Let's Talk Kids: "It's Paw-ty Time!"

Jun 22, 2017

Standing outside in driving rain at 4 am, I’m reminded of something I already know well:  teaching someone to manage his bowel and bladder habits represents a significant investment.

Eight-week old puppy Davy came to live at my house recently. While we’re quickly falling in love with this little guy, teaching him to potty outside has been a challenge. The whole experience puts me in solidarity with parents who are working to achieve that same sort of control with their toddlers.

Training a puppy or a toddler offers many parallels.  First, you look for signs of readiness. In a child, that might be the ability to pull down pants and express needs to others.  With Davy, it’s been his determination to keep his crate clean. Next you have to set up the environment. With a toddler, you might buy a small potty chair. With a pup, it’s helpful to have a safe place outdoors.

With puppies or children, you have to plan for the time commitment involved, watching for signs of the need to eliminate and then practicing regular attempts at the potty or in the grass.

Finally, you have to understand that gaining toilet mastery is a process with many tiny achievements along the way. Davy’s keeping his crate clean is a great first step.  A toddler making it as far as the bathroom door before dousing her jeans is something to celebrate. Honoring these early successes encourages puppies and children to keep trying.

Dr. Ann Stadtler of Boston Children’s Hospital and the Brazelton Touchpoints Center is something of a genius when it comes to supporting families in the process of toilet training.
Together we’ve written a book entitled “Lessons from Toilet School.”  Ann started Toilet School at Children’s as an intervention with unsuccessful toilet trainers. Kids and parents work together for six weeks with some pretty amazing results.  What we’ve learned from these families has enabled us to see how they might have succeeded earlier with the right information and support.

These “Lessons” are the basis for this guide which looks at toilet training from the perspective of both parents and children, including children with different ways of learning. The book also covers how to get started, what to do about bumps in the road, and how to address nighttime dryness.

“Lessons from Toilet School” has been published by Millikin University’s publishing house, Bronze Man Books.