I'm not sure toilet training is any one's idea of fun. It's certainly not mine, although there are moments of hilarity and crazy, crazy laughter because if you can't laugh about the amount of wee on the carpet and the poo you've got to scrub off the undies, well, you'd probably cry.
We've been very relaxed about it, led by him because he was entirely uninterested in it and then, once he showed an interest, entirely disconnected from sensing his own body's needs. Then one day, at child care, he refused to put his pull-up on. Refused and demanded his Thomas undies that had been languishing at the bottom of his bag for months (hey, if they ain't used/dirty, don't mess with them). I was completely unprepared for it.
Now he suddenly looks like he's joined the Romanian gymnastics team, a little boy in a much bigger boy's body.
We have days with no accidents and days when I carry four plastic bags of wet clothes out of the child care. We have days with him jumping up and running to the bathroom by himself and days when I ask him if he needs to go and he looks at me for a minute and then shakes his head and a puddle forms at his feet (and inside his shoes).
Here are some things I wish I'd known or considered before we started:
- Go straight for a kid-seat on a big toilet (or just get them to use the big one from the get go). Cleaning poo out of a potty is a horror show much worse than simply changing a nappy.
- Not all undies are created equal. The size and cut varies wildly between brands and sizing for a little bum no longer in bulky nappies is confusing. If they're not comfy, it's going to set you back. If they don't have the right picture on the front, they might be rejected out of hand. Also, while super cute, the little shorts style undies don't do such a great job of holding anything in that may have accidently come out. Just sayin'.
- Elastic waisted shorts or pants are much easier for little kids than zips and buttons when they're in a hurry.
- Think about what might motivate your child and what you're prepared to do (or not do) to encourage them; then be prepared to use it at any time. We hadn't given it any thought before hand and ended up jumping straight into simple games on the tablet while he sat on the potty. This, of course, turned into 'hey I want to play games and not pee'. After this we moved to a sticker/reward chart (it's a Lightning McQueen potty race and when he gets to the end of the race, he gets to pick from my Piston Cup prize bag, in which I've got a few little toys, some craft things, a drink bottle, etc that I picked up in the after Christmas sales). This has had varied success for us - sometimes he just couldn't give a rat's arse about getting another sticker. In hindsight, I suspect a non-reward approach would have worked just as well.
- Think about technique. Wiping a child's bum is very different from changing a dirty nappy. Do you use toilet paper or wipes? Are they leaning forward on the potty or bending over and touching their toes? Are you going to teach them to pee standing up first or wait til they're older? How exactly are you going to clean the potty? How are you going to handle visiting other toilets? Will they pee on the grass? Figuring out all of this stuff on the go is both horrific and hilarious.
- One pack of undies isn't going to cut it. Unless you can wash and dry those babies in a day, get several packs.
- Don't push them to get toilet trained too early and try not to compare. Almost all the girls in Dear Boy's class were ready by about two. His best mate from mum's group decided he was ready at two and a half. Dear Boy's three and a bit. Some kids in his group are still in nappies, others are in pull-ups. Some are dry through the night. Pushing too early can have the opposite effect and lead to a long, drawn out power battle. We had enough of that with his eating and his sleep, so I want to skip it here if possible.
- Listen to their bodies and help them listen too. Think about their diet and activities and how these correlate to when they need to use the toilet. If they have a big drink or a meal, you can't put them in the car half an hour later and expect to keep the seat clean. Make opportunities to use the potty happen at the right time and get them to stop and think about what their body feels like. Is there pressure in the bladder? Are those farts trying to tell them something? These conversations are hilarious. Our son of a neuroscientist has gone straight to 'Mum, my brain says I feel fine' - technically correct but unhelpful.
- Make sure you're being consistent across the board. We've been wiping for him but childcare don't, which has led to a few surprises for everyone (and lots of washing). Some centres have toilet training policies you have to follow, others might go with whatever method you'd like. Just have the discussion.