A friend of mine recently expressed some dissatisfaction with her son’s toilet training — or lack thereof. He’s four now, but the issue of using the toilet was enough to send him into hysterics. Rather than push him and reinforce that terror, she made the decision to simply stop mentioning it and wait until he was ready.
Sure enough, a month later, her son came to her and said he wanted to sit on the toilet.
At the time I immediately thought over how my son’s toilet training went, and I had a bit of a strange realisation: my son and I never went through “toilet training” as such.
There was never a toilet training plan of attack; there was no proactive decision that it was time for him to start using the toilet. I never purchased a potty, let alone potty training books and guides. In fact I can’t even remember Googling it for advice. It just seemed to happen organically.
I can remember discussing it with my mother around my son’s third birthday, and asking how she went about toilet training me and my sister. Much like myself, she said she never had any particular routine or plan of attack. My sister and I were both toddlers in Malaysia, where the weather was hot and humid, so Mum simply let us both get around butt naked. Not only were we more aware of what we were doing, but there was far less fuss involved in getting us to the toilet as there weren’t any layers of clothes to remove, and if we peed on the concrete floors it wasn’t a big deal.
This was pretty much the approach I took with my son Eduardo. The summer after his third birthday, I let him run around largely naked, phasing out nappies during the day when we were at home. Rather than buying a potty, I bought one of those smaller toilet seats that you slip beneath the proper toilet seat, and pushed a stool up against the toilet. When I was running a bath, I’d pop him onto the toilet seat, just to make sure he felt comfortable sitting there. One day he happened to pee into it, which he found highly amusing, and I rewarded him with a heap of praise and a high five.
There was never any pressure to do it when he wasn’t ready, but if he did pee while sitting on the toilet, there was plenty of praise. Of course, with him spending his days in the nude and without a nappy, we had plenty of accidents. We had even more accidents when we started leaving the house without nappies. If I saw he was about to pee, I’d pick him up and sit him on the toilet. By winter he’d put two and two together and was comfortably using the toilet for peeing.
Getting him to poop on the toilet was a different matter entirely, and we went through many frustrating evenings where he’d save one up all day, and the moment I placed him in a nappy for bedtime, BAM, he’d drop one. But again, patience and letting him do his own thing was the key, and within a week of me shifting to being a stay at home mum, he was suddenly perfectly happy to poop in the toilet. He needed to feel safe, secure and confident and it happened without any pressure or coaxing from me.
Ultimately, this is my perspective on all of my son’s milestones, whether it’s getting rid of the dreaded dummy, stopping thumb-sucking, or switching to sleeping in a big bed: I don’t need to push and pressure and have a strict plan of attack. I just need to take my cues from my child, be patient, and provide the security he needs to feel confident that he’s on the right track — and heap the praise on when he does get it right!