Communicating at the toilet

Did you know that what you say and how you act around your child when they are toilet training can really make or break the whole experience?  A confident and supported child will be happy to keep trying, even if they make mistakes!

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Here are a few points to remember about communication, before you get started.

A child is never in the wrong when it comes to toileting

Your positive attitude, no matter what, is key to keeping your child relaxed around the toilet and most importantly, happy to keep trying.  Sensitive children in particular will pick up when you think they are not doing a good enough job.  This can completely derail their confidence.

Whilst toilet training can be frustrating for parents, it is important to look at WHY there might be issues, rather than blaming the child.  This might include not being quite ready (and thus less understanding of the importance of making it to the toilet every time) or being almost ‘past’ the window of opportunity (and thus resisting going to the toilet).  Of equal importance, is to look into any underlying causes of sudden accidents, constipation or frequent bed-wetting.  Any issues around toileting is never the child’s fault!

Keep it positive

Whilst praise keeps it positive, why not try using your child’s own ‘intrinsic motivation’?  To do this, acknowledge what your child has achieved, for example, ‘you did a poo in the toilet!!’ or ‘you told Daddy you needed to go!’.  This generates excitement for your child to do that behaviour again.  Using praise, such as ‘good boy!’, is more likely to encourage your child to repeat what they did more to please you, than for their own self.

Always remind yourself, no negative talk will ever help your child to move forward in the toileting process.  Patience and understanding goes a long way in keeping the huffs, threats or blame aside!

Be careful how you praise and reward

It’s great to express your pride to your child on their toileting achievements.  But…including that you are proud even when they have accidents or wet the bed, will reassure them that you are supportive all the way!

It can be fun and enticing to offer a small incentive for going to the toilet but be prepared to adjust the target according to your child’s toileting skills.  So for example, if you’re only offering a sticker for a wee or poo in the toilet, what will you do if it’s a battle just to get your child to sit there in the first place?  By making it simple enough to earn their reward (that is, a sticker for just sitting on the toilet at first), a child will understand you aren’t expecting too much of them.

Negative reinforcement, in the form of ‘you won’t get this if you do/don’t do this’, is only asking for adrenalin (‘hey mummy and daddy aren’t supporting me here…’).  Stress brings inability to think and perform straight and a lack of support may reduce your child’s confidence and enthusiasm in doing what is expected of them.

Use appropriate language

Depending on your child’s age when they begin toilet-training, this will make a big difference as to whether you are using long sentences or reminding yourself to pick easy-to-understand words.

For the two-year-olds, you might need to use simpler language to make it clear what you need your child to do.  This might be ‘time for wee, no wees in the car!…then you can wee at the park’ or ‘Kasey had an accident, that’s okay, look wet undies, time for rinse then let’s get dry undies’.  You might still be clarifying terms such as wet/dry or ‘need to go’.  It can also be more appropriate to encourage your child to ‘sit on the toilet’ rather than announcing they need to do a wee or poo, just in case they really don’t need to go.

At first, it is important to confidently TELL your child when it is time to go to the toilet.  Be sure your child isn’t at an important moment in their play though!  By asking if your child needs to go to the toilet, you are almost asking your child to say ‘NO!’.  If you forget, respect your child’s answer and attempt again in a few minutes with ‘It’s time to sit on the toilet and try for wee or poo!’.

Lastly, there is a difference in saying ‘oh you had an accident’ compared with ‘did you wet yourself?’.  Hopefully I have inspired you to think twice about communicating at the toilet.

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