Potty training is a hot topic amongst my friends and acquaintances at the moment with some early accomplishers and others who are older and still in nappies. There is definitely an element of competition and pressure to conform especially as some nurseries will not allow children into preschool if they still wear nappies. This baffles me, as the average age for daytime dryness is 3 years old, which is the age that preschool starts. Now, please note, that this is the ‘average’. This means that some children will be closer to 4 or possibly even older when they are consistently dry during the day. I do appreciate that there can be medical causes for a delay but those are not sufficient to skew this average.
I think there is excessive pressure placed on parents to start potty training when their kids aren’t ready. This pressure may be passed on to the children and can lead to anxiety in both parent and child. I don’t think this is a healthy place to start developing a new skill and that is why I will not bow to the pressure just to conform. I will wait for my little boy to show me when he is ready.
Developmentally Appropriate Readiness
Children may start to show an interest in using the potty or toilet at a younger age than 2. On average an interest in using the potty or toilet starts around 18-24 months , although research has shown that an earlier potty training age is associated with longer overall training time and more ‘accidents’.
In my opinion, using a potty or toilet is a developmental stage, much like walking, talking and sleeping through the night, it will happen at the time that is appropriate for each individual child. Bladder control requires certain musculature and neural pathways to have developed and this will occur at slightly different ages. I believe that children may need a ‘nudge’ in the right direction at the developmentally correct time for them but I also believe that trying to force the issue can create resistance and may make it harder overall for both parent and child.
Fights with your child over their body are ones you will rarely win and even if you do, that means they lose, and what does that teach them? That they are powerless when it comes to their body?
I think it has to be a choice, not just for the parent or caregiver but for the child as well. It’s like food, you can provide kids with an amazing meal and yet you can’t force them to eat it. So it goes for the potty as well. Forcing the issue of potty training with a child who is not ready may lead to long term urinary problems or constipation.
I don’t believe in reward charts, getting stickers or any sort of treat for the display of a desired behaviour. Especially when it comes to potty training. I have heard countless stories from parents who have started potty training in this way only to find that when they stopped rewarding their child, they ended up back at square one. I have also heard success stories by some people who used rewards but my personal choice is not to go down this route.
The aim is for the learning of this socially appropriate behaviour to be more important than gaining a reward.
I think that encouragement, rather than reward is more beneficial in the long run. Rewards are more likely to bring about a short term change but are less likely to produce long term self-motivation for a behaviour.
Encouragement would be more along the lines of :
“Wow! That is a big weewee in your potty”
“You used your potty all on your own”
“Well done for remembering to use your potty”
Instead of :
“you are such a clever boy/girl” (is it clever to go to the toilet??If so, why do we have to do so many exams?)
“You’re a superstar”
Be specific with regards to what is being encouraged.
Positive Potty ‘Training’
I am loathe to use the word training, when it comes to potty use. Isn’t that something you do with puppies? I’d prefer to say something along the lines of ‘developing toilet use habits’. Z will sit on the potty quite happily when he comes down from his bath in the evening but asks to have his ‘bappy’ on when he has had enough. The potty usually has something in it by this point!
When the weather is a little warmer I plan to let him run around freely without a nappy on (and lots of sunscreen if we are outside). I have a carpet cleaner and I’m not afraid to use it.
I will say something to him first thing in the morning, along the lines of ‘Today we are going to do something new. All your wee and poo is going to go in your potty instead of your nappy. Mummy is going to help you to do this. We are going to have so much fun!”
As soon as I see something developing I will quietly and firmly place him on his potty without saying a word. If he uses it, I will encourage him. If he misses and it goes on the floor I may say something like ‘oh dear. This time it didn’t go in the potty. Bring mummy a cloth to clean this up and maybe next time you will get to the potty in time”.
There will be no blaming or shaming. There will be no chocolate buttons or star charts as a reward. We will be spending some time at home until he has mastered this concept.
Once he has got the grasp of using the potty whilst naked , which may take a few days or more, we may add the slightly tricky concept of pants. Surely pants are just a different version of a nappy? They let the wet through but hold the poo. Toddlers don’t really understand the difference or why they can’t use pants like a nappy, which is why the naked bit is an important first step and it’s essential to wait until they use the potty without intervention before moving on to pants.
Accidents WILL occur once pants are introduced and it may even be that we have to go back a step to reinforce the ‘wees and poos go in the potty’ whilst naked before returning to wearing pants. Or we might even try dressing Z in clothes without pants first to see if that helps. Trousers don’t contain the wee or poo like nappies and pants do. Like I said before, pants feel a little bit too much like nappies to a toddler.
Once we have grasped the idea of pants, we will progress to pants and trousers. I know that Z can undress himself if he is wearing simple clothes and can take his nappy off if the whim takes him but I think it will complicate things when he needs a wee or poo.
When the inevitable accidents occur, I will be kindly and firmly asking him to change his clothes and help me to clean up.
Wish me luck and I will give you an update when we start this process.
Tips for Developing Toilet Use Habits
- Stop Nagging
- Try not to blame and Shame
- Wait until they are ready!!!!
- Teach them to change their own clothes
- Model toilet use. Yes! that means keeping the door open and letting them watch
- Keep your attitude light and fun
- Avoid power struggles (more on them here)
It is a personal choice as to when you choose to assist your little one developing this life skill and how you go about it. I am not saying it is wrong or criticising the potty training of a child who is 2 or under or that the use of reward charts or stickers isn’t right. I’m just saying it isn’t right for us . Every child is different and every parent-child relationship is unique. I firmly believe that we all have to do what we believe is right for ourselves and our children.