Toilet Training Tips

Getting ready

First, decide whether you want to train using a potty or the toilet. There are some advantages to using a potty – it’s mobile and it’s familiar, and some children find it less daunting than a toilet. Try to find out your child’s preference and go with that. Some parents encourage their child to use both the toilet and potty.

Second, make sure you have all the right equipment. If your child is using the toilet you’ll need a step for your child to stand on. You’ll also need a smaller seat that fits securely inside the existing toilet seat, because some children get uneasy about falling in.

  • Choose a start day, perhaps when you have no plans to leave the house.
  • Stop using nappies (except at night and during daytime sleeps). Begin using underpants or training pants. You can even let your child choose some underpants, which can be an exciting step for him.
  • Dress your child in clothes that are easy to take off – for example, trousers with elastic waistbands, rather than full body suits. In warmer weather, you might like to leave her in underpants when at home.
  • Sit your child on the potty each day at times when he’s likely to have a bowel movement, like 30 minutes after eating or after having a bath.
  • Give your child lots of fibre to eat and water to drink so she doesn’t become constipated, which can make toilet training difficult. Your child’s diet is the best way to handle this, rather than buying fibre supplements.
  • If your child doesn’t cooperate or seem interested, just wait until he’s willing to try again.
  • Give your child positive praise for her efforts (even if progress is slow), and lots of praise when she’s successful. You could say ‘Well done Janey for sitting on the potty’. As she achieves each stage, reduce the amount of praise.
  • Look out for signs that your child needs to go to the toilet – some cues include changes in posture, passing wind and going quiet.
  • At different stages throughout the day (but not too often), you might ask your child if he needs to go to the toilet. Gentle reminders are enough – it’s best if your child doesn’t feel pressured.
  • Five minutes is long enough to sit a child on the potty or toilet. It’s best not to make your child sit on the toilet for long periods of time, because this will feel like punishment.
  • You’ll need to wipe your child’s bottom at first, until she learns how. Remember to wipe from the front to the back, particularly with little girls.
  • Teach your boy to shake his penis after a wee to get rid of any drops. Sometimes, in the early stages of toilet training, it’s helpful to float a ping pong ball in the toilet for him to aim at. Or he might prefer to sit and do a wee, which can be less messy in the early stages.
  • Teach your child how to wash her hands after using the toilet. This can be a fun activity that your child enjoys as part of the routine.
  • If he misses the toilet, don’t comment. Just clean it up without any fuss.

Toilet training might take days or months. It’s not a race (no matter what other parents tell you about their own ‘wonderful’ children!).
The key is to not push your child. Relax and let him learn at his own pace – he’ll get the hang of it when he’s ready. Encourage him with gentle reminders and stories. What your child wants most is to please you, and praising him will tell him what a good job he’s doing

Biting, Pinching & Hair Pulling

Ow! It can come as a shock when your baby pinches, bites or pulls your hair for the first time. What does it mean when your baby hurts you and what can you do?

Angry feelings: 9-12 months

Every child has angry feelings from time to time. Pushing, grabbing or biting is usually just a baby’s way of trying to get something or to find out how something feels or tastes. Sometimes, though, you do see real anger. For example, when you take something away or when your child cannot do something that he wants to do.

When infants show intense negative emotions, it is sometimes hard to tell the difference between anger, fear and discomfort. For example:

  • A 10-month-old who lashes out when dropped off at day care might need reassurance and more time to get used to separation from her parent.
  • Another 10-month-old who uncharacteristically cries and throws everything might just have an earache.
  • Some infants are easily overstimulated and can respond in ways that look aggressive, when in reality they are just overwhelmed or afraid.

Some parents find it hard to accept that their babies have a full range of emotions, positive and negative. For example, when their infants yell or hit out in anger, the parents laugh and say, ‘Isn’t that cute. He’s mad’. These parents are uncomfortable with anger in their children, so they make a joke out of it. The babies, seeing their parents laugh, can come to think that their parents actually approve of their angry behaviour.

The key is to accept the emotions for what they are and to set clear limits, even at very early ages, on aggressive behaviour.

You might be tempted to yell, slap or bite back. These actions would only startle your baby. Eventually he would learn to mimic them. He might even try the behaviour again, to see if it will produce the same intense reaction from you.

Biting a child back doesn’t stop biting. Instead a child is likely to learn by imitation to bite other people.

Use feeling words
When you talk with your baby, use emotional (or feeling) words, such as ‘mad’, ‘scared’ or ‘frustrated’, that seem to describe his state of mind at that moment. Of course, it will take years for those words and concepts to really sink in, but over time, the words you say will have more and more meaning.
Eventually, your baby – at age three or four, sometimes earlier – will be able to use those words to describe and take control of her own feelings.

Use gentle firmness

  • Respond to seemingly aggressive acts – hair pulling, biting, or pinching – with gentle firmness.
  • Unclamp your child’s hand (or mouth) from your arm, say something like ‘No hurting’.
  • If need be, put her down on the floor.
  • Let your expression be serious (no laughing, even if the behaviour seems somehow cute) but not overly shocked.
  • Pick him up soon, before he begins to fuss too much. Be prepared to repeat the whole procedure many times.
  • For assertive, highly intense children, it can take many repetitions before they learn the boundaries of what is acceptable.

