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Hot Topic: Toilet training, by the senses

Priscilla Dunstan • Jun 11, 2013 at 12:22 PM

Child Sense: Toilet training, by the senses

By Priscilla Dunstan



Learning a new skill is always easier if it’s fun and without stress, and now that summer break is here, with warmer weather, swimming and long, lazy days outside, it’s very common to want to start the process with your child. Here are a few tips to help make toilet training a more enjoyable process.

Tactile children often resist being forced into change, especially a change related to them physically, such as toilet training. The trick with these very adamant children is that they have to “want” to do it. It’s a case of mental persuasion rather than physical training. Once they feel ready tactile children can be trained exceptionally fast. A good trick to help encourage them is to attach a goal to being toilet trained such as, “I’m sorry sweetheart, but you can’t go to the baseball game until you’re a big boy; and big boys use the potty for everything.” Make the goal very exciting with lots of kids and activity. Some parents have great success with having them use the potty when they themselves are, or pretending to be, as this caters to their child’s sense of belonging.

You will find that your auditory toddler responds to routines, such as always going to the potty after a meal, before leaving the house and before going to bed. His progress will be steady — with more mistakes at the beginning and less as time goes on. They will also respond to auditory cues like a toilet song that you sing together, a special song from a CD or reading a “potty story” while she is sitting on the potty. Often auditory children will prefer to use the potty in the lounge room or within listening distance to the family and may show a bit of resistance moving into the bathroom onto the toilet. Be aware that the sounds of the toilet flushing can be alarming to an auditory child so at first perhaps wait ’til they are out of earshot before pressing the button.

Visual children can be a little more self-conscious than others when it comes to toilet training, so it’s important to start the process at home and remain there for a few days, with only short trips out. If you do need to be away from home for any length of time, keep a few changes of clothes for accidents and change them immediately with a minimum of fuss. Toilet training picture books are a great help and as visual children are very aware of what other people are doing, simply pointing out the fact that everyone else uses the toilet speeds up understanding. Visual rewards such as stickers also work, or creating a chart (in their favorite color), and adding a sticker for whenever they use the potty can make it a positive experience. Always keep things clean; as they will resist a dirty or unfamiliar toilet or bathroom.

Taste and smell children move into toilet training easily especially if introduced in a calm and progressive way. They are very aware of smells so having the smell removed is a plus to them. What needs to be stressed is that they need a very gentle, slow and relaxed approach. They will be very aware of any annoyance you might show, and will overreact to any negative response. Having a doll that they can train alongside them is a great gift for a taste and smell child, as they love to teach and look after things smaller than them. Be patient over nighttime diapers as these will generally be kept on longer than children of other senses. Calm their anxiety about this by using ones with her favorite cartoon character and making sure her nighttime routine is calm so she goes to sleep happy.

Toilet training can be frustrating but by remaining calm and patient your child will learn and you will be free from changing diapers, at least until the next one comes along!


Priscilla Dunstan is a behavioral researcher and creator of the Dunstan Baby Language and author of “Child Sense” and “Calm the Crying.” She currently works in New York as a behavioral consultant. Learn more about Dunstan at www.calmthecrying.com

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