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Potty Training Pitfalls

Accidents can happen despite all the efforts; it is an inevitable part of potty learning. Threatening or creating a fuss will only aggravate matters as your child will only grow more resistant to learn. Potty training accidents are mostly due to premature potty learning although there are other reasons. There are instances when despite having made substantial progress the child still makes accidents. If the accidents are happening too often i.e. with every other urination or BM, then toilet training should be discontinued for a while. Premature toilet training causes dirty laundry and more dirty laundry!

How the bowel works..

• The role of the large bowel is to eliminate undigested food and to reabsorb water. Stool usually remains in the large bowel for a day. After which the feces move down until they reach the rectum. Most of the time the rectum is empty; the urge to pass a motion is experienced once the feces accumulates in this final section of the bowel. The brain receives the signal if the time is right to open the external sphincter for the feces to pass through. The brain can also prevent BM by causing the external sphincter to remain closed.

• Until your child reaches toddlerhood, she will not be in control of her bowel movements. Around the age 18 months to 24 months, the voluntary nerve pathways that link the brain to the sphincter become well established allowing your child to feel the sensation to pass a bowel movement. Prior to this defecation is uncontrolled, occurring whenever the receptors of the rectum trigger the internal sphincter to open. Your child with time learns to keep the external sphincter closed and subdue the urge until making it to the potty.

• Bowel movement is generally attained before bladder control as urination is more urgent and immediate. Accidents are a rarity once bowel control is attained and a child is a regular toilet user.

Why accidents happen..

There are other reasons for the frequent accidents and lack of progress:

• Stress due to change in environment e.g. a new sibling, a new playschool etc can cause accidents in children who are already potty-trained.

• Pressure caused by over-anxious parents can be a put-off to the independent-minded child.

• Some toddlers have min-accidents because they wait till the very last minute and/or are not quick with taking off their pants.

• Some children don't want to grow up. They wish to remain the 'baby' of the family and resist using the potty since that would mean being grown up.

• Toddlers are often prone to accidents when they are very engrossed in an activity; they tend to ignore the call

• Toddlers when excited often lose bladder control.

• Fatigued toddlers often do not have the energy to deal with toileting skills; they tend to be cranky and resort to babyish behavior and that includes refusing to use the potty.

• Sometimes an infection (UTI) or other physical problems can cause situations where the panties are frequently a little wet, painful urination, the child wets her panties after giggling or the child has a weak urine flow.

PS: Problems outlined above can be overcome and you can put your child back on track after dealing with the causes. Gently remind your 'busy' child to visit the washroom, offer assurance to your stressed out toddler, get an infection treated or make sure your child is well rested before you begin on toileting cues, are some examples.

Common concerns

My son seems terrified of flushing. Will this affect his toilet learning?

Respect your child's fears. You can prevent his fear from affecting the learning process. Keep in mind that forcing him to face his fear will not help the matter. For now let your child leave the washroom and then flush; don't use the flush in his presence. Gradually when he grows more accepting let him watch you flush and then you will reach the point where he will be ready to try pulling the lever himself. Till then be patient. Your toddler probably feels that he is losing a part of himself when he sees his stool go down the drain. So give your toddler the time to overcome this fear - its temporary.

How do we know when to switch to the regular toilet?

Most toddlers feel secure in a low potty so wait until your toddler shows some interest in switching over. You can try nurturing this interest by having her accompany you when you visit the washroom. Buy her a child's seat that fits onto the regular toilet seat. Occasionally check with your child if she would like to try the regular toilet seat with her special seat on. Get a step stool and place it in front of the toilet to make the task less intimidating.

Our child insists on a nappy for a BM but has no problem with urination. Should we allow this?

For the time being it is best to go along with her request. Making an issue of this now will lead to constipation and of course power struggle. Offer your child to use the potty when she wants to pass a motion and if she refuses cooperate and allow her to use the nappy. Without the pressure your toddler will come around in good time, more so when she realizes that all her friends don't use the nappy and its time she gave it up too.

Our 2 year old son is not toilet trained yet but we wish to enroll him in a preschool.

Check with the school if they have any issues with your child not being trained yet. If they are not willing to accept your son in nappies you could either postpone his entry into preschool until he is toilet trained or step up the toilet teaching yourself. If you keep the pressure down and he is showing signs of readiness, chances of your toddler acquiring the toileting skills will improve within months. Do not lay the condition that he cannot go to school unless he is potty trained as you will put him off toilet training and school as well.

My son has just learned to pee sitting down. When is it a good time for him to start standing up?

don't rush him or you end up confusing him. Let him sit down until his basic skills are well established. Standing position can be tricky and it is best learned from an adult male figure; get his dad to teach him. He will be required to direct the flow of urine into the toilet bowl. don't teach him to do this using his potty or you will end up with a mess; let him become comfortable with using the big toilet before trying to teach him this method. You can expect some of the flow to miss the mark and it will take plenty of practice and time - probably a year or more. Be patient and praise him in his efforts in the meantime.

Did you know..

• Summer is the best time to toilet-train your toddler. Toddlers who are lightly dressed have a better chance at making it to the potty in time than one who is wearing layers of clothes during the colder months. Having said that, season plays a smaller role in comparison to toddler readiness. If your toddler is ready to learn in the winter months, ensure a warm temperature in the house to allow minimum clothing so that the success rate in not compromised.

• Hygiene can be taught alongside potty training to ensure your child starts on a lifetime of good bathroom hygiene. Teach girls to wipe from front to back to prevent the transfer of bacteria from the anus into the vaginal area. Encourage gentle wiping to prevent irritation to skin. Hand washing should be introduced in the potty routine. Even if you do the cleaning up encourage your toddler to wash hands so that by the time your child is old enough to clean himself, hand washing will have become a habit.

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Disclaimer: Information contained on this Web site is intended solely to make available general summarized information to the public. It should not be substituted for medical advice. It is your responsibility to consult with your pediatrician and/or health care provider before acting on any advice on this web site. While OEM endeavors to provide up-to-date and accurate information, it is not liable for any advice whatsoever rendered nor is it liable for the completeness or timeliness of any information on this site.
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