Toilet training is a natural process that every child (and every parent) goes through. Many parents expect the toilet training process to be long and difficult. However, many difficulties can be prevented or minimized if parents wait until their children are ready to train, and if they go about training in a logical, consistent and matter-of-fact manner.
Readiness for toilet training doesn't automatically occur when a child reaches a certain age. Rather, children, over the course of many months gradually become physically and emotionally ready to take on this challenge.
What follows is information to help parents decide when the time is right to begin toilet training with their children, what methods are appropriate, and tips to help make the toilet training process as stress-free as possible. While reading this material, parents should keep in mind that the key for a successful toilet training experience is not to make too big a deal of it.
When to Start Toilet Training
Parents must take several things into consideration when choosing the right time to begin toilet training:
- The child's age. Most children begin to show readiness signs somewhere between 24-30 months of age. This is a rather wide range. The time at which a child is ready to train depends on the child, and the age at which a child is ready to train varies widely from child to child. Generally, as children approach 30 months of age, this readiness becomes more and more apparent. Before about 24 months of age, most children are not physically able to consistently control their bowels or bladder. In fact, they often have very little awareness of these bodily functions. As a general rule, the older a child is when toilet training is commenced, the quicker the process will be. Children are likely to resist if training is begun too early.
- The presence of other readiness signs. The child’s age is not the only determinant of toilet training readiness. Several other readiness signs must be apparent for toilet training to be effective (see below). If parents try to begin toilet training before their child is ready, they will be setting themselves up for lots of frustration (for themselves and for their children). Children are likely to resist if parents attempt to train them before they are ready.
- The individual child. It is important for parents to let their child lead the way. If the child seems interested in toilet training, parents should proceed. If their child seems resistant, it is probably best to put off training for a while. It is impossible to force a child to toilet train.
- Stressors. It is not a good idea to begin training when the child or his/her family is under stress (e.g., arrival of a new baby, moving to a new home, change in caretakers). Under these circumstances, it's best to wait until things have settled down, in order to avoid frustration and disappointment.
How long will it take?
Keep in mind that each child is different. Some children are ready to train before others. Some children, once they begin, train quickly, and for others the process takes longer. For most children bowel control often comes first, followed by daytime bladder control. Night time bladder control is often the last part of training to be accomplished, and it often occurs well after successful daytime control is established. It is not uncommon for children 4-5 years old to occasionally wet the bed at night.
Reprinted with the permission of the Center for Effective Parenting. © 1998-2004 The Center for Effective Parenting. All Rights Reserved.
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