Enhancing Sensory Awareness
Children need to be able to sense bladder fullness and recognize when their bowels are starting to move. Around three months of age, some infants can distinguish these sensations, while many toddlers have great difficulty sorting them out. Since disposable diapers mask wetness and obscure the cause-and-effect relationship between elimination and dampness, children may lose touch with their bodies over time. Start potty training your next child when he's a baby or an infant!
Teach your child to recognize the sensations that occur before and during elimination by noticing and commenting when she is relieving herself. If she is always clad in a diaper, noticing can be difficult. Some babies make a face or assume a special posture. Some older toddlers stand with their feet slightly apart and look down. Otherwise, if your child regularly urinates shortly after awakening from a nap or after eating, remove the diaper and see if she will sit on the potty for a bit. If she urinates while sitting on the potty, point out what is happening, and praise her.
It is usually easier to tell when a child is having a bowel movement. Talk her through the whole process to help to increase her awareness of what is happening.
Don't ask your child whether her urine or B.M. is coming out only when you know the answer is yes! Children who don't like their diapers changed may say, “No” and become confused to the point that they don't know the correct answer. Ask at other times, too. Congratulate her for giving the right answer, or correct her gently if she's wrong.
Even if you feel uncomfortable, it is important to describe exactly what is happening:
“Do you smell that? You're passing gas. You're going to have a B.M.”
“You're grunting. The B.M. is coming. Someday you'll go to the potty when you start grunting.”
“You're putting your B.M. in your diaper.”
“You're all through having a B.M.”
“Your diaper smells. We need to put on a clean one.”
“See? Your B.M. is in your diaper. I'm going to throw it away. Bye-bye, B.M.!”
“I'm wiping your bottom to clean it. When you're bigger, you'll clean your bottom with toilet paper.”
“See? This diaper is clean. You smell nice now that your diaper is clean.”
Children need to hear these things many times to recognize the sensations preceding bowel movements.