Since starting a blog I have been asked a lot of questions about parenting and raising children. I am not an expert on all parenting topics but I do have seven children and have had some experience. It is from my experience that I draw upon to share my tips and advice. Every so often I make the time to answer those questions and today I thought I would answer the question often asked of me about toilet training.
When it comes to toilet training we have had our fair share of challenges and joys. Some of my children simply did not want to be toilet trained and took ages to feel ready to give it a go and some took to it right away. We even toilet trained twin boys at the same time and with the more children we had the better and faster we became at teaching our children all aspects of how to use the toilet.
So here are my tips and the guide I use:
1. If you follow this guide exactly you will have success and if you don't follow this guide you will still have success but it will take you a lot longer. For this guide, it also depends on the personality of the child, some kids are just plain stubborn and some kids have a lot of fears. Also if your child may have any learning difficulties or a weak bladder for example it will take longer. I am not saying this is a fool proof plan but it was worked for me. Some kids are also great during the day at using the toilet but have a lot of trouble at night, so it all depends on your child. You will find out as you go along and can work out a plan that is right for you in the process. This is just what I do, it does not mean you need to do the same. Just sharing an idea.
2. First of all, start training your child when they are about 2 years and 2 months old. Before that (generally speaking here) they will regress and you will have to start it all over again. Around this age there are signs that they are ready.
3. Some of the signs that they are ready to start using the toilet are that they tell you they want to be a big girl or boy and want to try sitting on the toilet. They will hide and tell you to go away when they start to fill their nappies. They will come and tell you they have something in their nappy and want their nappy changed. They may also have a dry nappy when they first wake up in the morning and it is when they are lying in bed after they wake that they will wet their nappy. If they are doing some of these things and are at the age it is time to face the mess and BEGIN.
4. To begin, get yourself the necessary supplies (training pants, wipes, potty etc) and try to clear 2 weeks of your schedule so that you can be at home to focus on toilet training full time. I know that not everyone is able to do this and it is simply not practical to do for many mothers but if you are able to it, it is worth the effort.
5. Using training pants, not undies, will make the process so much easier. Training pants help soak up the wee and the child can 'feel' wet without being upset about making too much mess. They are also better at catching those messy accidents that happen and will mean less cleaning for you in the process.
6. To teach my kids to toilet train I waited until I felt they were ready and then simply took the nappy off, never to put it back on again. I talked to them about using the toilet and that from now on they were a big girl/boy and were no longer going to be using a nappy. I then braced myself for an insane 2 weeks of mess and tears (from both of you!) and just dived into the toilet training full on. It was far messier but far quicker and we had our children trained in 2 weeks and off nappies from then on.
7. Use positive language (even if you are dying from all of the frustration and mess going on!) at all times towards your child through the process. For example...you are a big girl now, big boys don't wear nappies, that was a great try, you are really becoming like mummy now etc. Whatever you feel your child needs to hear to keep encouraging them.
8. If you chose to use a potty, put the potty away from the television or anything that is distracting but in a main room, up against a wall as sometimes a child can feel scared sitting on one in the middle of a room. Some of my children have wanted to use the toilet and some of them loved having a potty. I always tried them with the toilet first and if I could see that they were a little scared I would take them out to get a potty. Here is the hard part - do not give them books or toys etc. while they are on the potty as you want them to recognise the let down motion. I would sit my children on the toilet or potty and read to them books but did not leave them alone to play on the potty or make it a game. The high front made potties are the best as far as making less mess is concerned.
9. For the first 3 days sit them on the potty or toilet every 20 minutes. You say to your child, "(childs name) time to do a wee on potty" and put them on the toilet or potty whether they want to or not. Sometimes it may involve picking them up and carrying them onto the toilet or potty to get them there and remind them it is only going to be for a short time. When they are on the potty you then say to them, "Do a wee" etc and if they don't do anything it is no problem but if they do, praise, praise, praise them. I always would make a big deal of it and smile and clap my hands and yell, "Yay! Well done!" Now for Kathy-Ann in her home whenever her kids did a poo in the potty they made a big deal of it and showed Daddy. Ha ha! Poor Dad :) Then Dad can make a big deal of it as well.
10. If your kids have an accident and don't make it to the potty or toilet I would simply get down on a face to face level and remind them that wee and poo belong in the potty. I would speak a little more seriously and say something like, "Where do the wees/poos go? In the potty, not in your pants." Kids will have accidents, they are learning and it takes time to understand how their bodies function. I would try my hardest not to make my kids feel bad for this and try to remember to be patient. Saying this to them is important to remind them what the goal is and the child has to recongnise a change in your voice. It should be a little deeper and not pleased but not a mean voice telling them off.
11. Put a plastic sheet protector on your child's bed, under the sheet and have some spare ready for if your child wakes up and then has wet the bed. I would try to wake up before my child and kind of hang around their room ready for when they first woke up so I could take them straight to the potty or toilet. First thing in the morning when they are still a little sleepy is a great time to have some success on the toilet or potty. If they have wet the bed I simply remind them where the wee goes as above. I was really surprised with one of my kids that for the first 2 weeks, she never wet the bed once during the night!
12. Don't give them water 2-3 hrs before bed as it will of course increase the chances of them wetting the bed at night. If they thirsty try your best to give them just a sip. Always sit them on potty before bed and remind them constantly where the wee or poo goes. Tell them that if they wake up and need to go to the potty or toilet it is alright to do so. Leave a hall light on or toilet light on over night if you need to.
13. If you need to go out at any time, which I totally try my best to avoid doing in the first 2 weeks, sit your child on a towel or whatever else you want to use in the car seat, take several changes of clothing and take the potty with you. Check where the nearest toilets are before you go out and constantly remind your child to tell you when they need to go to the toilet. Continue to take them to the toilet when you are out, keep on top of the routine and don't stop thinking about it just because you are out. I know this is not practical for many mother's but if you want it to work in 2 weeks, this is what needs to be done.
11. By the 3rd day you can move taking your child to the potty or toilet to every hour or so. By this time hopefully they are more familiar with the experience and are a little more aware of how their body works. You always stay with them in the first week when they are on the potty encouraging them and keeping an eye on how they are going. Sometimes they will tell you to go away and that is alright, just don't go too far. Sometimes they can get scared by the let down feeling and you have to tell them it is alright and that it is alright to push if they need to. Keeping it real here ladies! Don't be afraid to show them or make a face and sound for pushing.
14. I have found that by the end of first week they are practically trained. It is a little full on and an intense guide to follow but it works! By the second week it is normally down to just a few accidents during the day and a few more happening that week at night. It also helps if you have older children (not too old, let's not be silly here!) that your young child can see using the toilet and if you can get the whole family involved in encouraging them you will have more success.
15. I don't really do reward charts or stickers. I have tried it for several of my kids but I found they would get really upset if they did not do anything in the toilet and could not get a sticker. Some women I know use them and it works really well for them. There are a whole bunch other things you can do to make it more fun to toilet train, like get special toilet paper or decorate the toilet but I am very practical in my parenting and normally just dive in as is.
I know not everyone is going to like this and that is fine but I just thought I would share what we do and hopefully it will help out a few other mum's who are struggling to get their kids toilet trained.