There’s a lot of hard work involved in learning to use the toilet. Children have to learn to control their muscles, to hold on or let go at just the right time. They have to stop doing something they really like and go right away to the bathroom. What’s more, they have to learn to let go of something their body produces and have it flushed away down a drain. They may wonder, “If I let go too much, will all of me come out and get flushed down the toilet?” No wonder it’s so hard to master toilet training, and no wonder children sometimes wet or soil their pants as they’re learning!
Signs of Readiness
The timetable for learning to use the potty for each child is as individual as learning to walk or talk. Expecting too much too soon can lead to frustration for both parents and children. If we make an effort to begin toilet training and find that our child isn’t the least bit interested, it’s probably a good idea to back off and try again later.
Accidents Are Natural
Even after children have learned to use the toilet, it’s natural for them to have an “accident” once in a while. Even though toilet accidents are frustrating, children manage better when their parents are patient and remind them of their successes rather than making them feel bad when they’ve wet or soiled their pants. Children really do want to please their parents, and they like the feeling of “growing up.”
It can take a long while for children to stay dry all through the night. That’s usually because children sleep soundly, so they aren’t aware of their bladder sensations. Many parents, before they go to sleep at night, find that it helps to wake a child to go to the bathroom. That way, children become used to the bladder sensations and learn to control themselves.
Even after they’re “toilet trained,” there may be times, like when they’re sick or have a cold, that children will lapse into bedwetting. They have less control of their bladders when they aren’t well or when they’re upset about changes in their lives (like the arrival of a new baby in the family, a move from one home to another, or other stresses).
Training Is a Joint Effort
The “training” that goes on in “toilet training” is a joint effort. We parents train our children in the mechanics of using the toilet, but we also need to learn how to respond to their cues of being ready to be trained. Our children, on the other hand, have to develop awareness of the sensations of urinating and having a bowel movement as well as developing a certain measure of muscular control.
When we parents are able to have realistic expectations, we are more likely to approach toilet training with a balance of gentleness and persistence, and our children are more likely to gain from the experience not just mastery of their body functions, but also a stronger sense of self. They can feel proud of themselves for the ways they are growing and able to manage certain somethings that are important in the grownup world.