When should this behaviour stop?
Even with the best, consistent teaching, toddlers might not stop biting, pinching, or pulling right away. A young child stops pinching momentarily in response to being told ‘no’. In a few moments, though, she might be back at it again. Gradually, there is less and less of the aggressive behaviour.

Taming Temper Tantrums

Tantrums are extremely common among children aged 18-36 months.

They come in all shapes and sizes. They can involve spectacular explosions of anger, frustration and disorganised behaviour (when your child ‘loses it’). You might see crying, screaming, stiffening limbs, an arched back, kicking, falling down, flailing about or running away. In some cases, children hold their breath, vomit, break things or get aggressive as part of a tantrum.

The causes of tantrums include:

  • Temperament. This can influence how emotional children become when they feel frustrated. Some children just have more tantrums than others
  • stress, hunger, tiredness and overstimulation
  • Situations that children just can’t cope with – for example, when an older child takes a toy away.

You’ll see fewer tantrums as your child gets older and better at handling bad feelings. Your child will also get better at communicating his wants and needs using words. But tantrums can go on – even into adulthood – if they become a reliable way for your child to get what he wants.

The low-key approach to dealing with tantrums

This approach is suitable for very young children (1-2 years), or for children whose tantrums do not occur very frequently or very severely.

  • Reduce stress. Tired, hungry and overstimulated children are more likely to throw tantrums.
  • Be aware of how your child is feeling. If you can see a tantrum brewing, step in and try distracting your child with another activity.
  • Identify tantrum triggers. Certain situations – shopping, visiting or mealtimes – might frequently involve temper tantrums. Think of ways to make these events easier on your child. For example, you could time the situations so your child isn’t tired, eats before you go out, or doesn’t need to behave for too long.
  • When a tantrum occurs, stay calm (or pretend to!). If you get angry, it will make the situation worse and harder for both of you. If you need to speak at all, keep your voice calm and level, and act deliberately and slowly.
  • Wait out the tantrum. Ignore the behaviour until it stops. Once a temper tantrum is in full swing, it’s too late for reasoning or distraction. Your child won’t be in the mood to listen. You also run the risk of teaching your child that tantrum get your full involvement and attention.
  • Make sure there’s no pay-off for the tantrum. If the tantrum occurs because your child doesn’t want to do something (such as get out of the bath), gently insist that she does (pick her up out of the bath). If the tantrum occurs because your child wants something, don’t give her what she wants.
  • Be consistent and calm in your approach. If you sometimes give your child what he wants when he tantrums and sometimes don’t, the problem could become worse.
  • Reward good behaviour. Enthusiastically praise your child when she manages frustration well.
Social Interactions


Learning to share can be a challenge for young children, but sharing is a skill they need for play and learning throughout childhood.

Why sharing is important? Sharing is a vital life skill. It’s something toddlers and children need to learn in order to make friends and play cooperatively. Once your child starts having play dates and going to child care, preschool or kindergarten, he’ll need to be able to share with others.

Helping your child learns to share – Children often take their cues from what they see their parents doing. When you model good sharing and turn-taking in family life, you give your children a great example to follow.

Other ways to encourage sharing include the following:

  • Point out good sharing in others. You can say things like, ‘Your friend was sharing her toys really well. That was very kind of her’. You can also point out sharing examples in any books, DVDs or TV shows your child enjoys. For example, you could say things such as, ‘Look at Karen and Rhys sharing the play dough on Playschool. They’re having so much fun!’
  • When you see your child trying to share or take turns, make sure you give lots of praise and attention. For example, ‘I liked the way you let Aziz play with your train. Great sharing!’
  • Play games with your child that involves sharing and turn-taking. Talk your child through the steps, saying things like, ‘Now it’s my turn to build the tower, then it’s your turn. You share the red blocks with me, and I’ll share the green blocks with you’.
  • Talk to your child about sharing before she goes on play dates with other children. For example, you could say, ‘When Georgia comes over; you’ll need to share some of your toys. Why don’t we ask her what she wants to play with?’ You can also talk to your child about sharing before heading off to child care or preschool.
  • Put away any special toys when other children are coming to play at your house. This might help avoid problems with sharing altogether.

First Friends
Children under three often play alongside each other, but as they get older, they start playing together more. You can help your young child develop the skills she needs to play together and have fun with other children.

When children begin to play together

Before they’re about three years old, children engage in what’s called parallel play – that is, they play alongside each other, but not interact directly. For example, one child might play with blocks at a table, while another child plays with their own blocks next to them.

This happens most of the time, but at other times, even very young children interact with each other while playing. Children who have been in group child care from an early age have more experience with peers, and tend to interact more. Siblings (who know each other very well) play with each other even at a very young age. But when playing with other children they don’t know as well, they still play in parallel.

