Toilet training can often be a tedious task – particularly when it is not clicking for your child. So what can you do to support your child in gaining the independence to be able to take care of their toileting needs? Keep reading and you can use these handy tips to help the process…
- Make sure your child is drinking enough water – We often overlook how important water intake is. Water helps our body to flush out toxins and waste that we don’t need. It also helps stools to pass through more easily and will make your child need to urinate more (and feel the sensation) – both of which are important to toilet training.
- Your child needs a well balanced diet full of protein, carbohydrates and fats. Making sure they have enough vegetables and fruit is another important factor. If your child is suffering from constipation and they have a well balanced diet, you DO NOT need to increase their fibre intake in the form of a supplement. Fibre does not work the same way for children as it does for adults. Please seek medical advice if your child has chronic constipation.
- Take your child to the toilet every 2 hours so they can sit. If they pass urine, provide them with a lot of social praise and even provide a reward (e.g. favourite toy/something edible). If you find your child is having too many accidents, bring the toileting schedule down and go every 1 and a half or 1 hour.
- If your child has an accident, they do not need to be punished. Simply have them help in the clean up so they realise the consequence to not urinating in the toilet (again, they ARE NOT in trouble). If you catch them in the middle of an accident, quickly sit them on the toilet so they can finish. This helps make the connection that they need to urinate in the toilet (or potty).
- Ensure your child is having enough fluids throughout the day. If you are having a lot of trouble with toilet training (they may not pass urine when sitting on the toilet), keep their water bottle out of reach to avoid them sipping all day. When giving them water, you want to make sure that they are having a substantial amount so that they will then have the urge or sensation to urinate.
- Encourage your child to sit on the toilet for 2-4 minutes, 20 minutes after each main meal (breakfast, lunch and dinner). If your child opens their bowels, they get a reward/social praise. This provides positive reinforcement so they know that this is what they need to do when they need to poo.
- When sitting on the toilet, have your child blow bubbles, blow a whistle or blow up a balloon. This relaxes the muscles and will encourage the stool to pass through. If your child is tense, then this significantly impacts their ability to open their bowels.
- If your child has an accident, follow the same process for urination. They do not get in trouble, instead, they help with the clean up. This shows them that it is in fact easier to poo on the toilet as there is less clean up compared to having an accident in their nappy/underwear.
Environment Set Up
- Provide a step so your child can easily reach the toilet.
- Place an insert in the toilet seat so that your child is sturdy and it minimises the fear of the child falling in. This stability also means that your child can more easily relax as they do not have to tense their body to stay balance/sit on the toilet.
- Have a sticker chart as part of their reward for participating in their toileting routine.
If Your Child is Scared of the Toilet
- Start by having them urinate/pass a bowel motion in the bathroom, they don’t need to sit on the toilet yet. Being in the same room as the toilet is the first step.
- When they sit on the toilet, provide a lot of social praise and give them a reward. This might be a sticker/snack/toy that is motivating for them. This provides positive reinforcement that sitting on the toilet is okay.
- Have them look at the toilet, throw toilet paper in the bowel and flush the toilet when they do not need to urinate or open their bowels. This helps to show them what a toilet does and helps children to become more comfortable around toilets.
- If their aversion to the toilet persists, seek professional input from a paediatrician or occupational therapist.
Consistency really is the key for toilet training. It is imperative that you stick to your routine so your child understands the requirements for toilet training. If your child is in underwear, try not to resort back to nappies as this is a conflicting message and may indicate to your child that they get the “easier” option of being in a nappy if they have accidents. Consistency and positive reinforcement are 2 of your greatest allies with toilet training.
All of these tips are the basic building blocks to successful toilet training. If you are having significant difficulty toilet training your child or your child has chronic constipation, please seek medical advice so that a team of professionals can assist you.
Kait is passionate about her work of supporting children and their families to feel confident and competent to meet the joys and challenges of day to day life. Her work as a paediatric OT has allowed her to develop specialist skills in play, toileting, feeding and self help skills.