The Real Mum’s Guide to Toilet Training
I don’t claim to be an expert on any Parenting topic usually – but I think I’ve got this one in the bag. Having two boys 12 months apart – I was toilet training solidly for over two years. Both boys were so different in the way they learned, which is frustrating! So I’ll share everything I have learned on the topic!!!!!
First things is first – there is absolutely no point in starting toilet training until your son or daughter is interested…. Seriously – been there, tried that. If you start too early before they are ready, you are going to be very frustrated at the lack of progress! Signs that your child is ready to start include:
- Your child tells you that their nappy is wet or soiled.
- They seem interested in the potty or toilet.
- They say that he or she would like to go to the potty/toilet.
- Understands and follows basic instructions.
- Feels uncomfortable if his or her nappy is wet or soiled.
- Stays dry for periods of 2 hours or longer during the day.
- Wakes up from naps with a dry nappy.
- Can pull his or her pants down and then up again without help.
You may start noticing these signs when your child is 18 to 24 months of age. However, it is not uncommon for a child to still be in nappies at 2 and a half to 3 years of age.
Make Sure There are No Underlying Problems
Many children are easily wee trained on the toilet, but #2’s remain the problem. Constipation is often a big problem with small children too – so make sure before you start that their poo is of soft consistency. If not, get some more fibre into their diet or get it checked out at your GP to make sure there isn’t a bigger problem.
Signs of Constipation:
- Lack of poo
- Lots of farting (gas)
- Skid marks in their undies
- Small pieces of poo come out in their undies
- Loss of appetite
- Frequent trips to the toilet and their poo is like little pebbles
- Feeling sick in the tummy or stomach pains
Causes of Constipation:
- Poor diet
- Not drinking enough water which can cause dehydration
- Anal fissures (small tear in the anus that stings and they won’t poo because it hurts)
- Gluten Intolerance
- Side effects of medication
What to do about Constipation in Little Kids:
- Increase the amount of water they are drinking (as some juices – with the exception of pear or prune juice – can make them more constipated)
- Prune juice and pear juice are natural laxatives which can help.
- Probiotics are really good – helps digestion and gut health
- Increase the dietary fibre content eg: Weetbix, Soy & Linseed Bread
- Limit the amount of dairy (especially cheese!)
- Massage the tummy
- Warm baths
- Add psyllium husks in their cereal
When things get worse:
- Talk to your pharmacist about laxatives or bowel stimulants that are suitable for children (ie Movicol, Microlax, Glycerin Suppositories)
- Visit your GP to check your child isn’t chronically constipated (an x-ray will usually confirm this)
- Look into bowel retraining
Serious Conditions with Constipation as a Symptom:
- Dairy intolerance or allergy
- Meckels Diverticulum (a pouch in the bowel of children that can cause a blockage) and needs urgent medical attention
- Bowel Obstructions (Emergency requiring surgery)
So Where Do You Start?
Let your child see you when you go to the toilet and make your child feel comfortable in the room with the noises and flushing is a big one as children can often be scared of the sound. Allow your child to see urine and bowel movements in the toilet. Not so pleasant I know. Let your child practice flushing the toilet and seeing the poo being flushed away!
Many people swear by using a potty first, but I think you may as well start on the big toilet. Just have one of these little steps so they can quickly and easily sit on the ‘big boys toilet’. If you start on a potty, you just have to re-train your child how to use the toilet, so in my opinion – just miss that step altogether!
Allow your child to sit fully clothed on the loo if they are more comfortable this ay, as if it were a regular chair. Just don’t force your child to spend time sitting there, they will see it as a negative thing.After your child has become used to it and sits on it regularly with his or her clothes on, try having your child sit on the toilet without wearing pants and a nappy.
The next step is to show your child how the potty is used. Place a ‘poo’ from a dirty nappy into the potty. Allow your child to observe the transfer of the bowel movement from the potty chair into the toilet. Let your child flush the toilet and watch the bowel movement disappear down the toilet. Again not so pleasant but helps little ones understand what needs to happen.
From Nappies to Undies
If your child is consistently waking up dry from a sleep, invest in some undies with their favourite character on them. Reinforce how special these undies are, and that you don’t want to soil your beautiful new pants (although don’t scowl at them if they do…..). Only buy cheap undies though, as you will probably be throwing a few pairs out!