Early cooperative play

By age three or four, children spend more of their playtime interacting with each other. Often interactions are positive – imitating, planning, and executing a plan together, or sharing materials.

When a child snatches a toy away or barges in, disrupting the play, it’s likely he’s just trying to join in the fun. It can take some children a long time to figure out how to assert themselves without being aggressive.

On the whole, children learn best when adults assume their intentions were good – and this is true even if the child didn’t carry off his intentions well. It’s more helpful to show your child how to go about taking turns than to scold him for grabbing toys.

Tips for encouraging early cooperative play
Here are some tips that can help make early play more cooperative:

  • It’s helpful if you can arrange to have two or more similar toys at playtime. That way, when one child is banging pegs into holes, a second child can bang away too, without having to wait.
  • Keep the playtime short at first (30-45 minutes). If your child is having a hard time one day, you can just leave early – there’s little to be gained by sticking it out, and it’s more important that your child have a good time while she’s there. When she’s ready, she’ll be able to stay longer.
  • Join in with the play and help the children negotiate shared goals. For example, if they’re playing with blocks, you might ask, ‘Would you like to build one large tower or two smaller ones?’
  • If you can, step in to redirect a child who’s having a hard time playing positively. Try to do this before his behaviour evokes an angry reaction from another child. In this case, prevention is better than treatment!
  • Give your child enough time to feel comfortable in the group. If you’re an outgoing person, your natural tendency might be to push her to start playing, but it’s important to let her set her own pace. She might want to stay near you for days or even weeks. But when the unfamiliar becomes familiar, even the most slow-to-warm-up child can feel comfortable in a group.
How to deal with separation anxiety

Children experiencing separation anxieties need a predictable routine and lots of reassurance. Parents also need support from Co-operative caregivers, friends and family. It can take somewhere between two to ten weeks to resolve: there is no quick fix solution.

*Visit the centre before you start care. Lead up visits of one hour at a time at playtime (best recommended 9.30am to 10.30am) helps you and your child become familiar with the centre.

*Give staff key words in home languages to use with your child. You may wish to pack foods from home your child is familiar with when starting care. Give staff information on your child’s likes and dislikes. You can also bring in favourite music from home.

*Bring in a family photo. Children enjoy being able to visually identify with family members when you are away.

*If possible, try to plan for shorter days in care to start with.

*Develop a predictable routine with caregivers. You will need their support and involvement as they are used to dealing with separation issues. The routine starts from the time your child wakes in the morning to the time you say good-bye at childcare. Use the same words every day, something simple like “ We are going to see the kids at school today.” Do not deviate from the routine if this can be avoided. If you have a late start or a day off from work, although it would be tempting to have a more relaxed morning, it may only serve to worsen your child’s separation anxieties. Try and do the drop off as usual.

*Follow the same predictable routine upon arrival. Greet the children and caregiver, put your child’s belongings in the assigned locker, help your child select an activity/toy/playmate, or bring something special from home that may comfort your child. For smaller babies, something that carries your scent, such as a hankie or scarf, might be useful. Make sure staff are aware what the special toy or item is.

*Involve the caregiver in being ready to help you say good-bye to your child. Tell your child good-bye, kiss and cuddle and say and when you will be returning, such as after sleep or afternoon tea. Your child might like to wave to you from the window, safe and secure in the arms of a caregiver.

*Then GO. It is difficult, but it is also necessary to confidently leave the room. It’s not easy when your child is screaming and clinging to you, but the consequences of changing the routine at this stage can be confusing for your child. Leave the room and go to work, or spend some time with the centre director or a friend to calm down. Remember the childcare workers are experienced and only to willing to support and assist you at this difficult time.

*The entire routine should generally be no longer than ten minutes and no shorter than five. Once your child has stopped experiencing separation difficulties, amore relaxing and longer time can be taken.

*If it helps phone to see if your child has settled once you have arrived at work or at home. However, it is OK not to call as well. Staff will always contact parents and families if they are concerned about the child’s well being.

*Plan ahead for separation time with infants particularly if it is a new environment, or with a new caregiver.

*Choose a small circle of caregivers with whom your child has contact.

*Give your child time to become familiar with new situations and new caregivers.

*Develop a consistent routine when you leave your child.

*Let your child know that you are leaving and make sure you are clear on who is looking after them.

*Don’t sneak out with out saying good-bye. Your child will be upset seeing you leave but they understand that you have left. Sneaking away when they are not looking is confusing for your child, as they do not know where you have gone. It is better that your child understands you have left or gone to work, than not knowing where you have gone.

*Reassurance and lots of hugs when you return is highly recommended. Children learn after a short period of time that you leave and always return.

*Once you have taken the step to settle your child into daycare, don’t give up. Some parents attempt childcare for a few weeks then decide to try it again later instead. If your child has started the process of settling then follow through. Your child will go through the same process no matter when you start and at any age. If you have made the decision to start the settling process then see it through.

*All children settle at some point. Your child may take a week, your child may take longer, but all children at some stage settle into childcare and love it!! It worth the tears now for lots of fun later on!!!

All the information presented here was taken from the Childcare and Children’s Health Series.