Yes, if parents initiate toilet training before their child is ready, the whole family may suffer. Parents use up a great deal of energy putting him on the toilet, constantly praising or showing disappointment, doing extra laundry and cleanup that results from frequent accidents, and working out reward systems using candy or stars to motivate their child.
It’s particularly difficult for parents to handle the resistance of a two-year-old who reacts negatively to any parental pressure or suggestions. At that age, a child strives for autonomy and wants to assert himself and take charge of many aspects of his life. It’s best not to initiate toilet training when your child is at the “I wanna do it myself!” stage.
Many young children are not successfully trained if their parents start too soon. Efforts can backfire and a child can become strongly opposed to using the toilet. This situation can also develop if a child has been over-praised for toilet use, if he sees how (overly) important the issue is to his parents, or if he’s been pressed too hard to be “a big boy.”
Since praise can sometimes have negative consequences, give simple acknowledgment, help your child be aware of his own capabilities, and reflect back his pride and accomplishment, “You did it yourself!” You can relieve pressure your child may be feeling by being calm and matter-of-fact about toilet use: “Let’s use the toilet before we go out.” Offer support and help: “Can I turn the light on for you?” or “Do you need help with your pants?” Then don’t comment on whether or not he used the toilet successfully.
Sometimes a child can feel so anxious about disappointing his parents that he won’t even try using the toilet for fear of failure. Finally, a child who doesn’t like to be pushed and controlled might try to exert his own power by rejecting his parents’ suggestions. Rather than use the toilet, he might become constipated or go as soon as he’s taken off the toilet, soiling the floor or his pants. If you feel you must initiate toilet training, hold off until your child is three, when it’s developmentally easier to help him along, and make sure training doesn’t interfere with other developmental changes.
However, the best approach is simply to wait until your child is ready to start on his own. Children have an innate drive to grow and develop, a strong desire to copy, imitate, and please their parents, and determination to do things for themselves. All of these urges will come together if your child isn’t pressured to use the toilet before he’s physically and emotionally ready. It takes a great deal of patience and confidence in your child to wait but eventually he’ll let you know that he wants to use the toilet.
Once he’s using the toilet, he’ll occasionally have accidents because of stress or he’ll forget to get to the bathroom on time because he’s too busy playing. Your attitude toward toilet training determines, in large part, how successful this phase of your child’s development will be. If you’re relaxed and willing to let your child set the pace, you and he will have an easier time.