This works particularly well with girls! Boys, however, can be more stubborn!
The Next Step in Toilet Training
After your child has become comfortable with flushing the toilet and sitting there comfortably, you may begin teaching your child to actually use the toilet. Keep your child in loose, easily removable pants, so they can get them off easily. If you are just home for the day and the weather is warm, why not just have them in undies for the day!
Wee training will come first – with boys, encourage them to wee on a lemon tree first outside (it is good for the Lemons) and this teaches them how to stand up to wee. However, if they are little, sitting down to wee may be a cleaner option as boys are pretty ‘hit and miss’ when it comes to the toilet.
Put your child on the toilet whenever they signal the need to go. Your child’s facial expression may change when they feel the need to urinate or to have a bowel movement. Your child may stop any activity they are doing when he or she feels the need to go. Many children want privacy when they need to poo, so may go and hide. If you catch them in time, try and encourage them to do it in the toilet, If not, take the poo to the toilet and encourage them to flush it away for you!
How Often Should Your Child Poo?
Most children have a bowel movement once a day, usually within an hour after eating and usually at the same time every day. Most children urinate within an hour after having a large drink. In addition to watching for signals that your child needs to urinate or have a bowel movement, place your child on the potty at regular intervals. This may be as often as every 1 and a half to 2 hours. Ask them if they need to go, then say ok let’s just try, place them on the toilet and wait a short time and then reinforce that they did a good job for trying, and extra special praise for doing something. A sticker chart kept in the toilet can also be useful for them to keep track of how well they are going.
Sometimes Dads Are Better At Toilet Training…
Okay – I don’t know why, but sometimes only Dads will do – and that goes for both boys and girls. So go away for the weekend and leave them to it!
What if your child has an accident?
Your child WILL have an occasional accident even after they learn how to use the toilet. Sometimes, children get carried away playing and forget that they need to use the bathroom. Suggesting regular trips to the bathroom may help prevent some accidents. Ask them before you go out anywhere or even before going outside to play.
If your child does have an accident, stay calm. Do not punish your child. Simply change your child and continue to encourage your child to use the toilet, reassure that it’s okay and accidents happen. We can try again next time to make it to the toilet.
Toilet Training Regression (Undoing All Your Good Work in One Flush!)
All children regress at one stage or another….. So it feels like all that hard work you have put in to toilet training has gone down the drain. There are usually simple explanations for toilet training regression. The only thing you can do is address the issue, wait a few weeks and then gently start over.
Toilet training regression can be caused by:
- Cold weather or being cold at night (invest in a good warm onesie or tracksuit)
- Constipation – and it hurts to poo
- Holidays (change of scenery)
- Out of normal routine
- Growth Spurts
- Most kids regress at potty training at some stage – so don’t stress. Just have a week or two break, and start over.
Some kids are also frightened of the noise of the hand dryer in public toilets and the ‘audience’ that public toilets entail. If you can when out in public, go to the Baby Rooms or the Disabled toilets.
How long will it take to toilet train my child?
Every child is different. It may take as long as 3 to 6 months for your child to be toilet trained during the daytime. It may take longer to teach your child to use the toilet during night time when his or her bladder control is reduced. Night training can take up to a year. It is important for you to be patient and supportive. If after a few months, your child is still resisting or having difficulties with toilet training, talk to your family doctor. The most likely reason your child has not learned to use the potty is that your child is not yet ready for toilet training.
If you find that your child is having accidents very often and they are still very young then perhaps they are just not ready and don’t be afraid to simply start using nappies again and wait a few months before trying again.
Toilet Training Troubles
Learning to control bowels and bladder is a big task for your child and sometimes there are problems for a variety of reasons which include:
- Fear of the feeling of the poo coming out
- Fear of falling into the toilet
- Starting toilet training too soon.
- Child’s nappy addiction
- Parent’s fear of ‘Not Knowing Where to Start’.
- Pressure from relatives or friends, ‘Surely he isn’t still in nappies?’ Tell them to get nicked.
- Parents setting a date to have their child trained or parents feeling they must get their child trained. If the child feels tension and pressure she may become afraid of making a mess, and it will be hard for her to get it right. -Toilet training works best when there is no pressure for either the parent or the child.
