Question: My son is two years and eight months old and we are slowly making progress in potty training. He knows when to go, but the problem is, he’s often too lazy to bother going to the potty or the toilet and asks for his diaper to be put on so he can play without being interrupted. He also never pooped in the toilet, only pees.
I tried pushing the question about four months ago and it just made him get angry and become constipated. I don’t want to overdo it because he’s very stubborn and he might just refuse to take his diaper off completely – but at the same time, I don’t think the gentle approach works. Any advice on how to overcome these problems? I need to train him before his third birthday.
I should also mention that he will only sit on the toilet (then reluctantly) when he has his potty training seat on it, which will make him want to go to other toilets. This means that when we are out of the house we are very stuck.
We would be very grateful for any advice!
Answer: While there is a lot of pressure for children to be fully toilet trained by their third birthday, the truth is that many children are just not developmentally ready for this goal. Part of that pressure comes from preschools saying kids shouldn’t wear diapers when they start going, although that isn’t realistic for many three-year-olds.
Much of the pressure comes from making comparisons with other kids who might have learned to use the toilet in their sophomore year and then assuming all kids can. There is a large age range to what is normal in toilet training, with some children being able to grasp the process early in their second year and others not being able to reach half their age. third year. Additionally, many children who were potty trained early are in fact not fully trained and are prone to accidents and setbacks afterwards.
In fact, toilet training takes time and a lot of patience. Young children need to learn a lot to understand the complicated body process of understanding a bowel movement and then being able to notice it ahead of time so they can control it and do it in the toilet. As you have discovered, speeding up the process or adding parental pressure can easily backfire.
To let go and poop, you need to be completely relaxed. Under pressure, a child can easily tense up and hold on to their poop, making them constipated. If the habit of “holding on” becomes a pattern, chronic constipation can set in, which can lead to ongoing accidents and loss of bowel control as the child grows older. In my work as a mental health professional, I have encountered many children suffering from constipation with continuous toilet accidents resulting from too early and under pressure toilet training.
Additionally, young children tend to have strong feelings / rituals about when and where they can use the toilet when learning. At first, most feel comfortable and relaxed enough to “ poop ” only when they are in their diapers. Others will develop a strong preference for a certain potty or toilet seat and will only use one at first. This is all very normal and the best approach is to accept their rituals and preferences and only develop them gradually as they become more comfortable with the whole process.
The first step in helping your son is to relieve all pressure to use the toilet. Sometimes taking a break for a few weeks after toilet training is the best approach, especially if it feels like a battle. The next step is to “tune in” and notice precisely what stage it is in the toilet training process. For example, the fact that he asks for a diaper means that he starts to notice when a poo arrives. It also means that he seems more comfortable pooing when wearing a diaper.
When he goes through this process, it is important to praise him without any pressure. For example, you could say “Oh you know a poo is coming – good boy” and then give him the diaper, congratulating him when done – “Good boy, you let the poo out”. Praise is crucial to help him relax and prevent him from “holding on” as well as reinforcing his learning.
The next step is to make him comfortable pooping in the toilet. To do this, you want to make the toilet attractive and relaxing for him. Some parents I’ve worked with do this by affixing stickers, playing music, and making sure the toilet seat is comfortable and secure (many young children are afraid of falling). You can also make it rewarding to sit on the toilet seat by playing fun games that only play while seated – blowing bubbles is one of the best because the blowing motion relaxes the intestines.
Once he’s comfortable, the next step is to develop a routine for when he sits on the toilet – for example, you can sit with him twice a day right after baby. lunch and dinner. The goal is for him to sit for five minutes to see if a poo is coming in, without any pressure if nothing is happening, while still making the process enjoyable while reading or playing games. Once he manages to poop in the toilet, you can do a lot of it, praising his success and putting a big star on a chart etc.
The key to successful toilet training is to be patient and positive, using a step-by-step approach and always going at your child’s pace.
John Sharry is the founder of the Parents Plus Charity and assistant professor at the UCD School of Psychology. He is the author of several books on parenting, including Positive Parenting and Parenting Teenagers. See solutiontalk.ie