Does Your Child Refuse To Be Toilet-Trained?

Do you have a toddler who refuses to be toilet-trained? Make sure that he is ready for it before you start the transition from diaper to toilet. On World Toilet Day, we investigate the sticky issue.

By Amrita Gracias

Does Your Child Refuse To Be Toilet-Trained?

Rama is hassled. She has been trying to get her two-year-old son, Varun, toilet-trained for over three weeks but in vain. Every time she mentions the word, he cries non-stop and simply refuses to go anywhere near the toilet. Rama wonders why toilet-training has turned into an absolutely frustrating and tormenting experience for both. The transition from diapers to the toilet seat is often not a smooth one. Most parents envision the toilet-training process as difficult and challenging. They are stressed and clueless about what they can do to avoid the tears, tension and turmoil associated with this daily task.

Why does my toddler resist using the toilet? 

Why is toilet-training such a strenuous process and how to achieve the transition successfully? Before delving into this aspect, let’s understand the reasons why a toddler is likely to resist using the toilet. Dr Vivek Rege, a renowned paediatric surgeon and paediatric urologist from Mumbai, points out the various factors that can influence a child’s refusal to get toilet-trained.

  • The most common one is the constant parental pressure about the process. A child naturally rebels when he is constantly nagged about it. He then simply refuses to get toilet-trained.
  • Punishing or shaming the child because he is not used to the practice also has an extremely negative impact. 
  • Another factor can be an inability on the part of the parent to understand if the child is ready to be toilet-trained. It may be just too early for the child. 
  • Fear of the toilet and apprehensions associated with it can also lead to refusal. The child may be wondering if he will fall inside the commode. He also does not want to be pushed out of his comfort zone.

Your child's basic motor skills should be well-developed so he can sit comfortably on the toilet seat. He should be able to follow simple verbal commands.

Also Read: 6 Fun Videos To Potty-train Your Child

It's a process and not a milestone

The solutions to all the apprehensions mentioned above lie in understanding that toilet-training is a process. Dr Rege says, “It is important that your approach is right. Although a child may be ready anytime between 18 and 24 months, it could differ for each child. This is a process that takes time and effort.” Dr Rege also suggests paying attention to exceptional developments, which could have a bearing on the eventual outcome. “Do not attempt to start toilet-training your child if there is a major impending change like the arrival of a new baby, shifting of home or a vacation. Do not start if you don’t have enough time to spend with your child through the process,” he asserts.

How do I know if my child is ready? 

One of the most crucial indicators is the way your child responds to the concept. Moreover, his basic motor skills should be well-developed so he can sit comfortably on the toilet seat. He should be able to follow simple verbal commands so that he understands what you are asking him to do. Sometimes, your child will even indicate that he is ready to start using the toilet. He will show signs of discomfort while wearing soiled or wet nappies or diapers, or he will attempt to remove his pants or the diaper when he feels the need to go. As a parent, you may have many reasons to toilet-train your child as early as possible. It can be because of getting your child into school, social pressures, or the need to stop using the rather expensive diapers. It is true that once your child masters the skill, there are fewer chances of accidents and bed-wetting. However, toilet-training a child too early has its own disadvantages. At 14 or 15 months, children lack self-restraint. They have no voluntary control over their bladders or bowels. This incontinence gradually begins to change in stages: 

  • First, the child will stop passing stools unconsciously while he is sleeping at night. 
  • Then, she will stop passing stools unconsciously during the day. 
  • Next, she will stop passing urine unconsciously during the day. 
  • Finally, she will be able to stop passing urine unconsciously while asleep at night.

If you tend to hurry or force your child before she is ready, your efforts will be worthless. “If the child is uncomfortable and refuses to cooperate, the process becomes a long-drawn affair and is stressful for all,” explains Dr Rege. To avoid such situations, establish a regular routine for your child. “You can encourage her to sit on the toilet seat forty minutes after her morning meal,” says Dr Rege. “But, make sure you don’t force her. Rather, cajole her into sitting, and over a period, this routine can be implemented easily,” says Dr Rege.

Tips for successful toilet-training

The four keys to successful toilet-training are assurance, praise, reward and fun.

Assurance: Talk to your child before you begin the actual process. Help him understand why he needs to start using the toilet instead of diapers. Also, it is not advisable to make your child sit on a regular adult-sized commode as she can be anxious or scared of falling in. Instead, you can purchase a child-sized potty. If your child must use the adult-sized commode, make sure his feet are touching the ground. He may have a fear of falling in if his feet are hanging in the air. Place a small stool below for him to rest his feet. You can also get a child-sized toilet seat that can be placed on the commode, which will be more comfortable and suited to his size. This way, he is reassured of his safety. Sometimes, your child feels confused about ‘letting go’ of something from her body and hence attempts to hold back passing stools. Explain to her that what is being let off is unwanted dirt inside the body and the same can get expelled only through a natural process. 

Praise: Appreciate your child's attempts at sitting on the toilet seat and trying. 

Reward: Additionally, you can also treat your child to small rewards every time he uses the toilet. This will encourage him to cooperate more. 

Fun: While your child is sitting on the toilet, you can read to her or sing her favourite song – anything that will make her more comfortable, ease her anxiety, convince her to remain seated and finish the job. 

Importance of diet

Make sure your child has a healthy, balanced diet. Hard and dry stools are also caused by a diet that includes fewer solids and too much liquids. Passing these types of stools can cause painful fissures on the rectum, which then leads to the vicious cycle of constipation as she will be reluctant to pass stools for fear of the pain that she will endure.
Your child should be eating regular solid foods for over a year so you can start toilet-training him. Try to include a suitable quantity of fruits and vegetables or a high-fibre diet that provides adequate roughage to the digestive system. This will ensure regular soft and normal stools. 

Other points to keep in mind

  • You can also take your child to the toilet every three to four hours during the day to help initiate a routine to pass urine, even if she shows no actual indication.
  • Observe if the child is passing stools at a particular time of the day, say soon after lunch. Use that time to place him on the potty. 
  • Also, if you notice body language or facial expressions that tell you the child is about to pass stools, take him to the potty immediately. 
  • If your child has an older sibling, he/she can be an easy example to encourage the younger one to get off diapers and start using the toilet instead. Tell your child that growing up and being a ‘big kiddo’ is fun. 

Toilet-training your child is a lengthy process that warrants your time, patience and effort. Refrain from criticising or shouting at your child, if there are a few accidents along the way. Always remain calm and maintain a positive attitude. The key element is a stable and settled environment that will help in making the process a pleasant experience for all. On World Toilet Day, take a pledge to make potty-training enjoyable for your child. 

Looking for expert tips and interesting articles on parenting? Subscribe now to our magazine. Connect with us on Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube