The difference between the toilet training process and other developmental processes
In most developed nations, health services track kids closely in early childhood. In terms of physical growth, motor skills, hearing, and speech, there are defined criteria and norms for each age and stage. There are methods of evaluation and treatment that are applied when necessary (physiotherapy, communications clinician, occupational therapy).
While toilet training is an aspect of the development process, there are no agreed-on norms and criteria for it, and no evaluation or treatment methods.
When other aspects of the development process are slow or delayed—children who walk or talk late, or whose growth-rate is slower—parents show empathy, understanding, and a warmly encouraging attitude. It’s unthinkable that in those situations parents would demand the child tries harder, put pressure on her, or show their disappointment when progress doesn’t match the norm.
Sadly, that’s not always what happens with toilet training. While it’s an area with lots of room for encouragement, and for applying direct and indirect pressure, there can also be reactions of disappointment, anger, or worse.
Psychologically, it’s easier to help and encourage a child who’s having problems walking or talking—even though she’s at the “right” age—than relating like that to a child who can already use the toilet but has occasional soiling episodes—in her underwear, the car, or on the living-room couch.
Parental reactions originate in the divide between what parents expect from the child and the child’s actual performance. So, parents need to maintain awareness of this and ignore opinions that say the child is doing it deliberately for the sake of control. Instead, they need to use intelligence, advance planning, and thinking.
Several dos and don’ts can help parents take a positive, constructive approach during the toilet training process.