At Bluebird we adopt a very loving, positive and non-threatening approach to potty training. We believe in the guiding “P’s” which keep us all on the same page and we encourage families to follow the same process at home. Praise, Patience, Perseverance and more Praise! The tips which follow are all based on many years of experience in this area and I trust you will find them helpful.
1. What age must my child be?
Many parents ask what age is optimal for starting this journey with their child. The simple answer to this is that it really depends on each individual child, rather than the age. While it is usually best to start toilet training from the ages between 2 to 3 years, a number of factors come into play and need to be considered:
- does the child have older siblings
- are they independent when it comes to dressing
- are they able to pull up and down their clothing
- what support system do they have at home i.e., extended family, nanny etc that may help them during the afternoon if the parents are not there
- speech development has a big impact as this enables the child able to communicate their needs with their teacher, carer and parents
- moving to a new home, new playgroup or new school
- arrival of a new baby can also affect the timing of when to start toilet training
2. Looking for the signs
Those first signs are so important. Your child will begin to show an interest when a family member visits the bathroom, also during school they will begin to observe their peers during the daily bathroom routine.
They may attempt to remove their nappy or even request during nappy changing that they no longer want to wear a nappy. Other signs to look out for is if they inform you that they are either making a wee or poo in their nappy in advance.
3. So, what next?
This is the most exciting part: SHOPPING!!!
Shopping for underwear must be a big thing for them, choosing their own is the first step. There is so much on offer for them to choose from, so let them decide on either their favourite characters or pictures, even down to their favourite colour. Don’t forget to buy plenty of pairs at the beginning.
The child’s clothing during toilet training also plays an important part. Pants, shorts and skirts with elasticated waists are so much easier for them to navigate when learning how to pull up and down. Belts, buttons and all in one jumpsuits are very challenging at the beginning, so avoid these.
4. Potty or toilet seat?
There are so many options on the market now from urinals that stick on the wall, potties that play music, to a variety of toilet seats that fit on the main toilet.
My personal advice is the sooner you can get your child used to using a toilet the easier it will become for them. Often a child that uses a potty may become a little anxious when using a “big toilet”.
A seat that fits on the toilet seat with a step to help them climb on and off is ideal as it is closest to the “real world” and allows them to build up greater confidence.
5. READY, STEADY GO!
Try to put together a routine. I know this may sound impossible during a busy day but it is so important for them at the beginning. Start taking your child to the toilet regularly throughout the day ie: every hour. At the beginning it will really be a hit and miss experience so patience is key.
Positive feedback is so crucial during this important time. So, be generous with your praise. Praise them for sitting on the toilet even if they are not able to make a wee.
Praise them when they make a wee in the toilet.
Praise them when they tell you they need to wee.
Singing, high fives, clapping, stickers or small treats all work so well to build their confidence.
Perseverance pays off in the long run. If the child is unable to perform, reassure them that all is well and they can “try again later”. You do not want them to feel that they have disappointed you in any way at all. Forcing a child to stay too long on the toilet can be counter- productive, so avoid using distraction tactics such as reading books or playing with small toys. Instead, simply suggest you try again later and revisit the toilet at a later stage than being forced to sit for long periods of time.
Nine times out of ten if you ask your child if they need to go to the loo, they will say no and then 2 minutes later they often have an accident. This is very normal. The advice I give is don’t ask, just take them. Use positive, encouraging language such as:
“Come, let’s just go to the bathroom quickly and see if you can go to the toilet”.
Accidents will happen so be prepared and do not punish them when they occur. Try not to show your frustration but rather assure them it is completely fine to have accidents. Making a fuss causes a lot of sadness and shame so it is very important to avoid this response at all costs. Instead, give your child a little hug and gentle words of reassurance which will help them much more. It is important that all family members and carers understand this process. Try saying: “That was just a little accident but we have lots of panties/undies to wear so don’t worry about it”
If your child has a nap during the day and when they sleep at night, it is a good idea to pop them on the toilet before putting on a nappy. Explain that the nappy is there to keep their bed dry because they will be sleeping for a long time. Encourage them that they soon won’t need the nappy anymore. As soon as they wake, remove the nappy and make a visit to the toilet. If the nappy is dry, praise them and celebrate the moment.
In closing, remember don’t expect miracles as this process takes time. You certainly cannot toilet train your child in 3 days so be patient and positive. It does finally come together, do not lose hope!