Why we call it “Independent Toileting”
1. First, we must all acknowledge that each child is different. When it comes to toileting independently, that could mean 12-15 months different, from child to child.
2. You must understand that your child’s interest in the toilet or desire may be way ahead of their ability. After all, your child is interested in many things that they are not capable of doing from driving the car to carrying a heavy, glass bowl. Physically your child must hold and release both urinary and bowel muscles. These don’t always develop at the same time (although there are a few parents out there cheering, because their little one did!) but most children can ‘hold’ before they can ‘let go’ or more likely, ‘let go’ before they can ‘hold’. So, it’s a waiting game. But waiting is part of your plan for success.
3. When the waiting game has been assessed and you are fairly certain that all the brain synapses have connected with the muscles that do-what-they-do…then assess if your child can manage their clothing, their environment and verbalize their need to leave your presence. If a child of 2 years can hold it, let it go and move their clothes…but he is in a playpen that could be a real detriment to development. (Most children toilet independently between 2 and 3).
4. So now, the stars are aligned and everything is in place for your child’s success. Now is the time to begin. Give you and your child, as well as any support people your plan. This should be about 3 days of commitment and practice. Really. Just 3 days. BUT it’s a 24 hour commitment. Just like going on a diet, or changing any practice, it must be 24 hours a day. What good would healthy eating do if after bedtime you could eat all the chocolate cake you wanted?
Toileting Independently will require practice and some dedication from you, and the entire parenting team. If Grandma wants to dote on your child, cut Grandma out of this 3 day event. Really. You need 100% support.
In an effort to make it easier, I caution you to resit adding new layers of transition for your child. What does that mean? Don’t add a potty chair. Don’t add a toilet seat insert, etc. The world is not full of potty chairs, it has toilets. Your child’s bottom is little and some toilets are big. They will have to learn to hold themselves up with their little arms. It’s okay. They won’t be flushed down. The worst thing that could happen is her bottom could get wet. Make toileting an adventure. See all the toilets everywhere you go. All the different ways to flush and even toilet paper rolls! This will also ensure your child doesn’t shut down in public.
5. How to start it with your child: Don’t make it a BIG deal like “you’re going to be a big kid like Sally” or “I will be so proud of you when…”
Introduce toileting in a very matter of fact way. “It’s time for you to wear panties, now. Let’s try pottying in the toilet like Mom.” (Avoid asking your child, do you want to?)
After a day or so, you should know if you assessed incorrectly. If he/she is NOT ready, you’ll know. Not being ready can be emotional, too. He/she is just not ready. Wait it out. If you haven’t implied disappointment or anything derogatory, it’s easier to un-ring the bell. “Okay, we’ll wait until it is easier for you.”
But it really might not be easy for you, the parents. It might be hard to allow him or her to have an accident on your beloved carpet, or in front of friends. It might inconvenience you on the weekend. That’s why YOU must commit. But there’s more…
6. Pull-ups do not work. Any type of diaper that absorbs is keeping our babies dry. Children must feel the wet to actually connect the sense of needing to go and going. That’s why it’s “Which underwear do you want to wear?” Not, “do you want to wear underpants?” And this means ALL the time. If your child tends to hide in a corner when pooping, that makes sense. This is really a step closer to privacy in the bathroom. I encourage you to embrace no underpants so your child will seek the toilet.
7. Toileting is a 24 hour a day task. At nighttime, at the restaurant, on a long car ride….24 hours. All the time. Set your child up for success. Avoid too much liquid before bedtime, but that’s not all. If you are giving your child a bottle – stop it. If they constantly have a sippy cup – stop it. They do not need it and will rehydrate at the next interval.
At night time, give him/her a choice between panties/underwear and nothing at bedtime. This will help your child feel more in control. Place a sturdy towel under their bedsheet and another on the table next to his/her bed. Place a nightlight in the bathroom with a change of clothes. Walk your child through this whole process AS IF they may have an accident, but they are capable of handling it. Just having this back up plan is very helpful. (If your child is in your bed, it’s time to re-think this for many reasons.)
8. Children must be taught all the nuances of how to toilet BY THEMSELVES. It’s like the familiar give them a fish or teach them to fish parable. You the parent, need to teach your boy to lift the lid, or wipe it if he forgets. You the parent, need to teach your little girl to wipe from the back. All children need to understand how much toilet paper to use and how to “check” to see if they need to wipe again. This is really important. Children come to preschool, many times, expecting a teacher to thoroughly wipe their bottom just like when they were in diapers.
9. Accidents occur even if your child has been very successful. Why? Because in a busy and active world, toileting independently requires judgement. Judgement of time, their ability to control their own body and the environment they are in. Carry many changes of clothes. Don’t fret. And make changing the clothes your child’s job. Changing is hard work, which makes ‘going on the potty’ less time consuming and easier. You want to engage that logical consequence.
10. Keep your head up. Your child will be toileting independently. Someday. It will seem like a million years that you struggled with this issue. You may even look back and wish it was this easy, again. 🙂