The first thing to do is to stay as calm as possible. It’s good if the parent can read the child’s readiness to begin to train. We should bear in mind that if there is anything that will cause a regression in the child. If the child is already in charge of their bodily functions, if a new baby arrives it’s important to understand for parents that the child may regress and may go backwards in terms of toileting.
I think sometimes parents can feel under pressure if they’re getting ready to send the child to crèche etc. and the child can pick this up. It’s important to stay calm, prepare the child and do not get into power battles under any circumstances.
How to know if they’re ready
Generally you’ll know because children are very self conscious about filling a nappy. You’ll know because they’ll watch you or they’ll go off into a corner to do it – they’ll give you signals that you can pick up and if you’re talking to them about it. Generally you’re thinking around the age of two that’s when they’ll be ready, boys can be slightly later. It’s easier if there are older siblings because they’re role modelling it all along for the child.
It’s not a good idea to convey to the child that it’s unclean or dirty because it’s just a natural bodily function. But that can result in children withholding. Another reason for children withholding is if they’re angry, if a power battle has ensued about it what you can get is a child who is nearly purple in the face trying to hold on because the parent is saying you must go now. That’s really important. When there are delays it’s important to look at why is the delay happening now? Is it something that’s going on in the child’s life or is it something in the dynamic between myself and the child. Use lots of positive reinforcement!
Consistency is key
Consistency no matter what you’re doing is really important in their lives because that’s what will make them feel safe. If you think about it from your own perspective that’s what makes us feel safe too.
Maria McGrane is a child Psychotherapist and co-founder of Parental Pathways. Find more information about Parental Pathways here: www.parentalpathways.ie