There have been a number of articles which I have come across lately on the topic of toilet learning. As I’ve been reading and contemplating these articles, I thought that I would share some of my own thoughts and insights here.
Right off the bat, I want to say that I don’t like the term “potty training”, I prefer “toilet learning”. This is because it’s something that a child learns to do as part of their development, not something that should be forced on them by their caregiver, as I feel the term “training” implies. We say that children learn to walk, they aren’t trained to walk; why should controlling their elimination be any different? That also really seems to be a theme when I think about the different articles I’ve come across on toilet learning. On one hand there are those who believe that the child will learn in their own time, and those who believe it is the parent (or caregiver)’s responsibility to motivate the process. I’m of the first school of thought; what’s the rush? Why pursue something that your child might not be ready for? It’s not a competition.
Every child is different and will be ready both physically and emotionally in their own time. Just as they learned to walk and talk on their own agenda, so will they learn to control their bladder and bowels. We all have that friend or relative or neighbour whose child was “potty trained” right out of the womb, however their child is not your child. It’s rarely helpful to compare one child’s growth and development to another’s as we all have different temperaments and our own strengths and weaknesses which make us unique. The bottom line is, your child will be ready… when they are ready.
In order to help ascertain whether your child is ready, here are some things to keep in mind. First of all, children typically aren’t physically ready to control their bladder and bowels until somewhere around their second birthday. So, in my opinion, unless they’re really interested and showing a lot of signs that they’re physically ready, I wouldn’t worry about it until they’re two. Another thing I’ve found helpful is to remember that there are three stages of “readiness”. The first is when your child knows after they’ve eliminated. The second is when your child knows when they are in the process of eliminating. The final stage is when your child knows before they have to eliminate. This third stage, along with the physical ability to “hold it” are crucial for successful toilet learning.
A few other skills that will help your child’s toilet learning success are the ability to independently take off their own clothes, the ability to get on/off the toilet (or potty) independently and the verbal skills to let you know when they need to go. All this being said, there will certainly be children who show interest in the toilet before they are physically ready. I would certainly encourage their interest, however far it extends. However I would do so with the understanding that nothing may come of it until they are more ready. As caregivers, we need to make sure that we have appropriate expectations of what individual children are capable of and allow them to reach milestones in their own time. After all, development isn’t a race.
Photo by Mollypop (Flickr)