Toilet Training – just those two words can instill fear into the strongest of people. I embarked on my first experience with my middle son and I waited until he was 3 ½ - he was more than ready. In fact it was so easy, he went right into underwear with no accidents. He was annoyed when I followed him around asking if he needed to go potty. Logan is a typical child.
Ben is six years old and the discussion of potty training has been going on for 3 years. He’s had his own potty for at least that long. Something clicked in my head the last weeks of summer and I knew it was time to get serious about toilet training. Here are some of the things I am learning along the way:
1. Are you ready? With a typical child, there is a toilet training method called the “Readiness Model.” This means that the child displays specific signs that mean they are ready to be potty trained, such as being uncomfortable in a dirty diaper, interest in the goings on in the bathroom, physically able to remove clothing and communicate their need to use the potty. With a special needs child, I do think that they need to be ready in a way that fits their abilities. And as a parent, you can assess that with the help of teachers and therapists.
What I have learned this past week is that you, the parent, need to be ready. Are you and other family members ready to take on the commitment (both emotional and physical) to train your child? There will be ups and downs, good days and bad days, ooops and yeahs – can you handle all of those? Consider the physical strain of lifting and moving your child and cleaning up any additional messes.
2. Set a strategy and stick with it (as much as you can). Talk with your child’s therapists and teachers and find out what they have seen work for toilet training methods. Look at what there is on the internet and in potty-training books. Then devise a system that will work for your particular situation. Think of how you will handle bedtime, school, weekends and evenings. How many accidents are you/school willing to live with at first and for how long? What will your child be responsible for – can he take his pants on and off, use the toilet paper, communicate his needs? When I started out with Ben, I expected perfection right away – meaning no accidents. When I talked with my friends, mother and Ben’s therapist, I came to realize that was not realistic for any child, typical or otherwise. So you may need to adjust your strategy as you get into the process.
3. Get a support system in place – When you have a meltdown, who will be there to pick you up? Who can you call when things do not seem to be going the way you planned it in your head? And even better, who will celebrate with you when there is success? Find out who will be willing to talk about the ins and outs of your day with potty training.
So we are six days into this, and we are still learning by trial and error. Ben does not cease to amaze me. He is now dry each morning he wakes up – not an expectation I set. When he hears me tell someone about his toilet training accomplishments, his face breaks into a huge smile. He is proud, and so am I!
*Ben is in his 7th week of potty training with minimal accidents.