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Toilet Training Tips for Children With Delays

by Brooke Julia

Toilet-training a child is no walk in the park even on the best of days. Add a delay to the mix -- be it a behavioral issue or something more serious -- and potty training becomes especially stressful. Learning might take quite a bit more time than you expect it to, but don't let that stop you. Remember, the most important step in potty-training is allowing your child to set the pace, according to HealthyChildren.org. He must be emotionally and physically ready to train in order for it to be successful. Gird yourself with patience and be your child's ally through the experience.

Delayed Toilet Training

The trend for when parents toilet-train their children is between 2 and 3 years of age, according to BabyCenter.com. A delay, then, is defined as occurring when a child is 3 or older, is healthy and has been training for at least three weeks without catching on. If the child hasn't started training at all then he isn't considered delayed no matter his age, according to Dr. Barton Schmidt. Often the delay is only bowel-oriented because children catch on to bladder control a bit more quickly.

Behavioral Reasons

The No. 1 reason for potty-training delays is behavioral, states McKenzie Pediatrics in Springfield, Ore. Toddlers have just discovered they can make things happen on their own, without mom's help. They enjoy that sense of autonomy, that sense of being a little individual. So when mom says it's time to get rid of diapers and start using the potty, some children dig in their heels just to prove they can. When this continues to happen past the age of 3, a change in methods is called for.

Teaching a Resistant Child

The only way to teach a resistant child how to use the potty is to remove all reason for resistance, according to McKenzie Pediatrics. When you're begging, cajoling, threatening and bribing, your child holds all the cards, plus all of your attention. So withdraw it. Place all the responsibility for learning into your child's hands. Explain that your child's pee and poop belong to him and he must let it come out each day. Say that you'll no longer remind him but that he'll have to help you clean each accident up and change his clothes afterward. Then when he sees he doesn't have your attention by not using the potty, he'll seek it by going to it, at which time you can offer praise and treats.

Medical Reasons

Not all children experiencing toilet training delays are fighting for control, according to McKenzie Pediatrics. In fact, if your child is truly trying to learn but can't seem to grasp it, there may be an underlying medical reason. Looks for signs such as your child trying to make it to the toilet and failing, constantly wet underpants, peeing when laughing, pain when peeing and chronic issues with constipation or diarrhea. You should see your child's pediatrician.

Patience and Compassion

Children with developmental delays need to show the same signs of readiness as any other child before starting toilet training, according to HealthyChildren.org. These include being able to stay dry for two or more hours a day, understanding the difference between being wet and dry, recognizing the potty and trying to sit on it, and can dress and undress himself. Depending on the type and severity of the delay, your child might be 5 or older before he's potty-trained. Prepare yourself emotionally for the patience and compassion you'll need in order to help your child, and line up friends and family who are willing to step in when you need a break.

About the Author

Brooke Julia has been a writer since 2009. Her work has been featured in regional magazines, including "She" and "Hagerstown Magazine," as well as national magazines, including "Pregnancy & Newborn" and "Fit Pregnancy."

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