In the book “Child Behavior: The Classic Child Care Manual from the Gesell Institute of Human Development”, the authors Francis Ilg, Louise Bates Ames, and Sidney M. Barker write, “Do not be disappointed if your boy or girl lags behind this schedule. Probably in no field of child behavior are individual differences greater than with regard to toilet-training. Probably in no field are parents more impatient.”
If this is you, and you find yourself feeling angry, frustrated, wanting to “teach” your child to stay dry at night …..take a deep breath and slow down. Potty training is slow, patient work. It takes time, and it can take quite a while before the child truly has no more “accidents”.
Take your time, and look at your own mindset first. It is not worth trying to speed up your child’s control, which is a PHYSIOLOGICAL process, through humiliation and anger (which I unfortunately hear of many parents doing). Do not be this. You still are establishing connection and a loving relationship with your small child. Think how you would want to be treated if you were having a problem with urinary or fecal incontinence. Think about when you get elderly how you would like your child to treat you.
This may help you:
First of all, did you all know that there are physiological milestones regarding bladder and bowel control? Many parents seem to not know this, and are surprised to find times when their child has increased urinary incontinence, for example. These were compiled by our friends at the Gesell Institute, and comes from a traditional (not elimination communication) standpoint, but it may still be helpful to you:
Normal Milestones in Bladder Control
1 year- possible dryness after nap, intolerance of wetness, may cry until changed
15 months – may like to sit on toilet but may resist at other times, points to pride at puddles if has accident, placement on toilet may stimulate a withholding of urine and removal off of toilet may stimulate a release of urine
18 months- can respond with nod of head if asked if wants to use potty, may ask to use potty, may feel shame at accidents
21 months – reports accidents and points at them, usually tells after wetting but sometimes before
2 years- better urinary control, no resistance to routines, can verbalize toileting needs fairly consistently, may go into bathroom and pull down pants
2 ½ years- urinary retention span lengthening to about five hours, may have difficulty initiating release, may stop and then resume within act of urinating, may have difficulty initiating the release
3 years – can have toileting routine, most have few accidents, may be dry all night (or may not!), girls may try to use the toilet standing up
4 years – may insist on taking over own routine, may lose urinary control at night around four
5 years – may need reminders to go to bathroom, few daytime accidents and only occasional nighttime accidents, less reporting to Mother, may awaken for night toileting and report to parents, may see increase in nighttime bedwetting ages 5 ½ to 6 years
6 years – few accidents if any, if accidents occur child is disturbed by them, may need reminder to use bathroom before going out to play
Normal Milestones in Bowel Control
15 to 21 months – some children may smear their stools outside of a diaper, especially at end of nap
18 to 21 months – temporary diarrhea
2 ½ years and between ages 5 and 6 – constipation typical
- – 3 to 4 year old who is not potty trained for bowel movements (usually boys). If you can figure out if there is a pattern to the bowel movements (for example, a certain time of day when this is likely to occur), you can try stripping your child naked around that time and bringing him to the bathroom. Also talk to your pediatrician regarding this behavior if it persists. Some children also go through another period of withholding bowel movements around ages 5 to 6.
- – Bedwetting – check and see if your child is dry after a nap, if your child is not dry after a nap it may be expecting quite a lot for your child to be dry all night. Many normal children are 5 or 6 years old before nighttime dryness is well-established. Some children are as old as 8. A mother should know her child is very vulnerable at the stage of being an older child who cannot yet stay dry at night; do not make it worse by shaming your child!! Please discuss this with your pediatrician.
- – Not dry in daytime by age 3 or 4 (usually boys). Rule out any physical cause of decreased bladder control first, and then be patient. Stop thinking your child is “old enough to get this”. Pick the time of day when your child is likely to be dry and get him to the toilet so he can have some success.
- – Difficulty staying dry during play (also usually between ages 3 and 4 and usually also affects boys more than girls). You may have to interrupt his play every half hour or hour to have him come and use the toilet.
- – Wetting in school, usually during kindergarten or first grade
Still normal bathroom behavior…
2 year old’s fascination with animal feces, although this may be because the parents have made too big a deal out of his own functioning (Gesell Institute’s words, not mine, before you start sending me irrate comments!)
3 year old girl’s attempt to urinate standing up
4 year old’s excessive interest in other people’s bathrooms
4 year old and 6 year old’s name calling related to toileting
From Barbara Coloroso’s Kids Are Worth IT!
Are you a brickwall, jellyfish or backbone family when it comes to potty training?
A Brickwall Family – puts pressure in the form of tangible rewards and punishments for mistakes. Rewards for example, would be something like, If you are dry all week, I will take you to get ice cream. Stickers everytime they use the potty, things like that.
Punishment is emotional abuse, verbal disapproval, humiliation, comparing, withholding of love and affection, threats of physical punishment. This is not a productive way to approach potty training. Urine release and bowel movements are normal physiological functions that require physiological maturity, just as learning to ride a bike requires physical maturity.
A Jellyfish Family –turns process of potty training over to daycare provider, inconsistency in potty training – For example, the child is reminded to go sometimes but sometimes not, or told to hold it until she gets home or just go in the diaper if it is inconvenient to find a potty. May not be excited about potty training until child has to be potty trained to attend school.
A Backbone Family – prepares, practices and has patience!
Prepare – Look at child and developmental level, have a potty chair, easy to manage outfits, lots of toilet paper, a stepstool and a supply of diapers on hand.
Practice – It takes many times to get it right. Do NOT get upset with your child. They are immature, they are learning.
Patience – the power or capacity to endure without complaint something difficult. Potty training may not be your personal favorite part of childhood development, but please be patient with your little one. They are trying, they want to do it right. Be kind!!
Barbara writes, “Remember, it is her own body and she will learn to control it in her own time and in her own way – She just needs your help, guidance and support!”
Yours in Kindness,
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I am wondering what to do when a child can control bowel movements but does not want to have them in the toilet. My almost four year old is in underwear all day and rarely ever has accidents. When she needs to have a bowel movement, she will insist on doing it in a diaper. She will wait until we can put a diaper on her to do it. She says she is afraid to poop in the potty (little potty and regular toilet both).
Since she can control this, it is more a mental block than a physical or developmental toileting issue, and I have not found any information on this (no surprise there – I am used to her being quirky!). Part of me feels like we are enabling her by putting her in diapers and letting her soil herself, and the other part of me is concerned over her fear. She does sit on the toilet in her diaper to have bowel movements, so it is not the toilet itself that she’s afraid of… it is the action of going in the toilet. We also flush it down the toilet afterwards, so she’s not concerned about letting it go as I have heard some children can be…
I am writing from Perth Western Australia and have been reading your blog for a while now – I love it! Although we do not home school, our 2 children go to a Waldorf school so I soak up all your Steiner posts. Many of your ideas have inspired me, like writing a Family Manifesto and reminded me, like doing regular inner work. I love your ideas on non violent communication and manitaining relationships.
Anyway, I have an issue that I was wondering if you could advise me on from an anthrophisophical point of view. My six and a half year old daughter, for whom dry nights have been a little sporadic, has started to wet the bed every night, usually twice. This started at the beginning of May. She has been taking homeopathics for a few weeks and is having regular energetic (pranic) treatments. We are also on a six month wait list for the Bed Wetting Clinic. Both my sanity and my washing machine are on their last legs so any pointers would be gratefully received!
Many thanks for your wonderful blog,
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