It is also usually during the second year that the little child takes the grown-up step of becoming toilet-trained. It is very necessary that parents stay relaxed about toilet training, for if they are concerned or anxious the child quickly feels it and becomes anxious too. After all, there is no exact time at which a child must be toilet-trained. Toilet training should be very matter-of-fact and should not begin until the child is really ready for it.
Early in the second year, when the baby can sit comfortably on a toilet seat or in a toilet chair, he is ready to learn to have his bowel movement in the toilet. Some babies are ready to begin their bowel training toward the end of the first year, but it is better to begin a little late, rather than too early. By the second year the baby’s bowel movements are usually fairly regular. The first step in training is to keep a record of the movements for a week. If they still come at very irregular times, it would not be wise to begin training, for it would be too difficult to know when the baby is ready. The youngster should be put on the toilet at the time when his movement normally comes, not at a time which happens to be convenient to his mother. He should be encouraged by using the same sound each time, but he should not be scolded or punished for failure to have his movement. If he does move his bowels, his mother should show approval. The one- to two-year-old child is becoming aware of himself as a person, and he thinks of his bowel movement as his own. If he is gently urged he may do as his mother wishes about it, but if she is overinsistent he may hold it in and have it later when he has left the toilet. He is more likely to do this if he is also becoming rebellious about other things. If the little child does do his stool on the floor, or in his pants, he should not be scolded but should be shown how it is put into the toilet, “where it belongs.” The less fuss made, the sooner the child will learn. If the child is made overanxious about his bowel movements, his disturbance may show in other ways, such as temper tantrums, refusal to eat, or refusal to go to bed. Parents need to be careful, also, about their attitude toward the child’s movements. Most little children are interested in their bowel movements and even proud of them. If mother or father shows disgust or dislike or makes the child feel that he has been bad or naughty when he soils himself, he may become afraid of dirt on his hands or his clothes. Such a child may become a finicky adult, who must have everything “just right.” It is best to be completely natural and matter-of-fact about the use of the toilet — “this is something everyone does.”
If a little child sees adults use the toilet he usually wants to copy them in this, as he does in other things. The example sometimes makes toilet training easier. A baby should not be forced to use the toilet and should not be kept on the toilet if he seems tired, restless, or unhappy about it. Let him get down and try again another time. Although it saves a second step in training if the child can use the toilet seat from the beginning, some children seem afraid of the height or, for some reason, dislike sitting on the large toilet. In such cases it is better to try a low toilet chair, or even a small toilet pot that is nearer to the ground.
Sometimes, a child who has seemed to be trained will soil himself again. Such accidents often happen after an illness, the excitement of a trip, or an upset, such as a period of battling with a parent. It is not wise to scold or shame him, but again simply let him see the stool put into the toilet as the place where it belongs. If the child is encouraged and helped to feel that he has merely had an accident, he will remember better another time.
It is harder for a little child to grow used to urinating into the toilet. The child must consciously hold back his urine, then let it pass when he reaches the toilet. This means that he must get two ideas, one of holding back and the other of letting go. For this reason it is best to wait until the child is close to eighteen months old before trying to train him to keep dry. It is best, too, to wait until he usually stays dry for about two hours at a time. When training is started the youngster should be taken to the toilet at the approximate times at which he usually urinates. The same word should be used each time. The choice o£ the word is not important, although it should be one that will be easily understood by other people. If the child wants to get down he should be allowed to do so. Approval should be shown if he uses the toilet. A mother can tell that her youngster is “catching on” if, when he makes a puddle, he points to it to show her what he has done, or runs to get a cloth to wipe it up. This is one of his first attempts to “tell” that he wants to go to the bathroom. He should not be scolded because he is “late,” but encouraged to tell sooner next time. The child usually will be two or older before he really tells when he wants to go to the bathroom or begins to go by himself. He will still need to be reminded for another year or two. There will be accidents throughout the pre-school period when the child is absorbed, has waited too long, or is not feeling well. These should be treated casually and without fuss.
It is often helpful to make the change from diapers to training pants when training is begun. But if the child does not seem to understand about using the toilet or if he is disturbed by it, his mother should put him back into diapers, without making him feel that he has failed in any way. Training can be tried again a few weeks later. When the child is ready he will usually “train” quite quickly if his mother is relaxed and patient about it. Most children learn to stay dry most of the time during the day while they are between eighteen months and two and a half years. The child is not really “trained” until he begins to take the responsibility for going to the toilet himself.
Many children will be between two and three years old, and some may be even four, before they keep dry while they are asleep. When the child is able to remain dry during most of the daytime and has had several dry nights, it is time to train him to keep dry at night. Since children seem to urinate less when the weather is warm, it is usually a good idea to start training for dryness at night in the late spring or summer, when the nights are warmer. When the child is being trained to keep dry for the long period of the night, it is sensible to lessen the quantity of liquid taken at supper and before bedtime. This should be done without any fuss and without calling the child’s attention to it. It is often possible quietly to substitute a small cup for a large one, especially if the new cup is a pretty one. No issue should be made of the matter. If the child asks for more to drink he should be allowed to have it. Forbidding liquids can make a child feel very thirsty, restless, and unhappy.
When the child is put to bed without his diapers, he can be told that he is big enough now to call mother if he needs the toilet. If he is dry in the morning he should be praised and made to feel that he has achieved something. If he is wet there should be no scolding, but he should be allowed to try again for a few more nights. If the wetting continues, the diapers should be worn again, but the child should not be allowed to feel that he has failed or that the return of diapers is a punishment. A casual remark — “You’ll be ready to stay dry later on” — is recommended. Another trial can be made in a few weeks. It is usually better not to waken the child at ten o’clock, for he must gradually learn to take the responsibility for waking himself when he needs to go to the toilet at night. It must be expected that there will be many relapses in wetting at night. Overexcitement, illness, a chilly night, un-happiness, all make it more difficult for a little child to stay dry.
If toilet training is done under pressure, with scolding, punishment, or even overemphasis on its importance, feelings of unhappiness and rebellion are likely to develop and may be more serious and lasting than having a child wet the bed at the age of three or even four. The child who is made overanxious or made to feel naughty or disappointing to mother and father may respond with restless sleep or nightmares. Such a child may refuse to go to bed at night or may show tantrums or fears during the day. It is very important not to push the child about his training, but to take it slowly, easily, and in a matter-of-fact manner. The child should be helped to develop the attitude, “This is one of the things children and grownups do; I, too, want to do it this way someday.” (Continue below to page 6)