Successful Toilet Learning: At a Child's Pace
sent by vkay
An avoidable parent and child struggle that I have observed as a child
care provider and director and as a parent has been that of "toilet training." I would like to share
the "toilet learning" guidelines that I include in my parent handbook. The results have been painless
and positively successful for those parents who are brave enough to wait for their children's signals.
It is my hope that this milestone in a young child's life is reached
at the child's time and ability level, without parental guilt and feelings of inadequacy. Many of my parents approach
toilet learning with expectations placed on them by family and friends whose own children were "trained at
nine months." My first question is, Who was trained? Usually it is the adult who becomes able to correctly
time trips to the toilet. As parents and child caregivers we can spend months before a child is developmentally
ready making trips to the bathroom or we can support the child's independence and let him successfully move out
of diapers when the time is right.
No matter how soon we begin the process, true toilet learning will not
happen until the child is capable. Keep in mind that it is much more convenient for our children to use a diaper
and continue playing than to leave a favorite activity to complete this task. Therefore, I strongly encourage adults
to allow children to take an active role in "cleaning up" and changing wet or soiled clothing. Reinforce
the idea that it is easier to use the toilet and return to play than it is to "mess with the mess." Yet
never embarrass or shame a child. Do this in a matter-of-fact manner. I recommend that a potty seat be readily
available, early on, to the interested toddler.
When a child is developmentally ready for toilet learning, it should
take only about two to three days.
The child should be able to do the following without assistance:
1.Recognize the need to use the bathroom.
2.Get to the bathroom and get there "in time."
3.Manage her own clothing (children should be dressed so this is possible).
4.Wipe herself (this may not be possible for some children until a little later, but every child can try .
After going to the bathroom, the child will, usually following gentle reminders, flush the toilet and wash her
hands with soap and water.
Many children are not ready for toilet learning until they are three years old. If you and the parent feel that
the child is ready, it is best to begin when parents know that they will be near a familiar bathroom for a few
days. A weekend or consecutive days that the child will be at home may work best. I encourage parents to be positive
and supportive as the child attempts this milestone at his own time.
Because toilet learning will be their child's responsibility, there will
be natural consequences, neither good nor bad. When he wets or soils his clothing, parents want to avoid disapproving
tones or facial expressions and allow him to clean himself, helping only if necessary-after he has done most of
it. They can let the child change his own clothes, then talk about how nice the clean, dry clothes feel, and tell
him that they know he will do better next time.
If, after two or three days, the child is struggling or worrying, parents
might stop and say with a warm smile, "That was a good try. We can try again when you're a little older."
I encourage parents to wait at least a month to return to the subject and make this something that the child will
be successful at.... Do not rush. The child will be ready when she is ready.
At our child care center, children are allowed to use the bathroom as
needed; requesting permission is not necessary.
There are wonderful children's books (and videos) on this subject that
assist adults in openly discussing and approaching this very natural part of growing up; here are a few currently
available in bookstores and libraries:
to the Potty by Fred Rogers
Potty Time (videotape), Duke University
Upon a Potty by Alona Frankel (videotapes
New Potty by Joanna Cole
Potty by Barbro Lindgren
Oh! Gotta Go! by Bob McGrath
Such books and videos can be part of a program's daily informal readings
and activity choices for children.
Natalie Rehmer Marose Early Childhood Educator/Consultant My Friends Christian Day Care Bloomington, Minnesota