by Dr. Gayatri Krishnan on  January 29, 2008 at 5:40 PM General Health News
Taming Toddlers Through Toilet Training
Toilet training is the process of weaning a young child off diapers (or 'nappies') and training the child to use the toilet for passing urine and motion. This is essential, as being 'civil' demands excreting in private.

What does toilet training mean to the child?

In Daddy's Shoes: Children like to imitate their parents and siblings, and being able to use the toilet like the others in the family, being able to wear underwear like them gives kids immense satisfaction.

To a child toilet training has far- reaching implications. Some of them are-

• Accepting the responsibility assigned to him by his parents,
• Realizing that one way of doing things is acceptable and another way is not.

The era of Disposables

It is no small task for any parent to 'potty train' or 'toilet train' their young one. With the market being flooded these days with disposable diapers, working mothers living in nuclear families find it convenient to use them rather than go through the hassle of potty training.

Thus the average age at which the child becomes toilet trained has gone up from 18 months in the 1950's to 3 years in this millennium. With children commencing play school as early as 1 and a 1/2 years of age, toilet training getting delayed until 3 years. It is not uncommon to find toddlers in play schools and even in kindergarten, still sporting diapers.

When & how of toilet training

So how does one go about this time consuming process? When does one really start training the child?

Start toilet training only when both your child and you are ready. You are ready when you can devote the time and energy necessary to encourage your child on a daily basis for a period of at least 3 months or more.

Your child is ready when he or she is 18 to 24 months of age. He may be able to point to his wet or soiled diaper, or be able to say that he or she would like to go to the potty.

Extremely harsh or rigid training efforts may defeat the very purpose of toilet training, leading to problems such as bed-wetting, or other minor problems later on in life.

Preparation for toilet training

Some children fear the closed confines of the toilet or may also be afraid of the flush. So, as a first step, your child should feel comfortable in the bathroom. You could allow your child to see urine and bowel movements in the toilet and allow him to play with flushing the toilet.

From potty training to toilet training

If you plan to use a 'potty', let him get familiar with the potty as well. You could tell him it is his very own "chair". Allow him to sit on it, (initially with his clothes on) feel it and get used to it. If he wishes to leave the potty at any time, let him do so, but never force him to spend time sitting on it.

Once your child has become used to the potty chair, then, let him become comfortable with sitting on the potty without wearing pants or a diaper.

The next step is to show your child how to use the potty chair. You could make him sit on the potty soon after he wakes up in the morning, after a meal, before a bath and at regular intervals of 2 hours and also before going to bed.

You could make a gentle 'ssssss' sound, when the child urinates, this reinforces that next time he ought to be passing urine into the potty. One could also take the help of visual cues in the form of a change in expression, straining, taking a pause from whatever they are doing, to signal a bowel movement and place them on the potty chair as soon as the tell-tale signs are observed.

Help your child relax when he or she is on the potty chair by reading from his picture book or talking to him and most important, staying with him.

Allow your child to observe the transfer of the stool from the potty chair into the toilet. You could even tell him to say "bye" to the urine or stool! This will make him understand that the stool or urine has to be disposed off in this manner.

If your child succeeds in using the potty, praise him, but do not express disappointment if your child does not urinate or has a bowel movement in the potty.

Once your child is comfortable using the potty chair and flushing the toilet, the time has arrived for him to start using the toilet to pass urine or stool.

Keep your child in loose, easily removable pants, which he can easily and quickly remove by himself before sitting on the seat.

Is it a long drawn process?

It is not unusual for a child to take about 3-6 months. Most important is your patience and encouragement. Never push the child too much or reprimand him for wetting his pant. If you do not succeed within 3-6 months, consult your family doctor. It may be nothing to worry about, it could simply be that your child is really not ready for toilet training.

Problems with toilet training

Too strict an approach to the process of toilet training can lead to rebellious refusal. A nervous child may also face delays in toilet training. Some children may be toilet trained through the day but wet the bed at night. Researchers attribute bed wetting to a very stressful toilet training process or to Attention Deficit Disorders & other such conditions.

Undesirable effects of diapers

With more and more families having double incomes, people are turning more towards disposable nappies or diapers. While this may indeed be convenient, it also has some undesirable effects on the child.

  • It reduces the motivation of both parents and children towards consistent attempts at toilet training,
  • Babies may be exposed to toxic chemicals found in the nappies. This is a serious cause for concern.
  • Diapers have been notoriously known to be a health hazard in crèches and have been implicated in spread of many diarrheal diseases (e.g. Shigella or Bacillary dysentery) in the community
  • According to a recent study by doctors at Germany, disposables were found to keep the testicles of baby boys at temperatures greater than normal. This impairs the naturally cooler environment of the testicles which can affect male fertility.
  • Apart from the effect on children, the diapers are disposed by filling landfill; the excreta from them can contaminate the soil and the ground water. More importantly, the waterproof lining of the diapers are non-biodegradable, thereby contributing to environmental pollution.
Catch 'em young

With a view to reduce the harmful effects on the child as well as the environment, some people advocate a more "natural" way of toilet training called Elimination Communication or infant potty training.

According to this method, the training starts from infancy itself. Whenever the baby passes urine you may hold him up over the toilet and simultaneously make a "pssss" sound which the baby soon associates with urination. Once the baby is able to sit, he could be seated on the potty seat in time to "catch" the movement.

This 'conditions' the nervous system (a phenomenon called neuroplasticity) and babies begin to push as soon as they sit on the seat. In the beginning, you could hold the baby over the toilet soon after a feed, later every 2 hours & so on. Soon the baby will be able to communicate his need to 'dispose', by a change in facial expression or other such signs. Whether you 'catch 'em young' in infancy or start toilet training during the 'terrible twos', it is a time-consuming process requiring patience and TLC (tender loving care). Accidents must be ignored and small successes on the part of the child encouraged. If consistent efforts do not yield results it may indicate that your child is not ready. Give him a break and restart after a few months.

So, go ahead - start toilet training your baby today with greater confidence. Use the diaper sparingly to protect the child and also to save the environment.

Source: Medindia
Dr. Gayatri Ganapathy Krishnan/K

Most Popular on Medindia