Potty-Training 101

It is now back to school time and in the preschool world, this may mean complications for those children who are experiencing some setbacks with regards to potty-training. In the professional early childhood world, we now refer to this process as “toilet-learning.” Regardless of the label, it can be a frustrating process for both parent and child, depending on a number of factors including sibling order, personality, timing, and the positivity or negativity of the toilet-learning experience.

Many parents have been told tales of previous generations tackling the porcelain throne as early as 12 months. With that kind of pressure, most of us experience feelings of failure before we even start! Then, there is the opposite extreme. I’m not normally a conspiracy theorist by nature, but doesn’t it also seem a tad bit odd that the diaper companies are the biggest proponents of waiting until the child decides he/she is ready?

So, what is a parent to do? Is it even possible to have a positive experience in the toilet-learning process? Here are a few tips to make toilet-learning a natural progression in early childhood development:

  1. Watch for readiness. Does your child respond to prompts to use the toilet? Is your child able to use their language skills to tell you when they have to go to the bathroom?
  2. Remember that preschoolers are intrinsically motivated. In other words, make it fun! It can be boring to sit on the toilet, so books are perfectly acceptable during this process.
  3. Create a reward system. This is a big achievement that deserves recognition including public praise among siblings (be sure to prepare them ahead of time), notes, ribbons, stickers, and prizes are all great motivational tools to ensure success!
  4. Minimize pressure. Be warned… as soon as children sense stress in this area, they undoubtedly will backslide.
  5. Fall back. If you did not heed the warning in #4 to minimize pressure, your child may be trying to gain control of their circumstances through resisting toilet-learning.

If your child is now experiencing toilet-learning success at home and you are planning to enroll him/her in preschool, here are a few more tips to ensure future, ongoing success:

  1. Prepare your child to ask for adult assistance when needed. Be sure that you have selected a program that is supportive of your child’s unique and individual timeline.
  2. Recognize that your child may have setbacks in a classroom setting. Many factors come into play including the proximity of the restrooms and the level of support provided by the caregivers. Do the teachers recognize that children in this process may be reluctant to temporarily cease an engaging activity or chance relinquishing a cherished toy in order to opt for the less desirable option of taking a bathroom break?
  3. Be prepared. Accidents will happen and when they do, your child needs supplies, including back up bedding and clothing. Children will feel safe and secure when they have the items they need for the inevitable setback.
  4. Assist your child with developing skills to become autonomous in taking care of their personal needs. Most children need help, but the goal is to prepare them to become self-sufficient with wiping, buttoning buttons, and washing hands by the time they enter school.
  5. Get professional help when needed. Many children are toilet trained during the day, but struggle when they sleep. This may be completely normal, and may continue into their early elementary years, but don’t hesitate to seek the assistance of a physician to rule out any physical conditions.

Rest assured, assuming there are no physiological complications, most children will completely master toilet-learning in their early childhood years. As with other areas of learning and development, each child, with the proper support, can be successful and confident in transitioning through this important milestone.

Cindy Hartwig,
Preschool Director,
All Aboard Preschool