The two biggest mistakes parents make when it comes to toilet training are starting too early and putting too much pressure on the child.
Children need to be both physically and psychologically ready before starting the toilet training process. Usually this is between 2 and half years and 3 and half years, but it all depends on the child. Starting too early can result in a longer overall process or worse still having to abandon it midway through. The best thing to do is let your child take the lead, offer them your support.
Pressuring children about toilet training, which includes talking about it too much in front of them, can lead to power struggles. Children can also become constipated if they’re under too much pressure and get stressed or upset about using the toilet. They begin holding, which can make things painful when they finally do go, which can lead to constipation as they don’t want to go again after a painful episode, and the cycle continues.
7 Tips to Toilet Training Success:
  1. Don’t start too early, wait for early indications that your child is ready, but making sure to start by age 3 and half years. Usually they will start to tell you when they’ve done a poo or they won’t like the feeling of a wet nappy and will start to pull at it. Sometimes they will start talking about doing a wee in the toilet, particularly if they have slightly older siblings using the toilet.
  2. Summertime is the best time to get your child out of nappies as the warm weather will mean they can run around in just a pair of pants and they will realise more quickly when they have an accident, and its less clothes washing for mum! Also, some Montessori’s and Pre-schools insist your child is toilet trained before they start the school year. It's also a good time if parents are working, as they usually take some time off during the summer so it is an ideal time to give their child lots of attention and support during the initial toilet training process.
  3. Potty or Toilet? Listen to your child and trust your instinct when it comes to choosing the potty or the toilet to start the training process. Potty benefits – your child can go shopping with you and choose their potty (usually with a character from their favourite television show), thus preparing them and getting them excited about the process that lies ahead. They can practice sitting on it for a week or two and getting used to it before you start. Toilet benefits – if your child does not have an aversion to sitting on the toilet, it can make for an easier life overall where you don’t have to bring a portable potty when you go out and about. To avoid any negative feelings, buy a little step to give them stability when sitting on the toilet and very often a small toilet bowl insert will also help them feel safe and not likely to fall in!
  4. Make your child feel special and grown-up, this will help them to engage in the process, be proud of their achievements and build good foundations for long-term success. Take them shopping and let them choose their new big boy/girl pants. You can buy colourful or ones with cartoon characters on them that they’ll be delighted to wear. Talk to them about how grown-up they are using the potty/toilet like mummy and daddy. Celebrate their successes with family members and siblings.
  5. Reward your child for their successes and dismiss any accidents as no big deal. Some parents like to choose a toy as the ultimate reward for successful toilet training, however this can have a counter intuitive effect resulting in some children feeling huge pressure to succeed that it has the opposite effect. A small simple treat like a chocolate button often works much better – one for a wee and two for a poo!
  6. Make the bathroom a safe and fun place to visit. Regardless of whether you start with a potty your child will progress to using the toilet at some stage. To get over any fears that could be associated with using the toilet, try and make it fun! Visit the bathroom often throughout the day and even if your child doesn’t need to go, sit down and read a story, sing a nursery rhyme together, or play eye-spy so that they enjoy their visits and the one on one time with you.
  7. Night-time toilet training: some parents prefer to train their child to use the toilet/potty at night at the same time as they train them for the daytime. While others prefer to establish the toileting routine during the day before they venture into the night. Either way, it is a good idea to start cutting back on your child’s fluid intake from late afternoon in preparation and invite them to use the toilet as part of their bedtime routine, brushing teeth etc. If you choose to use a pull-up at night-time you will start to notice that they become dry in the mornings when they are ready for training. Night-time lifting when you are going to bed can help them get used to the idea that it is normal to get up in the middle of the night to use the toilet. If you are not using a pull-up, it is a good idea to purchase a rubber sheet or bedwetting sheets to protect their mattress for the early months.
For parents with children who have had difficulty in successfully toilet training their children at night, Dr Nick Van Der Spek, Consultant Pediatrician, at Cavan General Hospital will host a live Q&A session for parents at 7pm tomorrow evening (Thurs, 23rd May) on the Facebook page here.