I have to admit it, the only part I don’t enjoy about toddlers is toilet training them. There is just so much to teach, and a lot of societal pressure to toilet train earlier and earlier. I’ve tried training an 18-month old. I will never do it again. I’ve had much greater success, and less frustration, training 2 1/2 to 3-year olds. I’ve done it four times, and it’s almost time to start on the fifth. And over the last four rounds of training, I’ve learned some simple ways to make toilet training easier for everyone.
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After sad experience, I’ve learned that toilet training children before 3 can cause severe problems with excessive accidents, constipation, and urinary tract infections. I started toilet training my oldest when she was 18 months old. After years of accidents, frustration, and many messes— finally, she was trained completely when she was 4 years old. However, not a year later she developed severe bowel constipation, which required medical assistance and treatment to clear up. And before we start with comments, what I experienced is backed up by medical studies explained in this article by a pediatric urologist http://www.babble.com/toddler/dangers-potty-training-early/.
Toilet training is difficult. There are so many factors involved. Verbal, physical, emotional, and cognitive abilities all have to be developed to the point that the successful coordination of understanding the body’s signals and knowing what to do about those signals is possible. So, after the toddler is ready for toilet training, here’s some ways to make toilet training easier for everyone.
First, get a toddler sized toilet seat that fits on the toilet and a step stool. This really works so much better than any toilet seat that sits on the ground. It’s easier to clean up, and costs less too. Your toddler will need the step stool and toilet seat adjustment soon enough – so just start with them.
Second, set the timer. Until the first successful elimination in the toilet, take the child to the bathroom every 20 minutes. Once the child eliminates successfully into the toilet, set the timer for every 30 minutes. This high-frequency of trips to the bathroom is only needed for about a week, then the timer can go to 2 hours, as well as trips before sleeping and after waking up.
Third, while the child is awake, have the child wear actual training underpants. These are underpants with a thick and absorbent crotch area and I have struggled finding them. They work much better than Pull-Ups or other disposable trainers because the child actually feels the wetness when an accident is about to happen. I’m not saying that Pull-Ups don’t have their place – they are great for night time training, trips in the car, or anytime access to a bathroom might be iffy (think running errands.) But they are also great at taking the wetness and keeping it away from the toddler’s skin. This makes it so that the toddler doesn’t correlate the wetness feeling to eliminating as quickly because there is no sensation of wetness.
Fourth, focus on daytime training first. After the child has that down, then start worrying about nighttime training. I promise, the child will do his or her best to meet the expectations of the parents. Don’t add extra pressure to learn this skill while the child is asleep as well. This will only make for stressed out and tired children and tired parents. When it is time to start nighttime training, take the child to the bathroom when the parents go to bed. This does mean waking the child up, but they will go back to sleep quickly. The interruption in their sleep will be less than a bedwetting incident.
These four tips will help eliminate some of the stress children and parents feel when learning how to use the toilet. Remember, toilet training is a difficult skill to learn. Parents need to have lots of patience with their learner. Kindness, love and patience will go a long way to making this experience a much pleasanter experience for everyone.