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Toilet Training Starter Tips

If you have a child who needs to be toilet trained and things aren’t working or you aren’t sure where to start then this blog is for you! Here are some tried and tested tips which we hope will help you to move forward:

1) REMOVE THE MYSTERY: For many toddlers the idea of the toilet is something they do not understand in a practical sense. They are used to their nappies or pull ups and whilst they may know that mummy and daddy go to the toilet, they don’t comprehend that this is a regular part of life. Starting to draw attention to the toilet habits of yourself, grandparents or older siblings can help to normalise things. Consider having a “family toilet time” before a meal or an activity where everyone goes to the bathroom. Giving your little one opportunities to feel comfortable sitting on the toilet with no pressure to do anything can also be very helpful. If they are apprehensive to try, experiment with a small reward if they agree to sit on the toilet! Use the opportunity to figure out what extra equipment you may need to make them more comfortable eg: steps; toddler seats.

2) TEACH THEM THE SKILL: Many parents forget that toilet training, like all other milestones is a skill which need to be practiced and developed. Babies are not expected to go from lying still to running without the stages of rolling, crawling and walking first! Similarly with toilet training, a child is unlikely to automatically stop having accidents because they are wearing underwear instead of nappies. The muscle awareness, sensation of needing the toilet, coordination of pulling down pants and the ability to multi task need to be developed before there can be success! Some of that is ensuring they understand what you are asking of them but much of it is like any other skill practice, practice and practice some more. The more frustrated you become with accidents or their inability to comply, the longer things are likely to take.

3) CLEAR EXPECTATIONS: It is important to make very clear to your child exactly what you want them to do. This is often best done in a visual way eg: with a social story. You need to detail for them what they need to do step by step for both wee and poo. The details you need to outline should include – what room they should be in, standing or sitting ( for boys) and the difference, pulling down pants, wiping (even with help), flushing and washing hands. Only if your child understands each step can you as a parent start to identify if they are actually struggling with a specific part of it eg: can’t coordinate themselves to wipe.

4) ATTAINABLE/ SUSTAINABLE REWARD SYSTEM: When thinking about a reward system for your child when it comes to toilet training, you need to think what is likely to motivate them. However, if they are new to the skill, they may not yet be able to earn the enormous new doll / lego set that is awaiting them. You are likely to be more successful if you reward them for the small things they did right eg: they told you they needed it or sat on the toilet without a tantrum. The rewards don’t need to be big but should help to make your child feel that they are on the right track and you are proud of them instead of fed up! They also don’t then need to feel bad that they haven’t “been good enough” to earn the prize waiting on top of the cupboard! You need to keep this system in place until the skill has been in place for a month!

5) MAKE THINGS FUN: If you have a child who isn’t interested or seems scared of the whole idea it can be helpful to do things to show why going to the toilet is fun. There are a series of science experiments you can try with them eg: food colouring in the toilet which changes colour if you wee on it which can help to spark their curiosity. You can also play water games with a bucket of water and discuss the idea of sinking and floating and then show them how that relates to toilet paper flushing down the toilet. Another idea is for them to decorate their toilet seat or steps so that they feel an ownership of he whole process. Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best however and that can be to buy a couple of new toys/ books and make with your child a box of toilet toys ( not all need to be new) so that whenever they sit on the toilet they are distracted and having fun with toys they enjoy. These toys shouldn’t be accessible any other time!

6) CONSISTENCY: This applies to all aspects of the process. From the vocabulary used (make sure anyone in contact with your child knows it); to the reward system. It is also important to not give up at the first hurdle but rather to persevere with a different tactic. If your child feels that you aren’t having the same expectations consistently, this can be very confusing. Rather understand before you start that this may be a process which takes some time and try to ensure you remain calm and consistent throughout.

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young child playing with the toilet paper in the toilet

Meet Ariella Lew

The Founder and Director of Kids on Track Consultancy and a qualified paediatric nurse. Ariella offers expert advice and management strategies to families locally and worldwide, specialising in behaviour and development support for children. With extensive experience in parenting guidance, including areas like disability and chronic illness, Ariella collaborates with schools and allied health professionals to create personalised plans. Leading a dedicated team, she ensures families receive optimal support, including assistance with accessing the NDIS.

Ariella’s compassionate approach empowers families to navigate challenges confidently, providing tailored solutions for their unique needs.

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