Bright Beginnings Preschool

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Toilet learning is different from toilet training.  While toilet training is something that an adult does to a child, toilet learning is when children play an active part in their own learning.  Toilet learning begins with knowing the signs that tell you children are ready to use the toilet.  Learning will happen when you teach in a way that does not punish and does not use treats or rewards.  Children who are ready need no rewards to make them want to learn. Most children will be happy and proud when they can go to the toilet by themselves, and that is reward enough.   The key to toilet learning is teaching - not training - children.  It is important to teach them to listen to their bodies, to talk to others clearly about their needs, to get their own clothes off (sometimes with a little help), learning the appropriate way to sit or stand and to feel good about learning something new.  The goal is for the child to feel proud of what he/she has done.

Each child is different.  Just as each child learns to walk in his own time, each child becomes ready for toilet learning in his own time.  Children will spontaneously toilet train themselves when they are developmentally - not chronologically - ready.  

The combination of physical, mental, language and emotional readiness must all be in place before your child is ready to have a successful toilet learning experience and in a short period of time. 

Physical readiness

Child can stay dry for longer periods of time, or overnight.

Child knows the feelings that signal he/she needs to use the bathroom for both bowl and urinating.

Child can pull down own pants, and pull them up.

Child can get him or herself to the toilet.

Child will need few reminders.

Mental and language readiness

Child can follow simple directions.

Child can point to wet or soiled clothes and ask to be changed.

Child pays attention to the physical signals even when the child is doing something else.

Child knows the words for using the toilet, and can tell an adult when he/she needs to go.

Child has asked to wear grown-up underwear.

Emotional Readiness

Child seeks privacy when going in diaper.

Child shows interest in using the toilet-may want to put paper in and flush it.

Child shows curiosity at other people's toilet habits.

Child has decided he/she wants to use the toilet.

Child is not afraid of the toilet.

The normal ups and downs

The course of toilet learning is not always smooth.  Accidents and setbacks can happen.  Accidents are very common and are a normal part of learning process. Children may be interested in the toilet one day, and not the next. Your child may be ready at a different time than brother, sister, friends' children or other children in preschool. May be ready at home but not at school.

Common reasons for setbacks: 

Often, children are afraid of change.  Try to respect the child's timing and let him/her take time off from the hard work of learning to use the toilet.  Sometimes, fear is at the root of a child's refusal to use the toilet.  Children may be fearful that their bodies might be giving up something important, or simply afraid of the loud flush of the toilet. Sometimes just putting the feelings into words for the child can help: "You seem afraid of using the toilet." or "That toilet sounds very loud, doesn't it?"  Some children have trouble with constipation and do not want to use the toilet.  Toileting can also become a power struggle between parent and child.  Parents and teachers do not always have the control they would like to have--while you can make a child sit on the potty, you cannot make him use it.  Setbacks are also normal when children are under stress. We try to handle accidents in a matter-of-fact way. 

Working together with parents and children.

There are many ideas about the best way to teach children to use the toilet.  Differences among generations and cultures are common.  But one thing seems to be true for almost all families: toilet learning brings up strong feelings in children and parents.  This is one reason why the role of teachers in toilet learning can be a sensitive one.  The adult's job in toilet learning is to set the stage for success.  The timing and the rhythm of toilet learning is up to the child.  Allowing the child the freedom to decide to take the lead in his/her own toilet learning can be hard for many parents, especially if we have learned that it is an adult's job to "train" a child. 

Toilet-Learning is a complex skill:  Your child must make the connection between sensations and what's happening inside the body.  Next he/she learns to respond to these urges by running to the toliet, where he/she must know how to remove the clothes, how to situate comfortably on the toliet seat facing forward, keeping clothes on and how to hold the urges until all systems are go.  The muscles surrounding the opening of the bladder and bowel need to be controlled to open and close at the proper time. Pressure should be off the parents and teachers to toilet learn early.  We should not equate toilet learning with being a good mother or teacher.

Temperament can play a part too.  A down-to-business child tends to learn quickly and may even "train himself." early if he has a mother who thinks the same way and does not pressure early.  A laid-back child may take longer.  

Suggestions when beginning:

Start letting your child pull up or down their own pants/shorts at diaper changing time.

We both need to use the same words and routines for toilet learning at home and here at preschool.

Generally, children's satisfaction over results encourages them to continue the learning process.

Remember that parents and teachers can only help toilet learning when a child is ready; it is the child who controls the outcome.

Encouragement and verbal praise provides positive support.  However, it is not a good idea to reward children with food or candy.

Importance of patience and waiting until really ready:

Your child may show all the stages of readiness but may not be ready to start toilet learning.  This would be the case for example, if the child was in a stage of "no's" all the time, having temper tantrums or going through a stressful or disruptive period (move, new home or school, new baby, divorce, etc.)

At times a child who has learned to use the toilet goes back to diapers, possibly due to stress factors.  This is common and usually does not last long.   No matter how late toilet learning starts your child will not go to Kindergarten in diapers.

As with walking and talking and all other areas of development, each child is different.  There are some guidelines but they are just that, guidelines.  Toilet learning can only be accomplished when a child has the ability to realize the need to go and the communication skills to express that need.  A lack of being toilet ready is in NO way a reflection of a child's intellegence or lack of skills.  For the sake of your child's development never begin to compare children against each other in matters of such little importance. 

The main thing is to achieve a healthy toilet-learning attitude.  From a child's viewpoint, toileting is his initiation into "bigness" - a rite of passage from toddlerhood into preschoolerhood. 

