Toilet training isn’t an easy undertaking but such an important milestone for a child to achieve. Although toilet training can accompany many different strategies, here are a few you can try with your child! All you need is your child, a timer, a bathroom, reinforcers and some patience! This list is not by any means exhaustive.
• Try to introduce toilet training during natural times of the day.
Maybe right before you leave the house or before bed. Using naturally occurring transitions is a great strategy for toilet
training so it doesn’t seem like an extra “chore” but rather just what you do before you go to bed or go out.
• Some children need the entire experience desensitized.
Try to make the bathroom/potty seem like a less daunting experience by bringing in highly preferred toys, books, iPad, etc. and just practice sitting in the bathroom or on the toilet. (Make sure the preferred item is something your child can do while seated!) Making the bathroom seem like a fun/relaxing place may be helpful for children who may find the whole experience aversive.
• Toileting in general is a complex skill.
Breaking the skill down into smaller parts allows for more success. Don’t try to take it all on at once! Start with just naturally bringing the child to the bathroom while still in his or her pull-up/diaper. Give him or her reinforcement just for trying to sit on the toilet, whether the child produces or not.
• Sometimes children don’t understand the whole contingency of sitting on the toilet and producing.
Try using a book, social story, or iPad app that walks through the steps of toileting or use visuals!
• Set your child up for success!
Start taking your child in small increments so that he or she has a handful of opportunities to produce on the toilet. Notice when your child is naturally eliminating/producing and use those times as starting points.
• Try building awareness around staying dry.
Try using intermittent “dry pants checks” between trips to the bathroom. This will allow for your child to start recognizing the difference between feeling wet/dry. It also allows for the opportunity to think about whether or not he or she might need to urinate.
• Make sure that there is something for the child to do on the toilet when just starting out.
Adults often check their phones, read books or magazines while in the bathroom, so having something for your child to look at, play with, occupy their hands might help pass the time and keep them preoccupied!
• If your child doesn’t produce too often, try giving him or her salty foods that would require more drinks and thus more frequent urination.
Pushing fluids can be a great strategy for those who produce a little less frequently and give you more opportunities to practice success.
• Start underwear in small increments!
When you’re just beginning underwear, maybe only start them in it for a couple hours at a time. Plenty of typically developing children have troubles staying dry overnight. If this is your child, maybe only start underwear during the day and putting the pull-up/diaper on when it’s time for bed.
• Toileting is a long process.
Reinforcing even at the beginning, “almosts” or small attempts can help shape and start the process.
• If your child is toilet training at school…
…ask the teacher how you can follow through at home. Consistency is key with toilet training!
• Accidents are going to happen!
Don’t discourage or punish the accident but rather neutrally state “Oops” or “You have wet pants,” and neutrally take your child to the bathroom. This is especially important when just beginning underwear.
• A lot of children won’t request the bathroom at first and that’s ok!
As long as you are diligent about taking them frequently, you can still keep them accident-free while building more awareness around requesting.
Be patient! This is a long process but you will get there!
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