Although many children are “ready” for Potty Training and things go swimmingly, there are those who find it less straightforward. This isn’t surprising given the change but can be very frustrating, especially when the start of school or nursery approaches, but majority of kids start reception in big boy or girl underwear.
Check out Physical Obstacles to Potty Training
Although generally delays are due to anxiety, it’s worth checking out the chance of physical obstacles first:
- Is the fear related to pain when pooing? Constipation can cause painful bowel movements, and this in turn reduces likelihood of passing stools, thus increasing constipation. A low fibre diet can help prevent constipation.
- In a few cases poor muscle tone can also affect potty training. If your child lacks the abdominal strength to hold urine in when they feel their bladder filling up, or to squeeze stools when sitting on the potty (rather then relying on nature to run it’s course) then it will be an uphill struggle. Generally this is age related but it’s worth considering and encouraging your child to hold when they first feel the need to urinate and also encouraging them to squeeze when sitting on the potty (assuming they have not defacted recently)
- Although Training Pants (like Snazzipants) are the ideal transition product for many children, if they are using these just like Nappies then it’s worth considering just moving to normal underwear as the feeling of urine dribbling down their leg may be the encouragement they need to use the potty or toilet properly.
Small steps add up
Assuming there are no barriers to dryness then a series of small steps can all have a positive impact.
- Make the toilet THE place where they can expect to use the toilet. Move all things toilet related into the toilet and encourage children to sit in that space while they have a bowel movement (even if they're wearing a nappy and they sit on the toilet with the seat down as a worst case scenario). Point out that this is the place where the rest of the family use the toilet too, to encourage them to see this as normal behaviour.
- Find the right time. If your family has a daily routine in terms of eating and drinking, you may notice that your child’s bowel movements have a pattern to them (e.g. pooing 1 hour after eating), taking your child to the potty around the time you expect them to poo (or just before) can help them match the feeling in the bowel with the expectation. And don’t rush things, your child may need to sit there for a while before the need arrives, so a book to read or look at may create a distraction from the waiting time.
- Rewards systems can be an excellent way to encourage positive behaviours but it’s important not to start these too soon. If your child isn’t able to toilet on the potty regularly then it’s probably too early for rewards charts which aim to complete the training programme. Instead just reward good behaviour occasionally so they recognise it as positive but don’t feel that they are failing every time they don’t achieve it.
- Try to avoid negativity around the process, if the child is being made to feel bad about their ability to use the toilet properly then it’s likely that anxiety will build rather than decrease. Re-assure them that it’s not an overnight process and like life itself, a challenge to be overcome one step at a time that they will achieve in time.
- Don’t get stressed yourself by the process. The fact that it’s an not straightforward and can be a longer term challenge applies to parents too. And ignore those who insist their child did it within 3 days. Chances are they are indulging in competitive parenting and will handily forget any incidents which occur during/after potty training as that would shatter the illusion of perfection.
It doesn’t end with Potty Training
The end goal is a totally independent child, so even if a child is out of nappies, they aren’t independent until they are able to wipe themselves. So, it’s important to move onto this stage as soon as possible straight after potty independence has been achieved.
Persistence wins the Potty Battle
Your child will achieve toilet independence in time, so just stick with it and remember that persistence wins in building habits.