Toilet training can be an extremely overwhelming time in the lives of both parent and child.
As a toddler, who’s never known any other way to fulfil a biological urge (to pee or poo) than just going (in their diaper), being presented with the prospect of having to control their natural urges, and attempt to relieve themselves in a way they never have before can be terrifying, to say the least.
And for the parent - it can be emotionally taxing in many ways.
Firstly, seeing their child struggle, and in some cases suffer - can take a toll on any parent. There are children who have struggled and held their poop back and needed suppositories, the experience of which many parents recall with a shudder. There is an entire universe around mothers who seemingly manage to toilet train their child before their first birthday (we don’t seem to know them) and advice on how it should be done.
Secondly, parents are often addressing their own frustration. Some parents find it hard to deal with accidents that happen, as the clean up doesn't feel comfortable, and they need the sanitation of the diaper. Some parents have other struggles like change, shifting of a house, a new baby coming home, which makes it difficult for them to be available to their child’s emotions and support them through this process.
Ideally, toilet training should not begin before 2-2.5 years of age. We look out for certain markers to start the process-
Child is able to notice wetness and signals discomfort
Child is in an emotionally stable environment and the parent can be available to be there for a period of 2-4 weeks to help the child work through this process.
The diaper is not constantly wet, i.e. there is a visibility of bladder control where the child is emptying themself with less frequency and more quantity.
While planning when and how to start potty training, parents should keep in mind their own availability. Potty training requires some amount of commitment by the parents - in setting and following routines, etc. It also requires a great deal of patience.
Children go through intense emotions surrounding the prospect of having to use the ‘big potty’. Physically, they are having to learn how to control their urethra, and are now becoming aware of the wetness/smell of their poo. Emotionally, they experience fear - of the flush, an unfamiliar entity, it makes loud sounds and gulps away anything you throw in the toilet. They can also experience confusion, they feel an attachment to the potty, they wonder, “Is it a part of me?”.
You can start by making sure you have all the essentials you need:
- a toilet seat that is comfortable
- a stool so the baby’s feet a flat on the ground when sitting on the toilet
- A clean up kit. Tools to use when there is an accident (baby friendly)
- A fun attitude for pretend play!
Yes you read that right, play is a fun and effective way to help your child on their potty training journey!
Laughter helps diffuse a tense situation, and make the environment more inviting and less uncomfortable for your child. Playing simple yet fun games associated with toilet training is a great way to get started, especially when your child is scared or unsure.
Some games you can play to help bust fear surrounding the toilet -
Using Art & Craft Supplies
Make potty turds using play dough - make it fun and creative, break through your own stigma about the ikkiness of the potty. This can help your child get comfortable with the idea of releasing their waste and experiencing it in form, outside of their body. Make the clay turds go through small holes to mimic push push and potty comes out. This can help your child understand that sometimes they will need to exert effort to go poo, and that's okay. This is a fun play time activity and can create a lot of laughter!
Mix paint colours to make potty looking shades - explore how poo can look different and come in different shades! This activity also helps to make the idea of poo less alien to your child, allowing them to accept poo as a natural part of their biology.
Melt chocolate to play with “potty” food. Get messy! Make the idea of poo seem friendly rather than terrifying! Maybe you can even flush some of this potty food down the toilet, so that your child can experience first hand the process of flushing, which they might otherwise find daunting. Talk about how potty is made up of the food that your child has eaten, and how just as we need to throw out the trash at the end of the day, our bodies need to do the same with the food we eat - by making us go poo! And the toilet is our body’s trash can!
Play the game of running to the toilet when you feel like going pee or poo, you can model this for your child. When you are about to go use the toilet, make it known to your child. Tell them you want to go pee/poo, and tell them you’re afraid of the toilet just like they are! But alas, you have to go, let them see you ‘conquer your fear’ of the toilet.
Make up a fun toilet dance! Use music and easy steps to create a toilet dance that both you and your child can do together every time they need to go pee/poo. Do this fun dance all the way to the toilet, and give them a high five if they are able to go successfully! And even if they are unable to go, reassure them, and simply try again later.
Using Exposure -
Flush flush- let them go and flush even for you, it helps break the fear of what happens to the potty. As we mentioned before, the flush is an entirely new entity for your child. It is physically larger than them, it is at a height, it makes loud noises and engulfs everything in the toilet bowl! And your child doesn’t even know how it works! So it is understandable that they are scared. Giving them direct exposure to the flush when it isn’t them having to use the potty can help them break through the fear.
Read more about the benefits of play and laughter in the toilet training process at - https://www.handinhandparenting.org/2013/08/playthroughpottytraining/
If you are a new parent or have a toddler approaching potty training age, you might be interested to attend our workshop!
A workshop on Toilet Training
Getting into the when and how to (age 2-3)
21st September, 6:00 PM IST