Learning to use the toilet is something we approached very differently from Jack (4yrs) to Sarah (23months). With Jack, I now realise, it was on our time and our agenda. Even though he was showing signs of being ready, we took that as our cue to ‘train’ him.
How long did he take to toilet train? Was he toilet trained before 3? or even better, before 2? How did you do it?
With Sarah, well she has the benefit of our hindsight (and the wisdom of Janet Lansbury and Lisa Sunbury). Toilet training isn’t something we do to her, it is a natural development that all children will go through, in their own time. There is no agenda.
With Jack we put him on the potty every 30 minutes. We decided that he didn’t need nappies anymore. We decided he was a ‘big boy’ now. When he started to do a wee, we would rush him from where he was, picking him up and taking him to the potty. Everything was going wonderfully though so we must be on the right track…
But then Jack decided he wasn’t going to use the potty anymore. He would fight and scream when we disrupted what he was doing every 30 minutes to put him on the potty (I can’t imagine why…) That’s when we realised that we were forcing our agenda on him… He’s two now. That means it’s time for toilet training. That’s the next thing to teach him.
We stopped. Stopped everything. And wouldn’t you know it, when he was ready he taught himself. The pressure of the situation had gone. Instead, an acceptance that, just like crawling and walking and learning to speak, Jack would learn to use the toilet when he was ready.
Learning to use the toilet has been a much more relaxed experience for Sarah. I think what we learnt most from Jack is, when she is ready, to provide an environment which supports this need and possibly more importantly, an atmosphere of calm acceptance that this is going to take some time and without coaxing or forcing or rewards, Sarah will learn to use the toilet.
And just like Jack, she started to show signs of being ready. However this time, that wasn’t my cue to teach her, that was my cue to make a few changes to our home and our daily rhythm so Sarah could be best supported in learning to use the toilet.
So we put a potty out for Sarah. Kept it in the same easily accessible place so she knew where it was when she needed it. Made sure that her clothes were simple enough so she could remove them by herself or with a little help and changed her shelf in her wardrobe to now include a change of underwear and clothes. And then we waited. Waited until Sarah was ready to use the potty.
Sarah was now wearing underwear at home. She decided this. When she would do a wee in her underwear, rather than rushing her off to the potty like we did with Jack, we would stand with her and say, ‘Oh you’re doing a wee.’ ‘When you are ready, you can do a wee in the potty.’ ‘Let’s go and clean this up and put some dry clothes on.’
Soon enough, Sarah became very aware of when she was doing a wee. But she still wasn’t able to hold it to make it to the potty. And we spoke with her again, cleaned up the mess and trusted that she would get there eventually.
And she did. Sarah started using the potty. From then on she used the potty consistently. She had control over her body, knew where to go and so off she went.
Sarah wears a nappy at night time, but this too will come with time. She also prefers to use the toilet now instead of the potty; just like the rest of her family I suspect.
The whole experience has been completely different, dare I say, even enjoyable; watching and supporting Sarah as she mastered this new skill without any coaxing or step-by-step plan. But rather treating her with respect for the person she is and accepting that in her own time, not mine, she will learn to use the toilet.