Observe for signs of readiness, the sensitive period for toilet-learning is around 12 - 18 months. Once a child is walking, the lower part of the body has become myelinated, or refined, and the child will often begin to show signs of interest in the toilet and bathroom area. We can start before this (during infancy) by using cloth diapers, changing the child right when they are wet, labeling what is happening (“You are wet because you peed”), work on dressing and undressing independently and even inviting an infant who is sitting up to experience sitting on the toilet.
Use cloth, not plastic (when possible). Diapers and pull-ups give a great deal of distortion for bathroom independence. The child feels this sensation, urinates, and the diaper is so sophisticated that they never experience feeling wet like they would in cloth underwear. This feeling of “wet” or “soiled” is very valuable in the toileting process.
Dress for success. Your child, that is. It is impossible to use the toilet independently if one cannot get undressed or dressed independently, so practice and collaborate with your child now. In this process it is crucial to have clothing that your child is able to take off and put on by themself. Go for velcro, elastic waistbands and loose fitting cotton pants, shorts or leggings. Avoid onesies, overalls, dresses, tights, pants with buttons, and tight pants (especially jeans!)
Set up the environment for success. Make the toilet accessible. Include in at least one bathroom in your home a low child-size toilet or stool and an insert for the big toilet, a stool for the toilet and for the sink, access to underwear and pants, a hamper for soiled clothing and towels for clean up.
Create a reasonable toileting schedule that both you and your child can maintain. Consistency is key, in not only toileting, but in anything regarding a toddler and their heightened sense of order. Create an attainable schedule and maintain that as much as possible. DO NOT revert back to old habits because of set-backs.
Correct mistakes matter-of-factly. Toileting is another milestone in a child’s life. Derogatory comments are not made when a child falls walking, or mispronounces words - but often negative comments are made during the toileting process. Refrain from getting upset or frustrated and instead simply say something like: “Oh, I see you peed on the floor. Let’s get a towel to clean up.”
No rewards or punishments, please. This is your child’s work, something they must do for them self. “You did it!” and a high-five is all your child needs to celebrate.
Never force your child to sit on the toilet. Be aware of the power struggle and stay away. Rather than forcing your child to sit on the toilet, positively encourage them by providing choices:
“Are you going to sit on the toilet before or after you brush your teeth?”
“Do you need help getting on the toilet or can you do it by yourself?”
“Do you want to sit forwards or backwards on the toilet?”
Be patient. Setbacks do occur, most often regarding travel, a new sibling, a death or extreme heartbreak, change in routine, divorce, a new community, a new teacher, a new schedule, etc. It’s also important to remain aware of other setbacks. For example, as your child’s focus increases (usually around 2.5 years) you might see them genuinely forgetting to use the toilet. Look for the “pee-dance”, use simple reminders and reassure your child that whatever was being worked on will remain upon return from the bathroom. This will help build trust during this phase of development.
Relax, this is not that big of a deal. Your attitude is crucial in ensuring positive (or negative) results in the toilet learning process. Find peace with the mess, both in your home and in public. Believe me, your child is not the first, or last, to pee on the floor in Target. This process is temporary, and important. By starting early you are allowing your child to figure out their body awareness and elimination process naturally, which is a great thing! Inform your family and friends, inviting the people in your life to understand the process your are undertaking will help alleviate stress when you and your child are with them.
For more information, or further help with Bathroom Independence, reach out to Radicle Beginnings anytime. Together, we can make this seemingly stressful phase of development a positive one.
© 2017 Radicle Beginnings, LLC