Conventional wisdom seems to be that when it comes to potty training you should wait until your child is ‘ready’ to do it. Yet despite this I think a lot of us still feel under immense pressure to do it as early as possible. Yes we want to get rid of the cost and faff of nappies but more than that I think a lot of us feel like we aren’t doing a very good job if we still have a child in nappies at age 3 or older. This may be because of ‘helpful’ comments from others or a feeling of competition with friends children who were potty trained by age 2. Whatever the cause, we put pressure on ourselves to do it early, we don’t trust our intincts and we rush into it.
Numerous friends of ours with older children have warned us of this and have time and again reiterated the “don’t do what I did, wait until they are ready” mantra. Of course some children are ready at age 2, all children are different after all, but some aren’t and that is the point and it really has to be about the child.
So with the very helpful advice ringing in our ears, we have waited. It hasn’t been easy and we did try too early. With comments such as “it’s about time he was potty trained” and the pressure of starting playgroup in January we decided to try to potty train Monkey then, when he was. And we failed. After 15 accidents in 3 hours it was clear he just wasn’t getting it bless him. He was clearly trying and was sat on the toilet for ages with nothing happening then as soon as the pants were back on he would go in his pants. With a tiny baby and constant mess we were stressed and he was stressed and we called time. Maybe people will say we gave up too easily but we knew it wasn’t right and for once we actually trusted our instincts and decided to relax about the whole thing.
I set a new vague goal in my mind of the summer (with ideas of running around naked in the garden and not having to worry about toilet training while at playgroup) and we took a new approach. I know people say that you should have potties around to get them used to them and we had done that but to be honest they were just gathering dust as Monkey was completely uninterested in them. We knew we needed to think about Monkey, rather than just general advice, and tailor our approach to him.
Monkey’s biggest problem in fact was that actually he didn’t like his privates. He didn’t like looking at them or touching them or us touching them. In many ways it is good as we know that he would never like anyone else touching his privates but he would get so upset if we went near them. So our starting point was helping him accept they were normal. I’m not sure why he felt like that but we started getting him to wipe his privates at nappy changes and Daddy spent a bit more time naked and talking about his bits to try and get Monkey to relax and realise thet are just another part of his body and totally normal.
Gradually he relaxed about this a little bit, and for a long time we had been talking to him about going to the toilet like a big boy and we continued with that. He started to hate nappy changes, especially pooey ones so we kept reiterating how much better it was to use the big boy toilet and kept asking him if he would like to use the toilet. His answer was always his singsong “nofankyouuuu” until one day at bathy time he stood looking at the bath and said to Daddy “I don’t want to do a wee in the bathy” and when Daddy immediately asked if he would like to do a wee wee on the toilet, he said yes. Daddy popped him on the toilet (we have a cute seat with steps) and he did it! Well done Monkey!!
The next day after playing out in the paddling pool, I let him roam about naked for a bit afterwards and asked if he would like to do a wee on the “wee bush” (a random bush we have picked for wees, apparently hubs and his brothers had one when they were learning) or go in the potty. He tried on the bush but nothing happened then sat on the potty and did a wee and a poo! (He is going to hate reading this when he is older!) Aah big surprise and cue Mummy feeling really proud (and wondering what to do with a pooey potty for the first time lol).
From then on he used the toilet every night before bathy for wees and poos and sometimes the potty during the day. But with still going to playgroup twice a week and a holiday with a long car journey coming up we held back and didn’t rush.
When we got back from our holiday and could spend a good few days pottering about at home (and just taking short walks nearby to get out of the house) it was no nappies day. Monkey knew it was coming and was excited to wear pants. He was now 3 yrs 2 months. And you know what, he was ready and it has actually been really, really easy.
He had 3 accidents on day 1 and another 3 on day 2 but had far, far more successes. We started taking him to the toilet more often and on day 3 we had no accidents and no more for the next few days. He was even dry at naptime and bedtime for a couple of days and we were just shocked but also massively relieved by how well it was going! There was a few strops about the frequency of toilet trips and I realised that actually he can hold it for quite a long time and that I have to trust him to know when he needs to go.
This has led to a few more accidents, mostly tiny drips in his pants when he realises he needs to go, and one big accident. Which is fine as he needs to learn and it is still very early days really! One of the key things for us though has been saying that accidents aren’t a good thing, without admonishing him. I have read that you shouldn’t say “ah that’s ok” or “never mind” as that gives mixed messages. So we try and say “oh dear, that’s a bit yucky, wee goes in the toilet not in your pants, doesn’t it?” So we don’t tell him off but don’t say it’s ok, if that makes sense? We also give him tonnes of praise for going to the toilet as we know that is a big motivator for him.
I’m no expert on child rearing and have only potty trained one child but here are my tips for smooth potty training:
- Wait until they are ready and encourage them and talk to them about it but let them take the lead.
- Don’t give into pressure from others (and yourself) and trust your intincts about when they are ready, and when you are ready to give it your proper attention.
- Tailor your approach to your child. Do they like reward charts? Then use them. Is praise enough of a motivator? Then just use that. You know your child better than anyone so you will work out the best way to motivate them to potty train.
- When they have accidents (because they will) don’t tell them off, but don’t say “it’s ok” either as it gives mixed messages.