When it comes to toilet training, as with all behavior, what works for one child may not work for another! This can be a skill that comes easily for some children, while others show no interest. Maybe you’re getting ready to start toilet training for the first time. Or perhaps you have a child who still requires some support to prevent accidents or to go more regularly. Do you have a child for whom you’ve tried everything, but nothing has worked?
As behavior analysts, we are the experts at identifying why your child’s behavior works for him/her. We then match our plan to that reason, so rather than a band-aid, we get to the root of the unwanted behavior. The most common reason that we reveal in our assessment of toileting challenges is avoidance, also known as negative reinforcement in behavior analysis! In other words, your child may have learned to use his/her behavior to delay, avoid, or get out of things s/he would rather not do. Reinforcement always means a behavior is increasing. Your child’s unwanted behavior increases because it effectively helps him/her delay, avoid, control, or get out of something! We are the experts of identifying avoidant patterns of behavior, as well as resolving them!
Identify the extent to which your child is using avoidance outside the context of toileting
These are the subtle behaviors that you may not see as problematic. These behaviors are likely manageable and your friends and family are likely telling you they are “normal” for his/her age. They happen frequently throughout the day and can be exhausting to you. If toileting weren’t an issue, you may never have reached out for support with these behaviors.
For example, does your child respond to less preferred situations by delaying or attempting to get out of them?
When you offer your child a choice between two options, does s/he often try to negotiate a third option?
Does your child seem to ignore you or not hear you?
Do you find yourself repeating your instructions when your child isn’t responding?
Does your child ask thoughtful questions when you have given an instruction?
Does your child protest when you’ve told him/her ‘no’?
These are all examples of subtle avoidant behaviors that we know are the key to resolving the not-so-subtle toileting challenges like constipation, refusal to use the toilet, or frequent accidents. Which size fits your child? Does s/he display any or all of these subtle examples of avoidant behavior?
Practice instruction following
If you suspect your child has learned to use avoidance as a tool, a great place to start is with following instructions! Keep in mind that you want to practice instruction-following during times your child’s “light switch” is on so he or she learns from the practice. If you aren’t sure how to teach this, we recommend our parent workshop OnDemand “Six Reasons Your Child Doesn’t Listen”.
Ensure your child can tolerate waiting and being told “no”
Before you can expect that your child will participate calmly in the toilet training process (whether it’s a new process or you’ve been working on the skill for a while), make sure s/he can stay calm or his/her “light switch” comes on quickly during delays and denials, or when you have told him/her ‘no’. These are important prerequisite skills for toilet training success. Your child will need to be able to calmly pause an activity for a potty break. As you extend time in the bathroom before leaving, your child will need the skill to wait.
Download our Free Toilet Training Kit
We’ve put together a free download to assist your data-based toilet training success! Click here to download our FREE Toilet Training Get Started Kit! This will help you create your child’s individualized toilet training plan.
Attend our June webinar series!
The entire month of June is dedicated to supporting you with your child’s successful toileting. We only do this webinar once per year, so don’t miss out! This is a great way to get extra information on what you can do as the parent to set your child up for success or if you’re having difficulty with a current plan. If you have accessed all of our other FREE resources, our June webinar offers the opportunity to ask individualized questions to customize your child’s plan!
We are dedicated to helping you!
As your local toilet training experts, we are dedicated to helping you at any step of the toilet training process. Summer is a time in which you can find yourself saying, “This week was too busy, we’ll try again next week”, or “I need you to do this so you can be ready for school!” If you find that the above tips are helpful but feel that you’re not making the progress that you would like, we would love to hear from you! Schedule a complimentary, 30-minute call to discuss your toileting concerns and how we can support you to keep your “light switch” on and set your child up for success with toilet training.
Anna Milligan, MS
The material contained herein is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to create or constitute a behavioral consultation relationship between Behave Your Best, LLC and the reader. The information contained herein is not offered as behavioral consultation and should not be construed as behavioral consultation.