

Once your children have shown an interest in what you are doing in the bathroom they are ready to be introduced to the toilet. Keep in mind that every child is different and will be ready to use the toilet at different stages in their development. On average, children start to use the toilet between the ages of 18-24 months. This does not mean that they will necessarily master this skill in that time frame – but they should be introduced to the idea. We started to teach Finley when she was 17 months old. She was very curious about the toilet (from seeing us use it many times), so we decided to start her “early” and see what would happen. 

 3.    Keep it Real

After you decide that your child is ready to start using the toilet, you will have the choice between a “potty” or an actual child sized toilet seat. Choose the toilet seat! You ultimately want your child to learn to use the toilet, not a potty – using the toilet to begin with will save you a step (and lets’ face it – who wants to clean out a potty every time?). After purchasing a child sized toilet seat, show it to your child and get them excited about using it (“We bought a toilet seat just for Finley so that she can use the toilet like a big girl”).  Remember to use the real names for things. Your child will be using the toilet to go pee and poo, not `take a tinkle`` or ``have a doo-doo`. Using the proper words will help your child understand the process and in turn help them use the toilet.
4.    Give Pee a Chance

Once they have become excited about using the toilet – give them a chance to try it. Put them on the toilet and just let them sit there for as long as they want (5-15 minutes to start). It is important that you do not leave your child unattended on the toilet, especially if they can`t get down on their own. Don’t expect that anything will happen the first time you place them on the toilet – it may take several times before you get any results. The purpose of this step is to get them use to sitting on the toilet. If they pee – great – but focus on the fact that learning to sit on the toilet is an important part of the process. (It look Finley about 6 times sitting on the toilet before she peed for the first time).

5.    Read with the Flow

You may be wondering…how am I going to be able to encourage my child to sit on the toilet when they barely sit still anywhere else? This is where books come in! Have a stack of books in the bathroom so that your child has something to look at while they are sitting on the toilet. You can read these books to your child or have them look through the pictures themselves. You can even choose a few special books that are only for `toilet time`, so that your child gets excited about seeing those books and going to the bathroom.
6.    Praise, Praise, Praise

Remember to praise your child`s efforts as well as their successes.  This is important to keep in mind for whatever your child is trying to accomplish. Children need to know that you are proud of them just for trying .For this reason, I am not a big fan of reward charts – because they only celebrate your child`s successes. Give them lots of praise for trying and even more praise when they do finally pee (or poo) for the first time. Make a celebration out of it (but don’t go overboard). Simply saying positive words,(Good for you!  Way to go!),clapping your hands and singing a song (see my blog, When in doubt…SING) is enough. You don`t need to hire a clown and buy balloons – this will only be a major let down the next time they use the toilet and they discover that no clown is coming.

Right: Finley getting excited after having a pee on the toilet (she may not be so thrilled about this picture when she is 18 years old).

7.    Recognize the Signs

Learning to recognize the signs that your child needs to use the toilet can be challenging. Every child is different and will have different ways of telling you that they have to go. Some children will pull at their diapers, others will point to the bathroom and some may get very quiet and squat in a corner somewhere. Watch your child closely and learn the signs. (Finley will say, `Poo, Poo, Poo`` repeatedly until you take her to the bathroom.)

8.    Same Time, Same Place

It is also important that you learn when your child usually needs to go. We all develop an internal routine of when we need to use the bathroom. Many children need to use the bathroom first thing in the morning, after meals, before and after naps and before bed. You will start to see a pattern of when your child has to go (especially poo) and you can build your bathroom routine around these times.

9.    May I Remind You
As you get further along in the process, children will often need reminders. Children can become distracted and as a result may forget to use the toilet.  Never scold your child for having accidents! If they do have an accident, help them change their clothes and give them a reminder to use the toilet next time. Reminding them to use the toilet at certain times in the day (before you leave the house, before bed, after meals etc…) will help them master the skill of using the toilet and minimize the mishaps.

10. Slow and Steady Wins the Race

You will need a lot of patience. This is a process and it will take time. Be patient with yourself and your child and remember that every child learns at a different rate. Don`t be in a hurry (easier said than done). Make sure that you devote enough time each day for your child to use the toilet. No one likes to be rushed when they are using the bathroom - your child is the same way. Give them the time and encouragement they need and most children will master this skill in due time.

Note: If you are concerned that your child is not learning to use the toilet at an appropriate rate, contact your doctor for advice.

This is my top ten list – what’s yours? I invite you to share your process of teaching your children to use the toilet. What worked for you? What didn’t work as well? 

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  1. Great post Meaghan. I found your blog through a FB post by mutual friend Carolina M. You may wish to check out 'Ottawa AP Parents' on FB. It's a great group and we'd love for you to join. Jennifer

  2. Hi Jennifer!

    Thank you for commenting on my blog. I was very happy to learn that there is an Attachment Parenting group in Ottawa! I would definitely like to be connected to them.