Potty training is a natural requirement imposed upon every parent or guardian by virtue of being human and responsible in bringing up a self-dependent generation. A child develops from pure dependence to gradual independence as the brain matures and cognitive abilities ripen. Understanding this shifts and phases in a toddler is crucial in realizing when to change approach and aid the child to do some tasks on his or her own. One such crucial shift from dependence is the start of potty training also referred to as toilet training. Potty training is the ability to master the skills of defecating and urinating in an acceptable manner and at an appropriate time. As mentioned above, the achievement of this mastery is a step towards independence and sufficiency. Methods of toilet training and theories have evolved since the last 100 years; some of them are holding up and others have improved; with the outcomes being different. However, the emergence of potties and focus on the effects of the potty training on a child’s self esteem, coupled with the considerations of children with challenges, continue to request for a rethink in approach and modifications, in the existing methods. Parents, however, need to develop a sharp brain and critically analyze the media content on potty training and hence come up with a healthy and productive method as pointed out by Carrick & Kelli (2006) in their article. The study identifies a need for the parent to distinguish between what works for their child and what does not, through critical skills (Cornell-Carrick, 2006).
This paper explores the wide range of potty training skills since it evolved, and focuses on the different methods of potty training, effectiveness in bowel movements, and the effects of some modifying factors such as gender or culture and policy discussion, in the modern practice. This study will also focus on the challenges children undergo during potty training process.
Evolution of Toilet Training
Klassen (2005) bases the history on the case in North America in the 20th century. In the early 1900s and late 1800s, potty training was a concern of the parents. Hence, majority had permissively viewed it as a parent’s jurisdiction. This changed in the 1920s and 1930s when research in the field of behavioral science defined it as a rigid process from an educational perspective. However, the definition did not adjust the authority of parents to determine whether and how to train their children. The reduction of wetting and soiling was the objective of potty training at this stage. This understanding changed through the government publication of the infant care guideline imposing a legal obligation to potty train children. A requirement was that potty training should be done by the age of half a year to eight months. Experts recommended rectal conditioners such as soap, with an emphasis on scheduled and regular observation of bowel movement times. This proposal was rigid and led to failure and concerns of behavioral problem, by the 1940s. Subsequent research showed that children only develop bowel control after 9 months, and the parent should only initiate the potty training after the child shows signs of interest in the process. In 1962, Brazelton developed a child readiness approach, followed by Azrin and Foxx methods with the focus on structural behavior geared towards endpoint results. Consequently, Klassen et al (2005) noted that the period of starting potty training changed upwards. This marked the beginning of academic works in this field.
Methods of Potty Training
The western world has focused primarily on the two methods mentioned above: the method of Azrin and Foxx, and the child-oriented approach. The child-oriented method assumes a gradual approach; the method was a development by Brazelton and advocates (Klassen et al, 2005, p. 13). The readiness in both child and parents to start and proceed with potty training define the success of the method; thus, the parent should notice signs of willingness in the child to start training. The parent also need to be forearmed with the knowledge of potential challenges she/he is likely encounter; such as mental or physical impairment or day care attendance ramifications and needs. Child’s physiological and behavioral readiness is the preliminary point of potty training. The indicators are some level of bowel and bladder control, signals of voluntary participation and neurological ability to cooperate. Under this approach, a child’s familiarization with its potty-chair starts by sitting on it while fully clothed taught. With signals of cooperation, sitting can be in the absence of a diaper followed by emptying of the contents into the chair. An explanation accompanies this emptying, bringing the child to the knowledge of the end. With independent encouragement, the child will learn to use the potty chair (Klassen et al, 2005, p.19).
The second method is the parent oriented method by Azrin and Foxx. Developed in 1971, the method is a structured and behavioral approach focusing on the end. Its target is to cause a chain of outcomes through the step by step potty training process. The method develops a criterion of determining a child’s readiness to potty train. This could be psychological signals such as a demonstration of understanding and executing instructions, imitating actions or pointing at certain parts of the body. Physiological readiness is also part of this process, as it indicates a child’s ability to handle certain processes requiring muscle readiness. Performance of tasks such as upright posture, walking some distance or dressing will point to this readiness. This rigid process follows four stages: increase of the child’s liquid intake, fixing of a time schedule to potty train, positive measures to strengthen acquisition of correct behavior and lastly, an adequate reaction and a prompt correction of any accidents (Brown & Peace, 2011).
Infant assisted training approach is widely used in Africa, India, China and some parts of America and Europe. The method calls for parents to learn bowel movements indicators of their infants. It starts at an early age between two to three weeks. It starts by placing a child in a position easy to void; then, during the defecating process, a parent makes certain noises, such as ‘ah’. If the child does manage then he gets a reward; however, in case of failure to manage, there is no punishment. This brings in the potty training in which the child relates elimination to a potty. First, the child gets signals of the potty after signaling the need to eliminate; secondly, the child reaches for the potty first, before sitting down; and, lastly the child learns to grab the potty and sit on it independently (Fay Chou, 2009, p.1).
In addition to the above methods, elimination communication method is another potty training approach that resembles the latter. It requires a parent understands the infant’s body language, rhythms and noises. The method involves sitting the infant on a potty and making sounds similar to a gash of water. This encourages the child, but it should start at his birth. Although the practice of this method in countries such as China involves letting a child go free without an undergarment, studies by Simon and Rachel indicate that undergarments boast the ability to toilet train a child (Simon & Rachel, 2006, p.365).