|OK! We're ready to start toilet training!
By the time you've finished with the preparation (discussions, videos, books), purchasing the potty chair and underwear/pull-ups, most children will have started making some associations between peeing/pooping and the potty. For some it may be peeing in his/her diaper, announcing that she needs to pee and running to the potty after the fact. For others, it may be actual successes on the potty. And yet, for others it may be the mere recognition of peeing in his/her diaper. This is the time to start watching your child's body signals closely.
Most children will have a tell tale stance, facial expression ("the look"), or routine (running to another room) when having a bowel movement. When you notice that your child is about to have a bowel movement (especially helpful if there is a particular time of day your child does it) this is the time to say "Shall we go sit on the potty?" If willing, take your child to the potty. Sometimes reading books will help your child relax while sitting on the potty. However, this may also end up being a "reading fest" so I would try to limit the book reading to only what's necessary. Additionally, some children may want "privacy" and helping them sit on the potty and then leaving (letting them know that when they are done they should let you know) may prove the most successful.
Recognizing when your child is urinating is a bit harder. Some children, especially as they get older and are voiding less frequently, will stop momentarily to pee. Some will even squat. Frequently watching their fluid intake is more helpful. If your child has had a large amount of fluid, taking him/her to the potty 30 minutes to an hour after drinking will maximize success, and help your child recognize the connection between bladder fullness and peeing.
Every child is different, and some children will be "bowel" trained before being "bladder" trained and vice versa. Whichever may be first, keep in mind that it is usually one before the other and not both simultaneously. Additionally, day-time dryness almost always comes before night-time dryness and may precede it by several months.
Now that the process has started, here are some additional things to keep in mind:
Patience! Patience! Patience!
Toilet training is a big process. Some experts feel that it is the first and biggest developmental step your child will take. The process generally takes several weeks to several months to complete.
Two steps forward, one step back.
Don't be discouraged if you have a few good days followed by a few bad. Again, it's a process that's going to take time. Also keep in mind that when your child is tired or upset this is the most common time for accidents or setbacks to occur.
Know when to back off
If you are pushing too hard, your child may "push" back with more accidents and/or resistance. Take the control out of the issue and step back. It is ok to take a few days or even few weeks "off" . Your child will recognize the power struggle is gone and relax and respond to it.
A final word: As hard as it may be to admit or realize, toilet training is truly in the control of your child. All you can do is be supportive and encouraging and set the stage for success. Keep in mind that your child will probably be toilet trained when she is ready, NOT necessarily when you are ready. If you are experiencing major difficulties, it may be time to sit back, re-examine the situation and ask yourself if your child is truly ready (see article on readiness). If you are meeting up with a lot of resistance in a child that is ready, it is time to examine those issues. A good reference is Dr. Ianelli's article on Toilet training resistance.
Next: Common problems during toilet training.....help!