Have you noticed the difference good preparation makes when it comes to transitioning your child from one activity to another? There are fewer tantrums and more co-operation. Good preparation is also at the heart of ensuring a good transition between nappies and no nappies and helps you and your child work in partnership when potty training. Here’s how to achieve it.
When your baby was born, you probably didn’t think about potty training much (unless you’ve read about baby pottying that is). Despite this, from the moment you put a nappy on your child, you knew that one day, they would stop using nappies, start using a potty and then a toilet. You expected your child to learn how to do this at some point. But did you know that from the same moment your baby was born, they started potty learning?
Your baby’s expectations
When babies wear nappies, they learn to do their wee and poo in them and they learn how this feels. They build up expectations, associations and assumptions around this. They learn the difference between a clean and soiled nappy, and if you haven’t used disposable nappies (which instantly feel dry) they may also have learned the sensation of wet and dry. All this becomes their norm, their sense of their body and for many, nappies are part of their physical identity.
The big change
Potty training is a huge change to the expectations your child has developed since birth around their weeing and pooing. Is it a surprise that so many children struggle to make this leap? So how can you help your child unlearn everything they already learned, and begin developing the skills they will need to adapt to a completely new way of life?
The 3 stages of learning
It’s a good idea for you to understand what they have to learn, so you can pace your teaching to their developmental level. Potty skills develop through 3 stages, regardless of whether you start at birth, crawling, walking, or into toddlerhood:
1. Awareness (realising what happens and when)
2. Initiative (getting the wee and poo in the right place)
3. Independence (learning how to do 1 and 2 on your own).
As the first stage is awareness, your baby must learn to become aware of their body’s signals and patterns. They have to learn a whole new ’cause and effect’ relationship which requires them to communicate about their body’s signals. Now the wee and poo needs to go somewhere else (not the nappy) and this feels physically very different. For children who have never experienced this before, it can be a very overwhelming feeling, with unpredictable reactions! They eventually have to learn how to do this all on their own.
How you support your child to learn the skills involved in the three stages will depend on their developmental stage. There is no set length of time for each stage so some children will progress through them rapidly whereas others will take longer. Children may go back and forth between stages as they progress.
Supporting your child’s transition
Many children learn best when the nappies are gently but swiftly taken away because they can immediately understand cause and effect. If your child engages with the process and has no sensitivities to this, they will learn fastest this way. But how easily your child adjusts depends on their expectations, their temperament, and the pace of learning. Most children who have only used a nappy will benefit from what I call a “preparation stage”. This is where you help your child to gradually become more aware of their bodies before ditching nappies. It’s also the time for you as a parent to learn what to expect when you do this, so you can best help your child through the process. You can get my support with this if you sign up for my FREE potty learning mini-course.
A preparation phase can help you:
- Learn your child’s natural patterns so you can respond at the right time
- Get a sense of how they might respond to potty training
- Help you plan your process so potty training goes smoothly.
A preparation phase can help your child:
- Understand cause and effect before you take the nappies away
- Understand what you are expecting them to do
- Have opportunities for success that will motivate them to engage with the process
The 40 skills of potty training
There are over 40 skills evidenced in the research literature on potty training and your child will need your support and guidance with all of them.
I created a Potty Skills Grid to show you when most developmentally typical children are capable of learning these skills if given the opportunity. Each unique child may master this skill at a different pace so it is important to be flexible when setting expectations for your child.
Note that there is no lower age limit to start learning potty-training skills, so whatever age your child is you can start helping them to prepare for the big transition.