3 ways to make toilet training easier for you & your child
Every stage in our child’s development can bring a mix of emotions as we let go of one thing and embrace the next. Toilet training can fill parents with a mix of dread or excitement. You may have heard of horror stories about the mess, you are just not sure how to pick the right time, or you are so excited for the next chapter for you and your child.
I’m a parent educator and a mum of four. Although my days of nappies are behind me, I remember all too well the process of toilet training my four boys. I was always excited for them but wanting to make sure we timed it right to ensure the process went as smoothly as possible.
If you are thinking of saying goodbye to nappies and hello to potty training and wondering how to best set yourself up for success, here are my top three tips for making toilet training easier for you and your child.
1. Know the signs of readiness and don’t rush
Children may be ready to use a potty or toilet from around two years old, with some children being ready from as young as 18 months. However, the average age for successful potty training is around 2.5-3 years when children tend to have better grasp of language, awareness of their bodies and emotional readiness to learn.
There are several signs of readiness, but I like to break them up into three main areas:
1. Physical: Your child is walking, can pull up their pants or get them down, there is bladder and bowel capacity and muscle control. All of this demonstrates some awareness and physical readiness.
2. Cognitive: We are looking for signs our child can follow instructions (like, “Can you pass me the red truck?”). Or maybe they are increasingly wanting that wet nappy off straight away. We want children to know what it ‘feels like’ when they need to go and be aware of what we mean when we talk about potty or toilet time.
3. Emotional: We need to know children are ready to ‘let go’ of a situation they are used to (which is using nappies and pull ups), and comfortable with tackling a new stage in development, and coping when accidents happen. The emotional readiness factor usually comes last and the most powerful. When we mistime emotional readiness it can delay toilet learning, and in some cases, lead to severe constipation.
Not all these signs need to be present when your child is ready. The most important is emotional readiness and a general trend will let you know it’s time to start.
As your child approaches readiness for toilet training, they may have an increased desire for independence. They may not want to be changed lying down because they have far too much playing to do! This can be a good time to incorporate Rascal + Friends premium nappy pants into their routine with their easy on, pull up wasitband. The increased independence make our kids feel like a ‘big kid’ and also nicely pave a transition into toilet training.
As parents we can feel very pressured to rush a child who is showing some of these signs, because we have a deadline (like a baby on the way). While this can work out, in many cases it can cause more heartache as we have tried to train to a schedule rather than looking at our individual child and whether they are ready. It’s generally better to look for a mix of signs of readiness and base your start time off this, over any external pressures.
2. Paint a picture for your little one of the journey ahead
When it comes to time of change, the more children can picture what will happen next, the better they go. When we talk to them, listen to their ideas, play with them and read books about toilet training our child’s brain gets a chance to ‘picture’ what will come next in a safe way. The more they can picture it, the less of a ‘leap’ it is.
One of the best things we can do is talk to our child all about what’s involved in feeling the urge to use the toilet, and exactly how we go. We might read books about toilet training to our child, and we might even point out when animals do a ‘wee’ or a ‘poo’.
Play is also a beautiful way to see if your child is ‘ready’ and to increase toilet awareness too. You can talk about their ‘teddy’ wanting to use the potty instead of his nappies and see if your child is interested in this play theme. You can also make the process fun by getting them to choose their own nappy pants such as Rascal + Friends, which will also help them feel independent by mimicking underwear.
While this can feel a bit uncomfortable for us as adults, our child needs to feel that the journey into using the toilet is a shame free zone, and the more we can open the conversation up the better.
3. Connection is your superpower
When you think about it, learning to use the potty or the toilet is a huge leap forward in our little one’s development. It’s a step towards independence and self-sufficiency for both us and our child.
With this big step happening, it’s easy to get emotionally invested as parents, frustrated when there is a setback, and this can lead to a lack of connection.
Remember, the biggest support your child can have on their team as they tackle this milestone is deep an unwavering connection with you.
This means that you will be able to listen to any worry or fears that come up for your child, if your child feels they can’t do it, or is upset about an accident. Letting them know it makes sense to feel unsure, or have an accident as they are still learning.
This means bringing play, humour, and lightness to the process, being silly when needed to make sure that your relationship stays central, and the process remains light and pressure free.
While you may have heard horror stories about the pitfalls of toilet training: if we wait for clear signs of readiness, and focus on making sure our child feels safe, supported, and connected with us, we more often than not only need to get out of the way and watch as our child, takes the next step into their increasing development and independence and ditches the nappies once and for all!
Gen Muir is a leading parent educator, Obstetric Social Worker and Mum to four wonderfully imperfect boys. Gen has a passion for working with parents, especially parents with little kids (0 – 8 years old). www.connectedparenting.com.au
As parents, we are always learning and evolving. If you are looking for ways to feel more confident and grounded on your parenting journey, check out Genevieve Muir’s courses on Kiin Courses. As a Parent Educator and Obstetric Social Worker and also a mother of four, Gen is passionate about working with families around connection and attachment with their children from birth to five years.