There’s lots of ups and downs when potty training a child. Your emotions will fluctuate between having high hopes to wishing you never started. Generally, you will feel something like this:
I am in the process of potty training my youngest child and have found it so much easier than I did the last time around. I think I’ve supressed a lot of the memories from before, but I just remember saying, seeing, smelling, cleaning and getting stressed about wee and poo a lot.
We got there in the end, as does everyone eventually, but it wasn’t a particularly enjoyable time for either of us and I wish I had been more relaxed during the process.
Well, I have done it differently this time and it has been so much better for both of us. I know it can be daunting when you decide your child is ‘ready’ but then don’t really know how to go about it, so I’m sharing what worked for me in the hope that it may work for others of you too.
1) Potty or toilet seat:
I guess this decision will partly depend on how old/big the child is. My daughter wasn’t quite 2 when I started potty training her and was, quite literally, scared shitless of the toilet (she withheld poo for days on end).
I decided it was best that she started off on a potty. I bought her an all singing and dancing one that looked like a mini toilet, played a tune when she sat on it, had a sensor that detected faecal matter and provided a drumroll (which actually made her jump most of the time and meant that most of the aforementioned matter ended up on the floor), would say encouraging phrases when she got up without doing anything
which I was usually too annoyed to do and even dispensed stickers.
Sounds great, right? Well, maybe it was to begin with, but the novelty soon wore off. It took my daughter 3 months to transition from a potty to a toilet and she refused to sit on anything else which meant that, FOR THREE WHOLE MONTHS, rather than lovingly carrying my child on any outing we went on, I had a small toilet attached to me hip instead!
Although, I do remember once taking her to use the potty in the public toilets at the park. After she had done a wee, the potty recognised her achievement with the phrase, “Well done, you did it! Don’t forget to flush and wash your hands!” At which point the lady in the cubicle flushed obligingly and rushed to the sink, whilst looking around very confused. So, it may have made me look like an utter twat every time I left the house, but at least it was entertaining!
Unsurprisingly, I decided to skip the potty stage this time. My son was a little afraid of the toilet seat to begin with, but I tried to get him used to it before potty training, so would just put him on there for about 30 seconds before bath times and he gradually began to
hate it less get used to it.
It also helped that he regularly saw a sibling using it because I think this makes it more normal. This is especially true when said sibling likes to leave the door wide open when using the downstairs bathroom opposite the glass panelled porch so that, not only can her brother see what she’s doing, but anyone walking past our house can too. The postman has been greeted with a straining faced waving child a few times.
I accept that this method may not be for everyone, but I didn’t bother with pullups at home and immediately put him in pants.
According to potty training literature, choosing pants is supposed to a big, ceremonial occasion where you allow your child to choose his own pants, which represent his transition from toddler to little boy, and enables him to be involved in the decision-making process and even take a little control over it.
We went to Asda where I picked out some Batman pants and said, “Shall we get these?” to which he replied, “Quack! Quack!” and threw a lollipop at my head, so Batman it was!
Next comes the feral bit. You put them in their pants, or just leave them naked from the waist down, and let whatever happens happen. It’s probably best to keep them in one room at this stage and lay a sheet down over the carpet and some old towels on the sofa.
Tell him that he’s not going to wear a nappy anymore and that he’s going to use the toilet like you do. When he inevitably wets himself, you say, in your cheeriest voice, something along the lines of, “Well done for
pissing all over yourself and my carpet doing a wee outside your nappy. Next time, let’s try to do in the toilet.”
I then let him just play as usual for the next couple of hours, saying the same drivel whenever he had an accident, but encouraging him to sit on the toilet every 40 minutes, or 20 minutes after a drink, for no more than a few minutes each time. I know it’s a bit weird, but I made a note of it every time he did anything. Something like this (excuse my son’s scribbles):
It should help establish a pattern so you’ll know how long he can go without a wee or how soon after a drink he needs to go. It means that you don’t have to continuously say, “Do you need a wee?” which can quickly become tiresome for both of you, and he will probably start ignoring you if you say it too often.
I can imagine if someone repeatedly asked me that question,I’d find it quite irritating after a while. Although, if they did, thanks to a lack of pelvic floor exercises and the thought of a little rest, my answer would almost always be yes.
