In a perfect world every toddler would be ready to start toilet training in the Spring. Once the weather is warm, kids are in fewer clothes and thus getting in and out of pants is easier for the neophyte bathroom user.
What is it about toilet training that is so challenging? And did our grandparents really train our parents by the time they were 13 months?
I spoke at a trade show in Toronto. The focus was on life and balance and the booths included new nutritional supplements, medical advances and fitness plans. All very up-to-date and trendy. But over at the Today’s Parent booth, parents wanted to talk to me about toilet training. So let’s talk about it.
First, let’s not get stuck on language. Toilet training, potty training or toilet learning, it’s all the same thing. The goal is to get our toddlers out of diapers and staying dry and clean all day.
And yes, it may be that previous generations of mothers had their babies trained at very young ages. And there are reasons for this. First, it was Mom who was trained. She carefully monitored baby and caught her before she wet her diaper. Many used timers and were extremely vigilant at the task. The motivation was high. Nothing like cloth diapers, wringer washers and clotheslines to motivate Mom to get the kid out of diapers! It’s hard to judge who was actually trained, but the kids were out of diapers at a much younger age.
You have probably noticed that I only mention Mom. Well that was the case in the past. It was easier to toilet train kids because generally only Mom was involved in the process so there was consistency. Today, Mom and Dad, babysitters, childcare providers and often grandparents, work together in caring for our youngsters.
Then there are these great new diapers. New advances in disposable diapers with the magic wicking function means that these kids have no idea that they are wet. No longer do we see toddlers with wet legs and soaking wet pants.
So if Mom doesn’t have to slave over a wringer washing machine followed by hanging the diapers out on the line and Junior isn’t walking around dripping wet, where is the motivation?
It comes from wanting to grow up, to be like everyone else. Babies learn to walk and talk because they see it all around them and it seems like a good idea. We walk and talk with them and soon they get the idea and start to imitate us and learn.
Kids today tend to grow up in homes with few siblings and many bathrooms. What this means is there are fewer opportunities for them to model what they see. If Mom and Dad tend to use the ensuite attached to their bedroom and older siblings have a couple of bathrooms to choose from, it’s more of a challenge for Junior to watch and learn.
Okay, so those are some of the reasons why we have a more difficult time today. Now, let’s get positive.
As with all learning, timing is everything. If you catch your toddler when she’s ready for toilet training, it can be a piece of cake. Girls are ready earlier than boys. You can consider starting with girls at around 2 and with boys at around 2 ½. But besides gender or age there are some signs of readiness.
A dry diaper for close to two hours is the first sign that she can hold it. He needs to make the connection between his body and his diaper so watch for when he indicates that he knows his diaper is full or wet.
Many families find it’s a good idea to have a potty chair around from when the child is about 18 months of age so she gets used to it. Then when you decide the time is ripe, let her know. Tell her you think she’s now ready to use the chair just like Mom and Dad use the toilet. Be matter-of-fact and relax.
That is so important, I will repeat it: be matter-of-fact and relax. When the time is right, offer your child the opportunity to get out of diapers. If she balks, back off and wait.
When he is successful don’t over-react. It’s not a Nobel Prize. Be pleased and positive. Don’t talk about it all the time. Nobody wants to be asked every five minutes if they need to pee. Do ask, but be reasonable. If you see that she’s been engrossed in a game for a while then ask. If you know he had a big glass of water and hour ago, then ask.
Let her set the pace. I remember asking my daughter whether she wanted to wear training pants or diapers and one day after a week of mainly dry pants she asked for diapers. Two hours later she was running a fever. Obviously at some level she knew she was not ready to handle the responsibility of getting herself to the bathroom that day. After she had recovered from her short bout of illness she never wore diapers again.
Accidents will happen. Stay calm. Let your child help with the clean-up and move on.
We need to understand that when the time is right your child will figure it out, want to get into big kid underwear and suddenly diapers will be a thing of the past.