How do I get rid of those diapers?

How do I get rid of those diapers?

Potty training is an interesting but sometimes complicated topic. As a parent you are busy with the everyday things around your child. In addition, you work and try to organize everything as well as possible. In education, I think for everyone it comes down to the fact that you are actually trying to make your child more and more independent, right ?! But when do you actually start toilet training with your child? With some kids it seems to go without saying and with others it seems to take years. Why is that? Are you not consistent enough as a parent or is your child just not quite ready? Isn’t it very interesting to find out?

First let me start with the definition of toilet training. The dictionary describes it like this: clean, no longer defiling itself with its needs. I hear you say: yes, that makes sense, I can also come up with that myself. Rather, tell me when my child is ready to stop polluting himself with his needs. There is more to be found about this in the theory.

If you want your child to be toilet trained, it must first be sufficiently physically developed and in addition it must also be reasonably developed in five development areas. Before we start looking at this, first something about the physical maturation of the child.

Physical maturation

When a baby is born it is not yet potty trained. It poops and urinates reflexively. A baby does not yet have muscle control and therefore cannot yet control the sphincter muscles of the bladder and anus. A baby is not aware that it has a bladder and bowel function and cannot yet place the urge feeling. This is because a baby has not yet matured neurologically.

The development of bladder control consists of three phases, namely:

  • The reflex phase. This phase lasts approximately up to 18 months. In this phase the bladder is automatically emptied when it has a certain degree of filling
  • The awareness phase. In this phase, the child learns that the urge to urinate is part of the process and also realizes that it is wet.
  • The management phase. This stage is in children between the ages of 2 and 3. In the beginning they learn to hold their pee for a short time. They can then consciously tighten their pelvic floor muscles.

The bowel function is controlled in a similar way. In the intestines, a long hollow tube, muscle contractions move food debris to the colon and then to the rectum. With a certain amount of stool, this creates a poo reflex. Children also learn to recognize these and to keep them under control when they become toilet trained.

In short, this is the physical development that a child must go through to become toilet trained. Now something about the control of the five development areas.

The control of five development areas

When a child is eighteen months old, toilet training is started in Western countries. At this age, the children can convert reflex behavior into controlled behavior. They can then control the sphincter muscles, which is necessary for potty training. But children need more than just learn to control the sphincters. For a child to be completely toilet trained, it must master five development areas (Fischel & Liebert, 2000):

  1. Communicative development: a child is able to make clear to the educators that they have to urinate / defecate;
  2. Socio-emotional development: a child must be able to understand what educators want from them and must be able to act accordingly;
  3. Grove motor development, a child needs a certain time – to sit in a certain position – on the toilet;
  4. Fine motor development: a child is able to open buttons and wipe his / her buttocks;
  5. Cognitive development: a child can recognize the urge, can control it, and can postpone urination and defecation until the right time and place.

This does not mean that if a child is physically developed, as described above and has mastered the five development areas, that a child will actually become toilet trained. When potty training your child, there is also something like your child itself. Is your child interested in it or is it busy with completely different things?

Now that it appears that your child is physically ready and is also motivated to become toilet trained, the question is how do I do that? There are many toilet training courses and there is something positive to say about each training. I think it is important that you do what is right for you and your child. Do it together and talk about it with your child and, for example, read a picture book about this subject.

I will give an example of a plan:

  • It is important that a child knows what the intention is. Introduce the potty or toilet and let them know what to do with it. This can be done in a playful way by having the teddy bear or a doll pee in the toilet.
  • Have the child urinate on the toilet / potty at fixed times, for example before and after sleeping. If you notice that your child is regularly dry, you can try to let him/her walk around without a diaper during the day. For a child it is great if you do not have to go out several times on such days. Schedule a quiet moment for this to allow your child to get used to it.
  • Another step further may be that the child does not wear a diaper even outside the door.
  • Going one step further, your child will no longer have a diaper on when it goes to daycare or a playgroup.

This way, the child can build up his confidence in this situation and can first practice in their familiar environment. If it is already successful there, the practice can start in a less familiar environment. With one child it goes well all at once and the other child finds it very exciting and occasionally has a small incident. Keep in mind that your child has to deal with many more factors in daycare than at home. Factors such as is the regular teacher there, are there many children. The child is completely absorbed in his game and so there are even more factors that make whether it is going well.

Whether toilet training is successful depends to a large extent on you, as a parent. If you take the time for your child in this phase and you respond sensitively to the signals from your child, there is a good chance that the toilet training will succeed. When a child becomes toilet trained, self-confidence grows, because it learns to do something itself that it can influence. A parent cannot hold back the pee until the child is in the toilet, the child really has to do it himself. Therefore, as parents, respond positively to the child if it actually urinates. If it goes wrong once, indicate that it can happen and that it will work again the next time. Staying positive is very important to avoid getting into a negative circle. Try to follow the pace of the child. If your child appears to be not quite ready yet, take a step back. And no, it does not mean that if your child is almost four years old that you as a parent have probably not taken the time for your child. Every child develops in their own way, which means that one child can start toilet training at 20 months old and another child can be 36 months or start even later.

Many toilet training courses are working with a reward system. For example, after each pee that a child has done, it will receive a sticker. When the card is full of stickers, it will receive a small gift. We also do this at 10forKIDS. Personally I think it is important that a child also deserves a compliment every time the child has sat on the toilet and has done his best to urinate. A child is very sensitive to compliments and loves it when the parent is happy.

With the reward system, you can choose to also give a sticker if the child did not pee, the commitment to do it well also counts. When do you stop giving stickers? That is the question that you as parents can think about yourself. If we use a reward card, let’s at least do so in combination with a positive compliment every time a child has tried it.

Finally, there are a few more tips for you as parents:

  • Do not start until your child is really ready and do not force it. Make it a fun moment and, for example, sing songs together when the child is on the toilet.
  • Are you starting with toilet training your child? Then put on comfortable clothes for your child. For example, if it still has a romper on and has to go to the toilet often, it is not so easy for the child and the teacher. A shirt and underpants are easier, because the chance that a romper will get wet when urinating is higher than with a shirt and underpants.
  • As parents, coordinate toilet training together with the teacher. Guaranteed more success when parents and teachers work on it together. 
  • Stay positive, even if it does not work out all at once.

Elisabeth Kok – Moerman
Pedagogue and pedagogical employee at the Stampers (0 – 4 years old)