Thursday, March 19, 2009


Toilet Teaching

Signs of readiness in your child:
Stays dry for a few hours at a time.
Understands words like potty, wet and dry.
Participates in dressing and undressing.
Follows simple directions.
Appears to know he is about to go.

Preparing your child:
Teach child the words for bathroom functions and body parts.
Allow child to observe others using the toilet and explain the steps involved.
Have child assist in dressing and undressing
Read child books, watch videos about toilet learning.
Get a potty chair/toilet topper and explain that it is his/her chair.

Changing from diapers to pants:
Transition all toileting activities to the bathroom. Stop using a changing table. Keep all toileting items within child’s reach and have him/her responsible for getting them and using them to their ability.

Have child wear loose-fitting training pants and clothing. This is not the time for a lot of buttons, zippers and overalls. S/he needs pull-and-go clothing.

Provide reminders to go to the potty, and don’t ask if s/he needs to go potty the answer will usually be no, even if s/he does. Use a timer and take child in regularly every 2 hours. Encourage dry pants.

Be sensitive to child’s fear, if any, of flushing.

Place poop into the toilet every time out of the Pull-Up (or diaper) and have child flush it to build an understanding of that is where it belongs.

Practice the entire process with a doll or stuffed animal if the child shows interest.

Keep wipes, Pull-Ups/underwear, and clothing changes where the child can reach them independently. The child should be able to change a wet Pull-Up by him/herself and encouraged and allowed to do so.

Expect accidents and be relaxed about them, helping the child to clean up and change clothing to the best of their ability with your follow-up. Make the child responsible for their own toileting. Toilet training is the first thing that s/he has complete control over and will or will not use that control. Don’t shame or punish.

Begin when family environment is calm, without new or upsetting events, such as new baby, new job, a move or holidays.

It is hard for a child to stop an activity to go potty. Follow a not so desirable activity (potty) by a desirable activity (story, outside).

Make it a given that before going to bed, going out to play, leaving the house in the car, eating, etc., everyone goes potty and washes their hands, including the potty training child. Then it becomes routine, something that will need to happen anyway once the child is potty trained. Build in time for this routine.

Make it a routine that the child is sat on the potty immediately after waking up. S/he usually will need to go at that time and will learn to hold it until you get him/her there. This is non-negotiable. Leave the child there with a toy or book until s/he goes. If the child gets up, return him/her to the potty. This is the one time of the day that you can guarantee they have to go, and provides the perfect, consistent scenario to establish that this is what we do now, absolutely every morning, no matter what. Consistency is key!

Children know that Pull-Ups are the same as diapers. I have seen potty trained children suddenly go in their pants when placed back into a Pull-Up. Why make the effort to go to the potty when they can comfortably go where ever they are and keep doing what they want to do?
The reasons for moving from diapers to Pull-Ups are to utilize the feel-and-learn aspect many of them have now so that they can feel some wetness when they go, and to learn the behaviors of pulling the pants up and down to go. The wetness aspect can also be achieved by placing a strip of paper towel into the diaper at every change.

Once you transition to Pull-Ups and again to underwear, do not go back to diapers! Using Pull-Ups at night after transitioning to underwear is fine.

When the child is transitioned to Pull-Ups, act as if they are underwear when changing the child. Have them stand up and bend over to be wiped down and wipe with toilet paper for poop, placing it in the toilet. Do not have them lay down to be changed.

Once the child shows a good understanding of potty training, the most effective thing you can do is to transition to 5-ply training pants with plastic pants over them. You will need many sets at first. This is a messy process but highly effective. It is a huge wake up call to a child when they feel that soaking wetness all over themselves.

A good activity for quick results is to have a potty boot camp. By taking two consecutive days and devoting them to potty training your child. This is the time to give him/her all the juice, kool-aid or other coveted beverage s/he can drink and loading them up with it. Camp out in the bathroom (hopefully tile) with books and toys, or somewhere else in the house or outside in a tent with a plastic drop cloth underneath and a potty chair or toilet topper at the ready.
In the beginning, offer incentives and hold potty parties for their accomplishments. As success is gained, transition to celebrating new skills, such as staying dry, asking to go, or pooping in the toilet.

Before making the decision to potty train, ensure that all care providers are equally committed to the process. If you decided that, “Oh, it’s vacation time and we don’t really want to mess with it this week,” then your child will regress. This is a huge control issue for your child and you must be committed to making it work for your child or it can lead to feelings of shame, inadequacy, frustration, fear, and confusion, rather than empowerment and pride.

Remember that this is a skill. It takes time for the concepts and steps to come together, and it takes practice to build the muscle memory necessary for success.

Girls are born with the physical ability to be potty trained. Boys are not. Boys develop the muscles necessary to control their bladder usually by the age of three. However, it is not uncommon for these muscles to not develop within this time frame, or to not develop fully at all. That is why there are thirteen-year-old boys who still wet the bed. Please keep this in mind if you have a boy to toilet train. If there are continuous problems, it may be that they are physically unable to be potty trained at this time. Especially at night when the muscles relax.
Nighttime dryness and pooping in the toilet may follow much later than daytime dryness.

Good books:
Everyone Poops
I’m a Big Kid Now

Good Websites:

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