If your child is reluctant to sit on the toilet/potty, the wise ones suggest an incentive, such as stickers or marbles in a jar every time they go. They might lose interest after a couple of days, but hopefully by then they will be more willing anyway. By the end of the second day, my boy started putting the stickers in the toilet so I didn’t bother continuing with them after that.
There’s no need to hold your child hostage either. Short outings are fine but encourage a trip to the toilet before you go and as soon as you come back. I did put a pullup on at this stage but took it off as soon as we got home. If you are hardcore and go without a pullup, make sure you take spare pants, trousers and socks with you.
Likewise, going to the toilet before and after meals is probably a good idea too.
It’s very unlikely that there will be any lightbulb moment at this stage, so if you’ve managed to get him to understand that the toilet is for wees and poos and he’s happy to sit on it, even if he doesn’t do much/anything on there, you’ve done well. It’s funny what counts as an achievement when you’re a parent, isn’t it?
Now time to get the Dettol out!
Because I could see that there was a gradual increase in the length of time between wees the day before, I waited an hour before taking him to the toilet on the second day, unless he’d had a substantial amount to drink. I added an extra 5 minutes to the wait each time to begin with but never let him go more than an hour and a half.
I let him play as normal throughout the day and we even went out to feed the ducks. I tried not to hover over him too much and just started looking for signs that he needed to go. It was very quick, but he would usually stop what he was doing, stick his bum out a little and have a glazed look on his face. As soon as I saw the beginnings of this process, I suggested, in my nicest voice, that we go to the toilet and the response was almost always, “No, I don’t like it!” At which point, I just picked him up and placed him on the toilet. Being nice all the time is far too exhausting!
The main aim for this day was to get more wees in the toilet than in the holy pants.
After doing a wee on the toilet, my boy started to say, “Finished Mama!” which told me that he knew what he was expected to do when he was on there so I was happy with the way things were going.
The third day consisted of more of the same, really. I was still making a note of every wee and poo so had a good idea of when he needed to go.
During this day, he managed to tell me twice that he needed a wee. We’re on day 5 as I write this and he hasn’t told me again since, but I’m still pleased that we managed to achieve this. If he didn’t say anything, I took him to the toilet every two hours. He didn’t have any accidents throughout this day and did something every time I put him on the toilet so I knew that the hardest part of our potty-training journey was over.
In fact, I was basking in smugness over how well it was going that evening while I was reading a bedtime story to both kids. I noticed him starting to strain but, by the time I got to the bathroom, it was too late. Fortunately, he already had his night-time pullup on so there was no damage done.
I removed the soiled pullup, cleaned him and then sent him downstairs to tell his dad to put another one on whilst I continued to read to my daughter. I then heard the muffled sound of my husband’s voice, which went from sounding pleased to see him to screaming in horror.
My boy hadn’t been feeling too well that day and I had heard him coughing on the way down the stairs so assumed he had perhaps vomited. It turns out that was wishful thinking.
When I left my daughter’s room, I saw blobs of runny poo trickled the whole way down the staircase, which then descended into blobs of poo, spaced between poo footprints, across the hallway and culminated with a poo bum print on my husband’s clothes!
I’ve not been smug since
except for when I saw there was a poo bum print on my husband’s clothes instead of mine.
Things to remember:
- They will have good and bad days. It’s a completely new skill and it will take time for them to master it.
- It is likely that, to begin with, there will be occasions where they will not do anything on the toilet and then wee on the floor as soon you take them off. It will make you want to scream into a pillow after they’ve done it a few times, but take comfort in the fact that you’re not doing anything wrong, all kids do it and they’re not doing it on purpose
even though it will sometimes feel that way.
- When they have accidents, remember that it’s only a little person’s wee you’re cleaning and it’s not a big deal. Keep telling yourself this until you actually believe it.
- It may help to continue keeping a record for a while. On days where they have a few accidents, it can be easy to lose perspective and start thinking that things are worse than they actually are. If you can look at the record at the end of the day and see that they’ve done more in the toilet/potty than in their pants, things are going well.
- All the generic potty training cliches: Waiting until they’ve shown signs of ‘readiness’ before you start, consistency is key – starting and stopping will only make the process longer, don’t start if they are going through any kind of change etc etc. They are cliches because they are true
even though hearing them will make you want to poke the eyes out of the person saying them.
Forecast for the the next few months:
Mainly dry with the occasional showery spells.