Health and Development

7 Tips to Toilet Training Success

The two biggest mistakes parents make when it comes to toilet training are starting too early and putting too much pressure on the child.

Children need to be both physically and psychologically ready before starting the toilet training process. Usually this is between 2 and half years and 3 and half years, but it all depends on the child. Starting too early can result in a longer overall process or worse still having to abandon it midway through. The best thing to do is let your child take the lead, offer them your support.

Pressuring children about toilet training, which includes talking about it too much in front of them, can lead to power struggles. Children can also become constipated if they’re under too much pressure and get stressed or upset about using the toilet. They begin holding, which can make things painful when they finally do go, which can lead to constipation as they don’t want to go again after a painful episode, and the cycle continues.

  1. Don’t start too early, wait for early indications that your child is ready, but making sure to start by age 3 and half years. Usually they will start to tell you when they’ve done a poo or they won’t like the feeling of a wet nappy and will start to pull at it. Sometimes they will start talking about doing a wee in the toilet, particularly if they have slightly older siblings using the toilet.
  2. Summertime is the best time to get your child out of nappies as the warm weather will mean they can run around in just a pair of pants and they will realise more quickly when they have an accident, and its less clothes washing for mum! Also, some Montessori’s and Pre-schools insist your child is toilet trained before they start the school year. It’s also a good time if parents are working, as they usually take some time off during the summer so it is an ideal time to give their child lots of attention and support during the initial toilet training process.
  3. Potty or Toilet? Listen to your child and trust your instinct when it comes to choosing the potty or the toilet to start the training process. Potty benefits – your child can go shopping with you and choose their potty (usually with a character from their favourite television show), thus preparing them and getting them excited about the process that lies ahead. They can practice sitting on it for a week or two and getting used to it before you start. Toilet benefits – if your child does not have an aversion to sitting on the toilet, it can make for an easier life overall where you don’t have to bring a portable potty when you go out and about. To avoid any negative feelings, buy a little step to give them stability when sitting on the toilet and very often a small toilet bowl insert will also help them feel safe and not likely to fall in!
  4. Make your child feel special and grown-up, this will help them to engage in the process, be proud of their achievements and build good foundations for long-term success. Take them shopping and let them choose their new big boy/girl pants. You can buy colourful or ones with cartoon characters on them that they’ll be delighted to wear. Talk to them about how grown-up they are using the potty/toilet like mummy and daddy. Celebrate their successes with family members and siblings.
  5. Reward your child for their successes and dismiss any accidents as no big deal. Some parents like to choose a toy as the ultimate reward for successful toilet training, however this can have a counter intuitive effect resulting in some children feeling huge pressure to succeed that it has the opposite effect. A small simple treat like a chocolate button often works much better – one for a wee and two for a poo!
  6. Make the bathroom a safe and fun place to visit. Regardless of whether you start with a potty your child will progress to using the toilet at some stage. To get over any fears that could be associated with using the toilet, try and make it fun! Visit the bathroom often throughout the day and even if your child doesn’t need to go, sit down and read a story, sing a nursery rhyme together, or play eye-spy so that they enjoy their visits and the one on one time with you.

Night-time toilet training: some parents prefer to train their child to use the toilet/potty at night at the same time as they train them for the daytime. While others prefer to establish the toileting routine during the day before they venture into the night. Either way, it is a good idea to start cutting back on your child’s fluid intake from late afternoon in preparation and invite them to use the toilet as part of their bedtime routine, brushing teeth etc. If you choose to use a pull-up at night-time you will start to notice that they become dry in the mornings when they are ready for training. Night-time lifting when you are going to bed can help them get used to the idea that it is normal to get up in the middle of the night to use the toilet. If you are not using a pull-up, it is a good idea to purchase a rubber sheet or bedwetting sheets to protect their mattress for the early months.

9 Tips to promote Self-Esteem in your Children

Self-esteem is acquired not inherited, so it’s our job, as parents, to develop a healthy self-esteem in our children – it is a passport to a lifetime of mental well-being and happiness. Children who feel good about themselves find it easier to handle challenges and resist negative pressures.

