The first stage of toilet training starts with familiarising your child with potties, toilets and how the whole process works. A lot of this your child will learn from observing so if you’re comfortable, let your child watch family members go to the toilet. It is a good idea to talk about everything that goes on around toileting and why we do what we do from wiping to flushing to washing hands.
Talk about using the toilet in an informative way offering plenty of information, but no pressure. Follow your child’s lead, and once their natural curiosity kicks in they will become very interested in the process and keen to have a go themselves.
It is not essential that your child actually uses the potty at this stage. Have it available and offer it with no pressure at a regular time each day. Bath times are a good option as your child will already be getting undressed.
Some children are happy to take up the offer of sitting on the potty whenever it is suggested and wee readily. Other children have a blanket refusal policy. That is absolutely fine. Relax, resist the urge to put any pressure on your child and wait until they show more interest.
As with any developmental phase, the length of this familiarisation stage varies from child to child. It could take only a couple of days, or months. It is vital as said before, to follow your child’s lead and to avoid worry or making comparisons with other children.
This phase is all about practice, practice, practice and more practice. The focus is on helping your child to listen to his body and recognise the feeling of needing to go to the toilet.
Real learning comes through doing. Your child needs to learn to identify the sensation of needing to go, and then figure out how much time they’ve got to act on that feeling. This learning happens through your child experiencing wet pants.
Some parents like to use pull-ups in this phase of toilet training. Pull-ups are designed with this pivotal learning experience in mind – they aren’t as absorbent as standard nappies and have a learning liner incorporated into the design which temporarily allows children to feel wet.
Some parents opt to use training pants exclusively during the toilet training process, whilst others only use them when out and about, and some avoid them and go straight from nappies to underwear. It all comes down to your personal preference.
To help your child experience successes it is helpful to give your child lots of fluid to drink followed by plenty of potty time. Timing is still pretty hit and miss at this stage, so encouraging frequent trips to the loo helps ensure more hits than misses.
Your child is now familiar with how the whole process works, understands the sensations around needing to go to the toilet and can confidently use the potty independently.
The goal from now on is to get more in the potty or toilet than in pants or on the floor. Your child still needs frequent reminders to use the potty, but gradually your child will start to figure it out on their own.
Positive reinforcement at this stage is key. There are a range of options to choose from – using sticker charts, offering a favourite healthy snack following a successful trip to the potty, or some time watching a favourite DVD can all be very motivational. Lots and lots and lots of verbal praise is also very encouraging for your child. Remember to avoid criticising or telling your child off when the inevitable accidents occur.
Stay calm and reassuring saying, “Never mind, accidents happen — next time you’ll make it to the potty.”
When your child is developmentally ready to transition from nappies to knickers and has been given all the information and practice they need, you might be surprised by how quickly they master the art of using the potty or toilet independently.