Wednesday, March 30, 2011

How To: Toilet Train Toddlers

It appears to be that time again.  New baby on the way, freshly minted two year old in the house...yes, it is definitely that time.   As I am brushing up on my technique in preparation for Jonah's big day, I thought I would re-post an old blog on the topic.  I know everyone has differing opinions regarding the topic - training versus learning, and so on.  I find this technique to be a combination of the two: you give your child an expectation and they learn how to live up to it.  I hope my thoughts are helpful, and if you have any questions, please ask!

Over the years I have been asked many time to share the key to our success at toilet training.  I am no expert, but I have found a method that works well for us.  Every family is different and every child is different so this may not be your cup of tea, and that is fine!

The 3 kids I have trained have been of different dispositions across the board. The earliest was trained at 21 months, the latest was 2 years 3 months. This is how I managed it:

I follow most of the suggestions outlined in "Toilet Training In Less Than A Day." I've read this book several times and I think it is an excellent place to start.  I try and brush up on it before I train each child to refresh my memory.

I use the "Readiness Cues" in the book to determine whether or not a child is ready for training: Ability to obey simple directions, basic obedience and ability to keep diaper dry for longer stretches.

I select the day I am planning on training and prepare for it by buying "big boy/girl" underpants and a variety of rewards.  On the day of, I set aside time alone with the potty trainee. I keep the TV off and make the whole day about potty training.  I find it helpful to have the older kids go off with Daddy or spend the day with Grandma.  I try to train my children before a new baby is born (babies can be quite distracting!).

The basic outline of the training process in TTILTAD is this: show the child how to do it with a visual aid (doll). Practice each step. Apply praise and rewards liberally. Put your child in training pants and do NOT put them back in a diaper. If/when child has an accident, have the child clean up after themselves and then practice.

Personal responsibility is the key to why this works.  The natural consequences of peeing out of the potty work their magic. It is normal for this to be mildly upsetting the child.  I try to give a lot of compassion and verbal affirmation in their ability to "get it."  I do not vilify or discipline them for their mistakes, but allow the mistakes speak for themselves.  I grieve with them when they make a mess and encourage them to keep their fresh underpants dry.

We do not use any Pull Ups or other diapering product.  We quit diapers cold turkey and do not turn back, not for outings or church or play dates.  I am trying to send the message of absolute confidence to my child - confidence in them.  I do take along a change of clothes hidden away in my purse in case of an emergency, but we do not go back to diapers for any reason.

I remember taking my 21 month old daughter to church, dressed in her little Sunday School dress and tights, thinking "this is going to be a nightmare if it doesn't work."  We made it home in the same dress, underpants and tights, completely dry.  She surprised me!

To ensure a positive experience on our first trip "out," I try and pick a training day during a quiet week where we can be largely at home, giving the child opportunity for a lot of practice and success.

For nighttime, the same rules apply: no diapers.  No Pull Ups.  I do use a plastic sheet under the regular bedclothes and tell my child to call me if they need to use the bathroom.  I take them right before I put them to bed, and then get them up again when I go to bed a few hours later.

My kids were all pretty much accident free after the first week, besides a few and far between accident due to sickness or being in a usual place (the zoo, park, etc). The exception was my son (first child trained) took a little longer to "get" the bowel movement aspect of training. That took a few weeks, but really was no different than me changing diapers anyway. Once he got it, we never had any more problems.

"Consequence" is kind of a dirty word  these days. And potty training IS hard because it is the first time that you really allow your child to meet consequences of their actions head on without Mama as the buffer. The trick is to keep positive and heap on the encouragement and praise.  A 2 year old can do this. The confidence boost your child will experience upon getting this will serve him well as he moves toward more and more personal independence.

image credit

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  1. I pay Hannah $50 to train my kids ;)

  2. So have you ever decided to try training them then discovered they just weren't ready??

  3. So far, that hasn't been my experience. Be prepared for the first day to be rough and the possibility of there being quite a few accidents. Yesterday I trained my son and was honestly quite a bit discouraged when something suddenly "clicked" right before bedtime. He was dry all night and is doing great today!!


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