Potty training is a process. For most kids, the final frontier is managing bowel movements. Compared to learning to pee into the toilet, little kids are often more stressed by bowel movements and have less opportunities to practice. Most of us just don’t have more than one BM per day but we urinate many times per day.
Constipation or just the discomfort of normal elimination can make them wary, sometimes enough to convince some children that this is a process better done in a diaper. In comparison, urination isn’t an uncomfortable experience for healthy children. Bowel movements sometimes happen only a few times a week, instead of the multiple times a child needs to urinate per day. Less practice and fewer opportunities for rewards (even if your reward is warm praise) make bowel training harder.
So when they finally make the leap and manage to do #2 in the toilet, a lot of parents decide to delay teaching their child how to wipe themselves. After all, wiping can be messy and it has to be done well enough for good hygiene. Here are my top suggestions to make “making” a complete success:
- Teaching should still be part of your narrative while you are the one doing the wiping. In my book, The Practical Guide To Toilet Training Your Child With Low Tone, I teach parents how to transform daily diapering into pre-teaching. While you are wiping, and even while you are waiting for them to finish on the toilet, your positive narrative about learning this skill doesn’t end. You are telling your child how it’s done, in detail, as you are doing it. You convey with your words, your tone and your body language that this is a learn-able skill.
- Don’t forget the power of the “dry run”. Practice with your child when he is in the bathroom, whether it is before bath time, before dressing, or during a special trip to the bathroom to practice. Dry runs take away the mess but teach your child’s brain the motor planning needed to lean back, reach back and move that hand in the correct pattern. The people that invented the Kandoo line of wipes have an amusing way to practice posted on their site: spread peanut or sunflower butter on a smooth plate, and give your child some wipes or TP. Tell him to clean the plate completely. This is a visual and motor experience that teaches how much work it is to clean his tush well. After this practice, your child will make a real effort, not just wave the paper around. Brilliant!
- Will you have to reward him for this practice? Possibly. It doesn’t have to be food or toys. It could be the ability to choose tonight’s dessert for the family, or reading an extra two books at bedtime. You decide on the reward based on your values and your child’s desires.
- Use good tools. The adult-sized wet wipe is your friend. The extra sensory information of a wet wipe versus a wad of dry paper is helpful when vision isn’t an option. They are less likely to be dropped accidentally when clean, but having a good hold is especially important after it has been used. “Yucky”stuff makes kids not want to hold on! Wet wipes are more likely to wipe that little tush cleanly. Don’t cut corners. Allow your child to use more than one.
- Take turns. Who wipes first and who bats “clean-up” (couldn’t resist that one!) is your decision. Some children want you to make sure they are clean before they try, and some are insistent that they go first with anything. This can change depending on mood and even time of day. Be flexible, but don’t stand there like a foreman, ordering work but not willing to help out. One of my favorite strategies is to always offer help, but be rather slow and inefficient. This gives children the chance to rise to the occasion but still feel like you are always willing to support them.
- Teach them how to know when they are done wiping. It’s kinda simple; you wipe until the toilet paper is clean when you wipe. This usually means little kids have to do at least two separate wipes, but they get the idea quicker. Little hands are not that skilled, but dirty versus clean is something they can grasp.
Looking for more information on toilet training? Take a look at my e-book, The Practical Guide To Toilet Training Your child With Low Muscle Tone to get a clear understanding of how to prepare for and execute your plan without tears on both sides. Will it help you even if your child doesn’t have low muscle tone? Of course! Most of my techniques simply speed up the learning process for typically-developing children. And who doesn’t want to make potty independence happen faster?
This e-book is available on my website tranquil babies, at Your Therapy Source (a great site for parents and therapists), and on Amazon. Read more about my book with Amazon’s “look inside” section, or by reading The Practical Guide to Toilet Training Your Child With Low Muscle Tone: Potty Training Help Has Arrived!