Preschool guidelines here at Bright Beginnings:

Toilet learning should be a positive experience for a child.  It should take only a short period if your child is ready. Toilet learning is as individual as learning to walk.  There is no right age by which all children have completed toilet learning.  Problems in toilet learning usually arise because adults do not pay attention to the child's lack of readiness. They pressure the child through weeks of failure rather than realizing the timing is wrong. 

It is preferred that your child master "toilet-learning" at home for 14 days (2 weeks) before bringing your child in underwear to preschool.  It is very helpful if parents have instilled the proper way to use the toilet.  Wearing loose clothing is important so that the process will be more successful.  Your child does not waste time unsnapping or zipping pants and having an accident because they did not get to the toilet in time.  Your child will need to practice keeping their clothing on by pulling down their pants but not taking them off.  It is very helpful that your child has been taught to sit on the toilet seat in the usual manner we all use the toilet before beginning the process here.  For example: All children want to print their name in capital letters.  I know that this is not the way it is taught in Kindergarten.  If I just let them continue on that way on into Kindergarten then the teacher will have to retrain your child all over again that you only capitalize the first letter of your name.  When your child is ready to begin toilet learning here, and has been allowed to take clothes completely off, sit backwards on the toilet, etc. , I will have to retrain your child to using the toilet and clothing the normal way beginning the first day here. 

Please notify me that you are in this process and the date you started.  That way your child is ready to handle the toilet learning at home first without distractions of daily activities at school and few reminders.  If it is difficult for parents to manage too many accidents at home along with clean up, etc. then you will be able to see how much more difficult it could be when we are teaching and managing the other 15 children.  For this reason also, I like to plan ahead and have only one child in toilet learning at a time. Please check in with me to see where we are and who is next on the list for toilet learning.   If your child is completely ready, then this should take no more than two weeks to form their routine here and then we can go on to the next child waiting in the wings.     

Our times for reminders during the 10 day trial are:  Before going outside, when we change other children in diapers, before lunch, when brushing teeth after lunch, before rest time, after rest time, again before afternoon outside time, when we change other children in diapers in the afternoon.  Once the 10 day trial is over then you and I can meet to discuss whether or not he/she is ready to continue.  Your child should have by then formed the routine of using the toilet and now needs to learn to go on his/her own without constant reminders throughout the day or the presence of a teacher.  If we continue to remind as many times as mentioned above for more than the 10 day trial period it will only cause your child to rely on us and not listen to their own body functions.  If your child refuses to go when we ask them, again your child is in control.  I feel within the ten day trial period here at school we have put lots of time and effort into those reminders to help your child succeed in toilet learning and become successful if they are really ready.   

Have your child wear loose fitting clothing that are "user-friendly".  Too many "gadgets' such as snaps, zippers, buttons make it harder to get the child to the toilet on time. He or she can manage their clothing more independently by wearing clothing such as elastic waist pants that are easy to pull up and down.  Do not send your child in overalls and T shirts with snaps between the legs.  Girls should not wear dresses or tights during the toilet learning experience.  We want to create an astmosphere for success.  Make sure you are letting your child learn dressing skills at home since this is something they will be responsible for when accidents happen. 

It will take approximately 15 min. or more of a teacher's time to guide your child through the process of changing when accidents happen.  Time taken up involves getting out the new clothes, verbal guidance to your child on how to take off their wet clothing, guiding them to put their soiled clothing in the bag to go home (due to health regulations we are not allowed to rinse out dirty clothings), encouraging sitting on the toilet again just in case more urine needs to come out and monitoring your child dressing him or herself.  We also may need to mop tile or clean carpet areas when either are soiled during an accident.  Bowel movements may take up to 20 or 30 minutes of a teacher's time to complete the process. This is time spent away from the other children and is one of the main reasons other preschools prefer to take only toilet trained children.  If I have parents who understand and work with us I can continue taking children who are still in diapers.

Sometimes your child may not have the same performance here as at home. Children are not trained at home to tell the parent they have to use the restroom before they have to go but rather are allowed free access unsupervised to the bathroom in their home.  Some children are allowed to have no clothes on or take clothes off completely when using the bathroom. Therefore the routine is then set in their mind that this is how it should be.   At school we need to supervise when first beginning toliet learning.  Clothing needs to stay on at all times.  Children need to use the toliet properly - not sit on it backwards, etc.  There are many more distractions here with a larger group of children, toys, and bustling activities that can make a difference here rather than at home.  When a child is ready on their own then there is not much difference between the two (home and school). 

What to bring when we have agreed to begin at school:  

Please bring a jumbo size plastic bag with at least 3 sets of extra clothing which should include 3 pairs of socks, underwear, pants, and shirts.

We leave the bathroom door open for easy access and to encourage the child's interest, seeing other children using the toilet.  A small stool is provided for shorter children who are toilet learning.

I will only continue toilet learning with your cooperation.  This means you must commit to continuing toilet learning at home, market, grandma's home and any place you go. If your child shows no interest, too many fears or too many accidents, your child will need to go back to regular diapers until we feel he/she is ready to begin again.  Ask yourself who is doing all the work?  You or the child?  When really ready a parent or teachers job is to show them the steps to toileting (urinate, wipe, flush and wash). 

I discourage pull ups since they only confuse your child and slow down the process.  Your child will feel more comfortable in thin underwear and when an accident does happen will be more aware of his body function.  A decision may be made to wear plastic covering during toilet learning or regression times for health reasons to protect carpet and bedding and the extra expense of carpet cleaning before it was due. 

I am looking forward to assisting your child with toilet learning when he/she is ready.  I hope that both of us can agree together that the time is right using patience and understanding in this matter.