  1. Encourage your child to express his or her feelings. Remind your child that everyone experiences sadness, fear and anxiety, even adults, at some time or another.
  2. Listen to your child without interruption. They will learn that they can come to you in any situation.
  3. Promote trust. Do not judge your child. Keep your voice calm – even when you don’t agree. Let them know that you are willing to talk about any subject without fear of a negative reaction.
  4. Look at your own coping skills. Are you setting a good example to your children – do you fly into a rage easily or avoid decision making and challenges? If you feel overwhelmed by a situation, don’t be afraid to seek professional help.
  5. Encourage your child’s strengths and accept their weaknesses. Nobody is good at everything. Avoid the temptation to compare your child with other children. This will give your child a realistic self-image and self-acceptance.
  6. Foster independence and self-worth. Give your child age appropriate tasks at home and praise them accordingly, i.e. put their toys away etc., and tell them that they are Mummy’s best helper. We never grow out of being praised.
  7. Discipline constructively and fairly. Warn your child of the consequences of bad behaviour and follow through. Children respond to fairness and will respect you, even if they don’t show it at the time. Always end a period of discipline with a calm explanation of why you punished them – and a hug.
  8. Love unconditionally. Nobody will love you like your parents do – so tell your children you love them every day.

You will never be a perfect parent. Just do your best.

When to call a doctor

By Annabel Karmel

Trust your instincts; they will nearly always be right. If you are at all concerned about your child just make that phone call. Your child’s health and happiness (not to mention your own sanity) is more important than worrying about whether you should bother a doctor unnecessarily.

Although the above advice is the single most important answer to the question of “when should I call a doctor”, you should look out for:

  • Persistent or very high temperatures
  • Fitting
  • Dry or persistently lighter than usual nappies
  • Other signs of dehydration
  • Blood in their poo
  • Persistent vomiting
  • A rash, unexplained bruising or other unexplained skin markings
  • An unusual or high pitched cry
  • Inconsolable crying or irritability
  • If he is much quieter than usual or drowsy
  • If he is unable to walk (in children of walking age), or unexplained limping
  • Unexplained limb or back pain
  • Avoidance of lights
  • Headache, neck pain or neck stiffness.

Have the following telephone numbers together in a handy place (e.g. taped inside the door of you bathroom cabinet). This should reduce some of the panic in the middle of the night:

  • Your local GP’s phone number.
  • The number for your “out of hours” doctors’ service

Fluid vs Food

By Annabel Karmel

Whilst your baby or child is unwell, fluid intake becomes the main priority over food. If your baby or toddler is reluctant to drink – or refusing her food – concentrate on fluid intake. With the exception of a very few children who have rare metabolic conditions, children can survive perfectly well for several days on very little food and liquid calories and water only. They may temporarily stop gaining weight or even lose a little but they nearly always soon make up for it when they are better.

For all babies less than four months and most babies between 4-6 months old, milk is both their sole source of nutrition and their main fluid. When babies are unwell they may reduce their milk intake or even vomit after their breastfeeds or bottles. Babies who have coughs, colds, or bronchiolitis may find it very tiring to suck when they are already working hard with their breathing.

This is particularly concerning for parents as babies are more prone to dehydration than older children and there are limited options to keep their fluid intake up. The good news is that for 24-48 hours most babies can tolerate a reduced fluid intake quite well. It is important to keep your poorly babies temperature down (see section below) as having a fever will make her less hungry, less likely to settle to feed and more likely to vomit her feed afterwards. Having a fever will also mean that her body uses up more fluid making her more likely to become dehydrated. However, it is vital to seek medical attention if you are at all concerned about your child.

Signs of dehydration to look out for include:

  • A dry mouth
  • Irritability
  • A sunken fontanelle (this can be tricky to feel unless very sunken in severe dehydration)
  • Less wet nappies than usual
  • Absence of tears when crying in older babies and children
  • “Sunken eyes” (severe dehydration)
  • Dry nappies (severe dehydration)
  • Drowsiness (severe dehydration)

It is a good idea to feed your baby frequent small feeds. This will reduce the chances of her vomiting or any breathing difficulties being made worse by having a very full stomach. You may need to offer her water as well as her usual milk.

Your doctor may advise you to use an oral rehydration fluid like Dioralyte which contains a special balance of glucose and minerals to help rehydrate your child. Never be tempted to add salt or sugar to your child’s drinks yourself, as this can be very dangerous.  Older babies and children who are reluctant to drink may be encouraged to do so by offering diluted fruit concentrate.

Cooling down your hot tot:

If your baby or toddler is unwell your instinct is to wrap him up and cuddle him in close to you. However, if he has a high temperature you may need to clothe him in just a vest.
Paracetamol syrup (for children over 2 months and over 4 kg) and or ibuprofen syrup (for children over 3 months and over 5 kg) may be needed as pain relievers and to help bring a temperature down. However for young babies with a fever it is vital that they see a doctor.

  • Cool drinks: frequent small sips
  • A cool but not cold bath

First Aid Tips on Just About Everything