You will need to explain as much of the routine as possible to your child, from communicating the need to use the toilet, through the process itself right through to washing and drying their hands.
Keep the sequence of behaviour the same every time and if possible use visual cues to support the routine. If your child expects an activity they will be less likely to offer resistance.
The first sign that a child might be ready to start toilet training is when they start to become aware of needing to go to the toilet. Your child may be ready for toilet training if they become distracted or fidgety when they are wet or soiled, or they may inform a parent or carer when they need changing. In terms of physical readiness, a good indicator would be whether a child is able to remain clean for one to two hours at a time.
Some parents may decide that their child will never be ready, but will nevertheless develop as much of the routine as possible.
As a parent, you may want to follow these steps when toilet training your son or daughter:
- Start changing your child's nappy near the toilet.
This will help them to start relating toileting activities to the bathroom.
- Work out how to time your routine
Watch your child over a few days or a week to see when they do a wee or a poo. It is quite usual for a fairly regular pattern to emerge, especially if mealtimes and drinks are provided at about the same time every day. Identifying the times can help to establish when to take your child to the toilet with an increased likelihood of them doing a wee or poo, leading to positive reinforcement through praise or treats.
- Use photos or drawings
Show your child a photo or drawing of the toilet and say 'your child's name, toilet', take them into the toilet and sit your child on the toilet. Even if they do not open their bowel or bladder, continue to follow the sequence as if they had.
- Stick to the routine
Continue to take your child to the toilet at set times based on when you feel they are most likely to go. If they wet themselves at another time, take them to the toilet as quickly as possible and try to make sure some of the wee goes into the toilet. Ignore the wetting and praise them that the wee has gone into the toilet and continue the rest of the toileting routine. You will need to decide whether or not and how to praise your child for successfully following the toileting routine.
- Use photo sequences
Having a photo sequence beside the toilet can help your child to understand what is expected of them, for example: trousers down, pants down, sit on the toilet, wee/poo in the toilet, wipe (you may need to show how many squares of paper to take), pants up, trousers up, flush toilet, wash hands. Above the sink at eye level you would then have another picture routine for washing hands. Make sure the pictures are very clear so there is no misunderstanding. For example, if you are teaching your son to stand and wee in the toilet, show an outline drawing of him standing and weeing in the toilet, if you are teaching sitting, show a picture of him sitting and weeing in the toilet.