A roller coaster of emotions. Never before have I felt more happy, proud, angry sad, desperate, hopeful and all in the space of a week. I wish, oh how I wish, I was talking about some life changing event but this week has been all about potty training. I used to consider my life pretty exciting but today I actually got excited at the sight of poo in the potty. I actually applauded poop. More than once.
I am in the middle of potty training my 3rd son. Like everything with my third , I entered into it thinking “I’ve done this twice before, this will be easy”. Wrong. He has continued to be the (cute) curve ball in our family testing all of my mothering skills and teaching me more. I have absolutely hated potty training (I don’t think there is anyone out there that actually enjoys it). Maybe it’s just because I have boys (my friends with girls are like “she just did it herself over the weekend”). Maybe it’s because my boys were incapable of getting anything in the potty in the early days and in the last 9 years they haven’t got any better at this. But maybe because potty training is just sh*t…literally.
Or maybe because I was doing it all wrong. Day 1 and 2 were awful, nothing on target. SO. Many. Accidents. On day 3 I was on the verge of giving up but then I realised I had forgotten all of the lessons I have learned over the last 9 years. And when I did remembered all of those tips, the tricks and techniques it was still painful but less so and it did make it a whole lot easier. So here are my tips to help you potty train:
- Wait until they are ready. I know this sounds like an obvious one but you’d be surprised by the number of parents I know that did it because everyone else was or because they wanted to do it before their sibling arrived, before a holiday, before preschool. If you attempt to potty train them before they are ready it may not happen. It may take a lot longer. It will be more difficult. Every child is different and will be ready at different ages so judge it entirely on whether your child is able to feel the sensation of needing to go. Whether they tell you if they have a dirty nappy. They should also be able to pull their clothes up and down and communicate with you. Don’t be afraid to try and give up if they aren’t getting it. Just try again at a later date.
- Timing is everything. You will need a pretty clear schedule to potty train so choose a time to start when you are not going away anywhere. Don’t start during or just after illness or during or after a major event (moving, arrival of a sibling). If you are potty training in the summer, get in the garden, it is kinder on your carpets.
- Be prepared. Stock up on everything you need before you start; a potty, wipes, pants, rewards and wine. Especially wine. Have more than one potty if you can, in various parts of the house, follow them around with it in the early days and then gradually move it closer to the bathroom. Be prepared for accidents. Lots of accidents. Have the carpet cleaner, kitchen towels, disinfectant and lots of washing powder on hand.
- Pants/knickers. Buy lots, buy cheap. Inevitably there will be certain accidents that you don’t even know how to wash. I have in the past had a bucket full of water and detergent for soaking purposes which was abandoned after boy number 1. Like me, you may need to admit defeat and throw them away! Let your toddler pick their own pants to get them more excited about the process. Don’t use pull ups. Go cold turkey, it might be less messy but it is more difficult for them to learn if they know that there is an absorbent safety net.
- Rewards (bribes). You can lead a toddler to the potty but you can’t make him pee so it helps to have some incentives! For some children a simple sticker chart is enough of an incentive to go to the potty, for others no such reward is required however for some children (all of mine) a reward or bribe is absolutely essential in the early days. Might not be encouraged in parenting manuals but these bribes (yes there were haribo at 8am) incentivised them to try to go to the potty, to sit on the potty, to stay on the potty. After a few days when they realised it was in their interest they did it on their own.
- Keep your cool. It doesn’t matter how calm you are but when you have asked your toddler for the umpteenth time whether they need to go and then they promptly poop on the floor/in their pants/on the sofa/in your bed/on your expensive curtains (yes these have all happened to me) it can be very difficult to keep calm. Making it a stressful, tense situation will not help anyone. Try to remember that they are learning something new, it won’t last forever and that these accidents, although carpet ruining, are also helping them to learn. So here’s what I do…”Don’t worry I’ll clean it up. Next time remember to go to the potty darling” *screams into a pillow and swigs gin*
- Potty to toilet. As soon as you can, make sure that your child can use the toilet. Firstly, it’s easier simply to flush than to have to clean out the potty every time. Secondly it makes life so much easier when you go out of the house. I have never felt it necessary to take a potty with me or buy a portable one so it is so helpful if they are not frightened of the toilet so you can avoid a screaming refusal in a public bathroom while they wee all over you.
- Making it fun. Ok it is never going to be fun, especially not for us however if you can find something that helps them understand it is worth it. For boys I found that by appealing to their competitive nature it helped them to get the hang of potty training. So we put cheerios in the toilet for them to aim at (might have to resort to this again because the older two are certainly not aiming for the toilet). There are stickers for the bottom of the potty, books you can read, character underwear all designed to make the whole experience a little bit more fun for them.
- The stand off. If you look up the definition of stubborn there should be a picture of a potty training toddler. At some point during your potty training journey you will reach the ‘stand off’. This is the part in the where your toddler refuses to admit that he needs the toilet, you know he needs it, he hides, shuts himself away and then inevitably a little treat on the floor will appear. You can’t do much about it but I find distraction is the best in this situation. Read them a book while they sit on the potty, let them watch an episode of their favourite TV show.
- The broken record. “Do you need a wee? Here’s the potty. Tell me if you need a wee. Go to the potty if you need a wee.” Repeat. 1000 times per day. If I say it enough surely he will understand. He then gets annoyed, he doesn’t need to go and so you stop asking. The second that you do is the moment he’ll have an accident! So be a constant reminder but remember that sometimes if he isn’t going to the potty it’s because he genuinely might not need it. Ask every 10-20-30 minutes but accept his first answer even if accidents follow.
- Pants off. Learning to feel the sensation when they need to go, locating the potty or toilet in time and then battling with pants is sometimes too much, particularly in the early days. Thankfully my potty training experiences have all taken place in the warmer months so we employed a pants off training regime for the first few days. It saves the washing and it gives them the responsibility and the choice to go when they need to.
- Staying in/Going Out. In the early days potty training and day trips just don’t mix. I have learned that the hard way; sorry to all of those that turned up at the lido on a beautiful day to learn that you couldn’t use the pool because a child had had an accident in the pool. The worst kind of accident. I wish I could tell you that wasn’t my child. I wish I could tell you that. If you do need to go out then encourage them to go to the toilet before you leave and protect the buggy or car seat with a waterproof sheet when travelling. Once they are able to tell you they need to go and you have graduated from accidents and onto daytrips; keep it short, take lots of spare clothes and wipes and always, always know where the nearest toilet is.
- Nighttime. Depending on when you start potty training you may be able to eliminate nappies in one fell swoop. Don’t feel the need to do it all at once if they are not ready or very young, it won’t interfere with their daytime potty training only their sleep. If you switch to a different nappy for the nighttime when potty training it will help them see the distinction.
When you are ready to do it avoid any drinks after 5pm, encourage lots of drinks during the day, encourage them to go to the toilet before bedtime and lay out spare PJs and sheets. Some parents choose to lift their children at 10pm but this is a personal choice.
So there you have my, unlucky for some, 13 tips for potty training, hopefully they’ll be lucky for you! Good luck!
Gemma at Baby Tech Support
24th August 2016