- Children and parents getting into a battle over toilet training. Everybody loses in this sort of battle. Toilet training should not be a power struggle.
- If you think your child is purposely not trying to succeed and you become angry or even punish her, leave it for a while and try again in a few weeks when things are less tense.
- Any stress in your child’s life, such as a new baby or starting childcare can set her back. Temporary loss of control is common when children are unwell or stressed.
- Accidents are common in the early weeks. She may not want to stop doing something interesting, or not get to the toilet quickly enough.
- It is common for toddlers to relax and ‘let go’ as soon as they stand to walk away from the potty. She may not be fully ready for toilet training if this is happening a lot.
- Control over poo may happen a long time before control over wee—sometimes it happens many months later.
Don’t Ignore Physical problems – They are More Common Than You Think!
Sometimes after an illness or due to constipation, a small tear (or fissure) in the bowel can occur, which causes pain when a child does poo. This can make the child try to hold on and eventually small amounts of poo leak out whenever the bowel becomes too full to manage. This can cause great distress to the child. If you feel this is happening, or your child seems to be in pain, or there is blood in the poo, it is important to see a doctor.
Sometimes the bowel gets used to being full of poo all the time. Then it loses some of the feeling, so the child will find it hard to know when he needs to go to the toilet—he doesn’t get the message that he needs to go. Medical help is needed to get it started again.
You should also see your doctor if there are signs of urinary (bladder) infections:
- doing wees very often
- smelly or cloudy urine
- constant holding or rubbing of their genital area and complaining of it being sore
- not wanting to wear the undies (because of the pressure of toilet training)
- seems in pain when doing a wee
- blood in the wee (or wee is brown, pink or red)
- wetting frequently during the day after the age of two if your child’s wee changes in smell a child of four years or over is still wetting during the day.
All of these things will stand in the way of toilet training and you will need to see to them before you will have success.
Remember every child is different and just because one was done at two does not mean another won’t be even interested in the toilet until 3 years old. Relax it will come and you want it to go as smoothly as possible.
Hint: If you have a boy, let them pee on the grass!
Some great hints to give you child a good start!
Add a few drops of blue food colouring to the toilet water. That way when your child wees into the water, it will turn green – magic!
Sit your child on the toilet ‘the wrong way’ – so they are facing the seat – then give them some washable markers to ‘draw’ whilst they are sitting there! Great way to pass the time!
Put a Ping Pong Ball in the toilet water for boys, so they can aim at it (and try and avoid your walls!)
Bribery Bribery Bribery. Invest in small chocolates, stickers, character underpants and cuddles! A progress chart on the wall often works well too.
If your child goes to Daycare, it is certainly worth asking them their techniques, and carrying it on at home. Daycare Teachers are professionals at toilet training. They will be encouraging your child to go every 30 minutes or so, they have tiny little child-friendly toilets – and plus all their friends are using it too!
My Child is Ready But is Being Super Stubborn
Yep, had one of them. I’d had him checked out, he wasn’t constipated, just frightened of the process. He was just scared of what was happening when he sat on the toilet. When he felt the poo coming, he ‘shut down’ and would cry – not really understanding what was happening to his body. If your child is ready and just scared to take that step, here is what to do:
Spend some quality time on the toilet floor
Sit your child on the toilet (when you know that they need to go…..) and sit with them. Sometimes offering an iPad so they are comfortable sitting there is handy – but don’t make a habit of that (cause it is gross!). Eventually, they are going to have to go…. positive encouragement (and a few prunes). Tell your child you will sit with them and do this together….. I think it took my boy nearly three hours (he held in that poo….) – but once he finally did it – he was instantly toilet trained!
Have a Rewards Chart on the Toilet Wall
Having something to work towards (and again, positive reinforcement) is the way forward with toilet training. Have a simple rewards chart with five boxes, and every time your child poo’s or wee’s – tick off a box and do something special.
Offer some chocolate if they get it right – and extra chocolate if they wipe and wash their hands afterwards!
If you become concerned about any symptoms please seek immediate medical attention – we have some hotlines and suggested websites for further information and advice – http://www.stayathomemum.com.au/my-kids/babies/important-hotlines-websites/