I have only bought one book on toilet training. I bought it because it was the shortest and the cheapest - possibly not the best way to make these decisions, but there you go!
I have also read quite a few blogs and articles online and I've discovered a common theme. Most of these writers (The Baby Whisperer included) not only believe that they have discovered a great way to toilet train toddlers, but believe that they have discovered the ONLY WAY.
I'll admit that I quite like The Baby Whisperer's basic premise: that toilet training is just another milestone that you can work towards with your child, just like sitting, walking and talking. If you start preparing your child early enough (she suggests at around 9 months) it should be more of a natural transition that happens when a child is ready, rather than a massive hurdle to be overcome.
I say I like the premise. I'm less certain about how well I'd like the practice! Not sure if I've really got the time, patience or, and let's be honest here, diligence, to take a 9-month-old to the toilet several times a day in preparation for a far distant event.
Anyway, it doesn't matter, because both of mine are well past that magic age. So, while storing up the 9-month-old idea for any future children, I have to work out what to do with mine now that I have missed that starting point. I needn't worry though, because The Baby Whisperer is there to reassure me that "even at this age, your child will learn to use the toilet." Even at this age? I didn't actually have any doubt that both the boys would eventually be able to use the toilet, but now I'm worried that they're at a near-impossible age!
Anyway, her method is pretty simple. Prepare the child in advance by changing nappies frequently so they get used to feeling dry, a special trip to buy underpants or knickers, and teaching them the words they will need, e.g. poo, wee wee, toilet. I also taught 'wet' and 'dry' with demonstrations. She doesn't recommend using a potty, but with our household going upstairs to the toilet so frequently really would be a major upheaval in our day, so potty it is, with toilet training seat after naps and in the mornings.
Then you start paying taking note of they fill their nappies. Apparently, if you've been paying attention to your child all along, you'll already know their nappy-filling behaviours. Big fail there then!
And then one morning, you get them up, put them on the toilet, and then put them in underwear instead of a nappy.
That was a terrifying day! For me, not for him!
At this stage, the adult takes responsibility for ensuring that the child is taken to the toilet regularly. She suggests around 40 minutes after eating/drinking, and straight after waking. I also take him at 'junctions' (as we're going out, when we arrive somewhere, etc.). Wait on the toilet no longer than a few minutes to see if something happens, and if it does (and the child responds to rewards) give rewards. If there is an accident, get the child to co-operate in removing their own clothes and helping to clean up - taking responsibility is all part of growing up.
Well, we started about a week ago, and it was horrendous! There was crying, tantrums and lots and lots of clothes changes. There were several occasions when a clearly desperate boy sat on the potty for several minutes and then wet himself immediately upon being allowed off. I'm not saying we had no successes, but it was hit and miss enough that I sent him to Playgroup in pull-ups (a big no-no!) because I was certain of not one but many accidents.
But then I introduced a new factor - CHOCOLATE!
If I'm honest, giving food as a reward goes against a dearly-held principle of mine. I have enough food-related issues of my own without passing them on to the kids I care for, but it became clear after a few days that the stickers (shiny and star-shaped though they were) just weren't cutting it in terms of motivational reward. He liked them, but he didn't like them enough.
So, two days ago I went out and bought 16 mini Kinder bars. They are tiny, with 5 minuscule chocolate pieces on each bar - one piece per potty success, so probably about one bar per day, I reckon. I tempted him with them yesterday and we suddenly had willingness . . . nay eagerness! . . . to use the potty. We did have a couple of accidents, but last night he voluntarily went to the potty twice to do a poo! It is currently 2.45pm, he is sleeping, and he has been dry all day!
When the bars are finished, the chocolate reward will be finished. I'm hoping that by then he won't need that sort of motivation, or perhaps we'll change to a sticker chart with a chocolate reward for every 5 stickers. I'm optimistic :)
So, on the whole, I'm pretty happy with The Baby Whisperer's approach. I can definitely understand why many parents would prefer to wait longer until their children are ready on their own, and if I was dealing with my own children, I may well do that, but as these are looked-after children, I have to balance my personal preferences with the realities of the 'adoption market' - it might be mercenary, but it's probably true that a toilet-trained 3-year-old is a more attractive proposition than a nappy-wearing one.
What I am uncomfortable about is the insinuation, as I said earlier, that this really is the only method worth trying and if it doesn't work it's because you're not doing it right.
"I've found that toilet troubles are caused, at least in part, by parents' lack of follow-through."
"When problems persist, it's usually because of something the parents have done, or their attitude."
So, there you have it, a decent helping of toilet-training advice, with a hefty side dish of patronising put-down!
I'll keep you all updated - I'm sure you're dying to hear more toilet-related details!!