Tennille asked me to write about the differences between toilet training boys and girls, but to be honest, I have never noticed a difference. I’ve used the same strategy for all of my children (2 girls and 3 boys) and experienced a very similar outcome each time.
Some people say that boys are easier to toilet train. Others suggest that girls hold this special gift. I actually think that it is not about the gender, but the child. Some CHILDREN seem easier to toilet train. Some simply “get it” straight away. Some seem to take a really long time.
But this is meant to be a helpful post!
So while I can’t shed any special light on the intricacies of gender-specific training ideas (sorry about that!), I will most definitely tell you about the ONE thing that helped us most with toilet training – our boys and girls.
In general, western societies wait until the magic age of 2 before placing children atop a porcelain bowl and telling them to “go”.
Theoretically, this makes no sense, and in practice, many children tense and hold because they simply aren’t comfortable in that environment. We know as parents that children won’t do something that they aren’t comfortable doing.
So the key, we have found, is to introduce them to the concept of doing a wee outside of a nappy from an early age.
It doesn’t matter whether you hold them over a tub or a garden bed, or sit them on a potty or over the toilet, so long as they are given ample regular opportunity to feel and experience the release.
When my children were very young (under 3 months), I would sit them over a potty in front of a mirror and count to 10 or sing them a little song. Looking in the mirror helped to distract them and they enjoyed my off-key renditions. I took them off when I’d finished counting/singing.
Sometimes they’d gone, sometimes they hadn’t. They always got a kiss and cuddle, regardless of whether they’d done something. There’s no point holding them over a potty until they go. You could be waiting a long time and they may just get upset – which is not what we’re going for!
We’re aiming for comfort and familiarity. So give them a little bit of time, then cuddle them.
As they got older, I would give them a little more time to go, but never waited until they became upset. The incredible thing about this is that they would often go whenever they were held over a toilet or potty.
Eventually, they are big and strong enough to sit atop a toilet seat on their own and you have hands free to clap and cheer for every wee and poo. It truly is exciting!
This doesn’t need to be something that you do at specific times of the day and it shouldn’t add extra burden to your already busy schedule. I recommend doing this whenever you change their nappy. You already have their nappy off, it gives them a bit more nappy-free time and it slows you down to try and enjoy the nappy change time rather than rush through it.
It’s crucial to be consistent, so don’t just do it for a week and then stop. Whether or not they do a wee/poo doesn’t matter, as long as they are given the chance.
So whenever you take your baby’s nappy off for a change, take an extra 10 seconds to sit them over a potty.
After a little while, you start to recognise this as a process. A process by which your children become familiar with the feel and act of releasing. You cheer them on and they start to anticipate your enthusiasm, knowing that you’ll act like a crazy person as soon as you hear a tinkle. But even if they don’t, they know they’ll hear you say: “No wees? Maybe next time!” And move on as though it’s just a part of life. Because it is.
Many people suggest that children can’t be toilet trained before the age of about 2. Well, it doesn’t really matter what “people” say, because every child is different and every family will find a strategy that works for them.
Our children have all day-trained between 18 months and 2 years (difference mainly had to do with the seasons!) – which is neither amazingly early or very late, but it was generally a smooth process and I do attribute the smooth transition to this early familiarity that we helped our children develop.
If you have a child who hasn’t yet reached the magical age, why not give it a shot? The younger, the better really, as they won’t have developed any reluctance around the use of a toilet.
Just sit them over the loo at nappy change time and see what happens. When you “catch” a first wee, you might just find yourself strangely addicted to providing this opportunity at every change!
When Eva is not wrangling five children or running a business, she’s eating chocolate, listening to podcasts or creating awesome resources for parents with small children.
Eva’s latest resource – Cloth Nappy Intensive – is a free 6-part eCourse that teaches the inquisitive parent exactly how to choose, use and love cloth nappies. You can sign up for this free course HERE.