‘Help! Toddy is my daughter’s second birthday and after months of dry training pants and using her potty chair, she suddenly refuses to use it any more. She’s bad numerous “accidents”.’
There comes a time in the lives of most toddlers when control becomes a major parent-child issue. It comes earlier for some toddlers (soon after their first birthday), later for others (sometimes around their second birthday), is short-lived for some, a long haul for others. But almost always, the issue of who’s in control comes.
The struggle for control can manifest itself in a thousand different ways: your daughter refuses to wear what you want her to wear, insisting on something totally different instead she refuses to eat what’s put in front of her, holding out for a completely different menu; she refuses to use the toilet, and has ‘accidents’ instead. It’s a matter of her showing you who’s boss.
- Check with the doctor. Occasionally a toileting relapse has a medical cause, such as a urinary tract infection; be sure to have that ruled out before you go any further.
- Relieve any constipation. sometimes constipation snafus the toilet-learning process. Constipation in children, as in adults, can be tackled by steeping up fiber, fluid and exercise, while eating up on psychological pressure.
- Deal with any stress. Sometimes, a toddler regression in toilet learning is not a battle for control but a statement of unhappiness – prompted by anything from a too cute sibling to a too-tough new day care situation. Reducing such happiness may get toilet learning back on track.
- Relieve the pressure. Since your toddler may be reacting to pressure to perform, try relieving the pressure. For the time being, make toileting a nonissue in your home. Make the potty available, but don’t make it mandatory.
- Make changing her mind a snap. Dress your toddler in easy-off clothing, so that if she decides to go to the potty herself she can.
- Reduce the potential damage. If your child has been having accidents in inconvenient places – in the car, at friends’ houses at preschool – switch to pull-up disposable training pants in such conditions. Terry nappies, with Velcro closing, would make her move aware of wetting and more uncomfortable than she would be in disposable, but she’s not likely to agree to wear them.
- Try a change of place. Sometimes a little variety can cajole a toddler out of the potty doldrums. If she’s been using a self-contained potty chair, consider buying a potty seat that sits on top of the regular toilet, so your toddler can be more like the rest of the family.
- Put her in charge. A struggle over your toddler’s toileting behaviour is one you can’t win, so give in graciously. For how to put the responsibility in your child’s hands.
- Office her more control in other areas. Toddlers have a fundamental need to assert themselves; give them the opportunity to make their own choices in other areas (what they wear, who they play with, what they eat for lunch), and they may not feel as compelled to oppose you on toileting issues.
- Nix name calling. Calling your toddler a baby for having accidents will make her more determined to act like one. Ignore this and any other ‘babyish’ behaviour and look for grown-up behaviour you can compliment (‘You put those shoes on all by yourself? What a big girl you are!’).
- Give it time. Everyone uses a toilet sooner or later, as the old adage goes, ‘nobody walks down the aisle in nappies.’ While sooner may be convenient for parents tired of cleaning up accidents, later (age three and beyond) is fine, too. There is no correlation between the age of toilet learning and intellectual ability or academic performance; tardy toileters are no less likely to be bright or capable than precocious ones. Your toddler has used the potty in the past, and she will use it again in the future – when she’s ready.