Toilet training a toddler takes time, but most importantly it takes commitment. With all that is going on in busy parents’ lives, the temptation to delay is strong. The usual cry-a-thon of toilet training makes us want to do it “soon, not now”. Obviously there is a limit to how young the child can be before they are ready for training, but most parents would be surprised to know just how young it can be attempted.
Because parents in third world countries often do not have the money, they train their babies at a super young age. In western society, most parents are delaying the day of reckoning until much later – often until it cannot be put off any longer. Some children are even starting primary school without being 100% toilet trained (like wearing a nappy to bed). So what is the right age to start training? There is no right answer of course, and what is right for one child may not be right for the other. If you are using disposable eco nappies and wipes, you are probably not living in a third world country, so the right age is probably somewhere around the age of 3 for training number twos. For daytime training of doing number ones on the toilet, this can start even younger.
Your first attempt at training for number twos might see you giving up early, as it proves to be much harder than you expected. Some children take to it like a duck to water, while others see it as a change too far – something that becomes associated with great anxiety and distress. There is no doubt you need to commit to a 3-4 day period if you decide the time is right. That means cold turkey on nappies – that’s right, cold turkey. Our eldest son was happy to do number ones on the toilet, but getting him to do a number twos was a whole new ball game. He worked himself up into a ball of anxiety about it, and stubbornly refused to co-operate. On his fourth day, he was in great pain and we considered giving up to avoid a medical emergency. Just as we were about to back down from our game of who can blink first, Ted raced to the toilet and made us very proud parents. The showers of praise that followed made him feel very special and grown up, and he never again had an issue with the toilet. He had officially been toilet trained.
Emboldened by our success, our second son followed up soon after with his own number two training. He had only just turned 3, and we decided there was no need to wait. With the ability to kick up a huge fuss if things are not going his way (even more than his brother), we anticipated a hellish few days ahead. Lo and behold, the young fella surprised us, and sought to impress from day one. Perhaps he had seen his older brother doing it and never saw it as an obstacle. He jumped on the toilet and began doing number twos with very little prompting from us at all. Wow! Again the praise he received made him feel like he had just won gold at the Olympics – we were so proud! Gold stars were peeled off and put next to his name on the wall beside the toilet. He still had a bit to learn about wiping his bottom properly (and still does), but the victory was still a sweet one.
The reactions of children to toilet training clearly can vary a lot by personality type. You never know how it will quite play out, but giving number two training a go at 3 years old is probably about the right time for most parents. Clear the calendar in case you do not get any sleep, and don’t be afraid to give in either – but only after you have given it a red hot go. There is no shame in trying multiple times, as things often come up which can see us decide to suddenly abandon ship and retreat. Not having to deal with the mess of changing nappies on a daily basis is a huge reward – so keep the end result in mind when you feel like you are stuck in hell!