Successful toilet-training is a transition from one habit to another. In modern Western society, we diaper babies from the moment of birth. In fact, we “make it clear to them” that they use diapers for both types of excretion, whenever and wherever they like. For a year or more we carefully comply with that social norm, and babies live in harmony with their own personal “diaper-toilet.” But then, one day, we let her know that the norm has changed – and excretion is not longer something she can do anywhere and everywhere. From now on, there’s a new place – the toilet bowl. It’s as if adults must start learning to stop at the green light and drive off on the red, or perhaps to drive on the left side of the road instead of the right.
Probably most parents will agree that transitioning from one habit to another is really hard for adults, for example, cutting down on carbs, or quitting cigarettes. Many of us long to make those changes, whether for reasons of health and attractiveness – yet we fail time after time. And for little children, changing habits can be even tougher.
As we mentioned previously, some children have already picked up their parents’ clear hints for some time. They saw that their parents, siblings, kids in kindergarten, were all using the toilet. Like in other areas, the desire to be like them starts developing. For those kids, the transition from diaper to using the toilet bowl is really simple. But for a great many kids, it’s not so simple. They’ve developed a strong dependency on diapers. It gives them a sense of security, and the idea of abandoning them seems threatening and worrying.
In that complex transition from diaper to the toilet bowl, the parents’ task is truly complex and challenging. As parents, we’re actually agents of society and it’s our task to impart social norms in early childhood. The separation from diapers is one of the first educational events a child experiences. As parents, we are the ones who present the new demands, the guides who teach and help the child. We’re the ones who cheer on successes and console when accidents happen. Since there’s deep emotional involvement in the process, we also need to stifle any frustration and irritation, and provide a harmonious supportive atmosphere for our kids. Toilet-training is an experience that – when it’s successful – contributes immensely to shaping our child’s image of us. On one hand, parents need to be authoritative, but on the other, they must equally be supportive, helpful, protective, encouraging, and accepting. And if the experience is a failure, it can affect that image.
A smooth and harmonious transition to dryness helps boost children’s confidence and self-image. Contrastingly, a transition that is strewn with conflicts and anger can harm their developing personality, self-image, and self-confidence.