Toilet Training

Today’s blog post is submitted by our summer contributor, Nicole Kalita.

It’s messy. It’s frustrating. It’s time consuming. It’s stressful. It’s OH SO rewarding! And it’s a topic that is on the mind of every parent of a young child – toilet training. When will it happen? Why hasn’t it happened? Will it happen?

You might be wondering, “what is the right age to start this process?” The answer isn’t an “age” at all, it is actually waiting until your child is ready. The signs your child is ready include:

  • Are they aware of when they have a dirty diaper? Are they asking you for a change right after they pee or poop in their diaper because they are uncomfortable?
  • Can your child stay dry for at least two hours a time? Are they waking up from nap with a dry diaper?
  • Can your child dress and undress themselves – particularly can they pull their pants on and off?
  • Are they showing interest in the routine/process? Do they want to observe you while you are using the toilet?

Your child might be 18 months when they are at this stage or they might be four years old. All of it is “normal”. It’s important to remember not to force it on your child. If you start trying and they don’t seem to be “getting it”, try it again later. The more you let it happen naturally, the easier it will be. You probably don’t know many Kindergartners who are still wearing diapers…

Here are some tips from parents who have been there:

  1. Patience, patience, patience – toilet training is a bumpy road. You’ll have really successful days and others you will wonder if your child completely forgot what they seemed to know yesterday. Think of it as 2 steps forward, one step back.
  2. Not every child uses the same technique – what works for your best friend’s daughter, might not work for your son. You’ll find your groove and what works with your child.
  3. Try not to set deadlines – often when we start the adventure of toilet training, we want to set a deadline, “I want to have him trained by _____”. This can put a lot of extra pressure and stress on you and your child. It’s better to just “go with the flow”, if you will, and let it happen naturally.
  4. Don’t start training too close to a big life event – if you have a new baby on the way, are about to move, or there is some sort of other major event happening in your child’s life, it might not be the right time to train your older child. Often times, a child will regress when the life change happens and you may find yourself starting all over again from the beginning.
  5. Be prepared for it to suck – Toilet training is a process. One that many parents don’t realize takes time. You might find that your child will be “trained” at home, but not away from home. They might have daytime use of the toilet down, but are still wetting the bed at night. Your child might be scared by public toilets (they are loud, some flush automatically, there is sometimes added pressure to “hurry” if there is a long line, etc.). Be ready for these challenges and be patient with your child. They will figure it out, with time and your help.
  6. Be prepared for accidents – have a change of clothes for your child with you at all times. A friend of mine came up with this brilliant idea of keeping the following items in a Ziploc bags in case of accidents while in public – keep one in your purse and several in the car for when you need it: 
    • 2 paper towels: to clean up the mess 
    • A washcloth: to clean up your child 
    • A fresh pair of underwear 
    • A clean pair of pants 
    • A clean pair of sock 
    • Use the Ziploc bag as a place to put the wet clothes after you’ve cleaned up your child.
  7. Stay positive and smile – Your child’s success will be affected by how you react to their accidents. Let them know that accidents happen and it’s OK. They will get another chance to try it again. Your smile will calm them down if they are upset.

Remember you are not the first and are not the last parent to go through this process. For more tips on toilet training, visit the toilet training section on the American Academy of Pediatrics website. The end goal will happen – someday, they will be out of diapers and independently using the toilet. In the meantime, feel free to sneak a few of the “potty treats” as your reward for getting through the day!

Nicole Kalita is a mother of two young boys. She has a degree in Human Development and Family Sciences and has been working with families for 11 years. During the school year she teaches the Live & Learn classes in Albany, Oregon through Linn-Benton Community College.