Toilet training is an important milestone in the development of a child. It is one of the first steps that children learn on their route to become self-sufficient. Toilet training is a challenge both to the parents and the children because it occurs when the new physical abilities, vocabulary, and self-esteem are rapidly developing in children. All children will manage to acquire the necessary control eventually, but the difficulty involved is a major concern for parents.
Toilet training and psychology
Theories of psychology emphasize that toilet training plays a major role in the personality development of the child. This is when the child learns self-control and to control the impulses. An early and harsh training such as forcing the child to hold or control the bowel movements will make the child obsessively tidy and punctual. Whereas, a liberal toilet training with no appropriate guidance can make the child messy and disorganized. Proper toilet training using encouraging statements helps build the child’s self-esteem.
When is it ideal to start toilet training?
Many parents have inappropriate expectations regarding the age at which toilet training should be given to children. Psychological studies reveal that there are benefits in toilet training from 18 months to 27 months. Realistic and appropriate expectation associated with positive interaction between parents and child during this period facilitates child development. In contrast, unrealistic expectations can have adverse consequences such as frustration, punishment, negligence, abuse and lack of stimulation. Many parents force toilet training on their children when they are too young. This causes frustration and disappointment in the children as well as for the parents. The child should also be mentally ready. Motivation is the key too.
The following are indications that the child is ready for toilet training:
- the child demonstrates independence and uses the word “no”
- has regular and predictable bowel movements
- is able to follow simple instructions, sit and walk
- reports soiled diapers and wants a clean diaper
- uses words, facial expressions or movements indicating the need to urinate or defecate
- shows an interest in imitating others' bathroom habits
- starts pulling his clothes up and down by himself
- holds urine and stays dry for at least two hours, which indicates that his bladder muscles are sufficiently developed to store urine
It is also important to know the risks of late toilet training. Some of the physical problems related to late toilet training (after 4 years) are as follows:
- Risk of infectious diseases (diarrhea)
- Poor functioning of the bladder muscles, which will result in abnormal urination
- Constipation and refusal to go to the toilet
- Enuresis (bedwetting at night) and encopresis (fecal incontinence)
- Daytime accidents
- Inability to control the urge
- Urinary tract infections
Some of the guidelines to be followed during toilet training are as follows:
- Do not scold the child in front of others for daytime accidents. This will make the child feel shy and hide away. It will also affect her self-esteem negatively.
- Motivate the child to use the potty by appreciating him with gifts and praise for every significant improvement he achieves.
- Approach the child when her mood is good and she is cooperative.
- Avoid making negative comments about stools.
- Avoid punishment and force.
- Make the training process relaxed and fun.
- Make him comfortable in the potty chair by telling stories.
- Do not make the child feel pressured because of your family views and other considerations, which will only create anxiety in the child.
- Build a routine.
Do remember that making the child understand the use of a toilet is of primary importance in the training process. Mastering the process will happen with practice and time. Setbacks are normal. Do not see them as regression or failure. Instead, encourage your child to practice what you have taught him.
Disadvantages of diapers
The chemicals used in diapers such as dioxins are harmful. They cause decreased immunity, skin infections and eye irritation. Reduced ventilation in the genitals causes urinary tract infections. It causes incontinence, enuresis, and other health problems. It reduces the older babies' motivation to get potty trained and causes developmental delay. Proper toilet-training results in a minimal usage of diapers so that all the problems mentioned above are avoided.
The author is a clinical psychologist and lecturer with NIEPMD.