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Ask the Experts: Toilet Trained, School Ready?

by Dubai Forum
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A concerned parent, whose three-year-old child is not yet toilet trained and is due to start FS1 in a Dubai school, asks what they should do. To provide the right guidance, we spoke to two experts: Dwight School Dubai’s Dean of Student Affairs (Early Years), Ms Bonita Smith, and educational psychologist at Intercare Health Center, Dr Bene Katabua. 

Dear Experts,

My three-year-old son is due to start FS1 in a Dubai school next week. Despite our best efforts, he is still not reliably using the toilet, and needs to wear diapers when we leave the house. Will he be rejected by the school if he is not fully potty trained, and is there anything I can do to prepare him in this short time period?

Ms Bonita Smith, Dean of Student Affairs (Early Years), Dwight School Dubai:

Different schools will have slightly varying levels of flexibility in this situation, often depending on whether the school is new or established, its class sizes, and what the teachers and assistants are realistically able to manage. Speaking in general terms though, schools in the UAE will not allow children to attend school if they are not yet toilet trained, unless this is a recognised medical issue rather than being attributed to the child’s development and readiness.

It is not uncommon for children at three-years-old to simply not be ready to transition from nappies to using the toilet. Your child’s new school will likely be very familiar with this situation. It would not be advisable to hide this information from your child’s new teacher, as this may result in your child experiencing distress during an already challenging transition period of starting school, and will not allow your child’s teacher and school staff to support you and your child in making a plan.

Your best option would be to reach out to the school and request a discussion about your concerns. They may suggest that your child starts in the next term, or a few months later, or may be able to offer some flexibility and support. Your child may benefit from attending an ECC or nursery for a term, and start school a little later than planned.

Dr Bene Katabua, Educational Psychologist, Intercare Health Center:

If your child is already showing signs of readiness for potty training, then they may be able to train quickly. In most cases, however, it would not be in the child’s best interest to be rushed into the process of potty training. The effects of placing that pressure on them, just before they start school, may be more harmful than helpful. 

It is important to consider that children are ready for this developmental milestone at different points. Most children start potty training between 18 months and 30 months. However, this depends on the child and their individual development, so it can vary beyond those boundaries.

A child may be take a little longer for a variety of reasons. In some cases, children have developmental difficulties which delay potty training. These could be intellectual, physical, or emotional. In some instances, children delay potty training out of pure defiance. It becomes a power struggle between the child and the parent, as the child actively refuses to use the potty even though they have developed the necessary skills. 

Some children develop fears associated with the potty, which may make them more resistant to using it. Those fears may have to do with the physical pain of constipation, fears of being left alone or fears arising due to punitive parenting.

Ms Smith’s Top Potty Training Tips:

  1. Never force a child to go to the bathroom. Pressure will not speed this process up, but it is likely to prompt defiance and/or anxiety.
  2. Look for signs of readiness: are they showing an interest or curiosity in the toilet? Are they showing awareness of their urinary and bowel movements? Are they troubled by a soiled nappy? 
  3. Make visits to bathroom fun. You may want to allow your child to watch videos on a tablet while sitting on the toilet, or sing songs with them, read them a story, play a simple game together. This will help your child to associate the toilet with positive feelings.
  4. Do not scold or show frustration when your child is not successful, but do celebrate their efforts and successes with them. 

DF

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