Guest post by Ariella Lew – a highly qualified paediatric nurse and Director of Kids on Track Consultancy.
Most of us don’t think twice about going to the toilet at convenient times in the day, for example, before we start a meeting or walk into the cinema to watch a movie. These habits are common sense for adults, and were learned as children. Being toilet trained does not mean simply the act of going to the toilet when we need to. Rather, it means grasping the details of the behaviours and habits around toilet use that we as adults take for granted.
For children who are starting to toilet train, it is vital that they are taught a routine around toilet use which involves both actual toilet use and all of the behaviours and associations with toilet use. In order for this toilet routine to be successful, it is important that the times of day that children are taken to the toilet are consistent and make sense to them.
Children understand routine, sometimes more than parents give them credit for, and often rely on it for their sense of security. Therefore, building a routine around the toilet can help them to feel a sense of control and master the skill of ‘toileting’.
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The first step in helping to create a positive toilet routine for your child is to encourage them to start paying attention to other family member’s toilet habits. This should be done even before formal toilet training begins. For example, before bath time, when each of their siblings is undressed, they go to the toilet before getting into the bath. Another idea would be to create a family policy where all family members use the bathroom before they leave the house to go out. In turn, this would mean that by the time your little one is ready for toilet training, they understand that going to the toilet is normal and it is likely they will ask to go when the rest of the family do!
It can also be very helpful to create a visual schedule to show your child exactly what is expected of them at toilet time. Each of these stages needs to happen whether they are in nappies, go to the potty or actually use the toilet. This schedule should include taking off their pants, wiping, flushing (or throwing nappy away), washing hands and getting dressed again. By allowing them to tick off what they have done, or to get a sticker for each part they achieve, they build confidence as they feel they are succeeding in the steps which they did right.
Finally, in order for your child to be able to take ownership of their toilet routine, there needs to be predictability around when they will be asked to go / taken to the toilet. No child reacts well to being taken to the toilet when they are in the middle of playing, screen time or participating in an activity they are enjoying. Therefore, it can be a good idea to teach your child that transition times are a sensible time to go to the toilet ie. when they get home but before a snack or before you leave to go to the park. Through this consistent approach, your child will learn to use habit as well as bladder and bowel control to know when to take themselves to the toilet.
Whilst the word routine can often sound scary, when it comes to the toilet, creating a predictable routine will allow your child to feel safe. This will help them to be confident in their ability to recognise when and where are the appropriate times to visit the toilet. These are habits that will stay with you child for life as they have with many of us whether we realise it or not.
Do you have any tips for building a good toilet routine? Let us know in the comments below.
Ariella Lew is a highly qualified paediatric nurse and Director of Kids on Track Consultancy, a private practice based in Melbourne. Ariella consults both locally and overseas, providing expert advice and management strategies for families requiring support with their child’s behaviour, sleep and toilet training and family dynamics as well as providing strategies and advice for families of children with special needs.
Find out more at Facebook: @kidsontrackconsultancy or contact Ariella directly on firstname.lastname@example.org