To say I was dreading potty training was an understatement, in fact the thought of it made me feel really quite anxious. However, as with most things in life that you dread, our experience was nowhere near as bad as expected so I wanted to share what ideas worked well for us.
Be Led By Them
We begun potty training Caterpillar in August last year, when he was 2 years 4 months. During the early days of motherhood I had absolutely no intention of starting this early (in fact I had anxiety attacks even imagining the challenge of it) but he seemed really interested in the whole concept; he wanted to know what we were doing in the bathroom, told us when he had done a poo in his nappy etc, so we decided to strike while the iron was hot.
I think this is really the best way to go – if your child doesn’t have any interest in starting to toilet train then you’re facing an uphill battle from the off. I have friends who waited until their children were showing even more signs than Caterpillar and it went even smoother.
Jump In At The Deep End
After realising that he was showing signs I was still in denial for a while, I kept finding reasons to put off taking the leap. I was in the midst of an anxiety setback at the time too so I didn’t think I could handle it (although, as with all anxiety-related thoughts, I totally could). However, one morning I felt a tad reckless and just had this urge to do it. I stripped him of his bottoms and asked him if he wanted to do a wee in the pot – when he did it five minutes later I nearly fell over with shock. The shock and joy of that first moment was so huge it bolstered my confidence for the less perfect/more messy hours & days that followed. Therefore if your child is ready but maybe you’re not I recommend the bite-the-bullet-and-get-on-with-it approach!
This is my number one potty training tip. I grabbed a really cheap sticker chart and book from Amazon and Caterpillar loved it. Every time he successfully used the potty he would get a sticker on the chart and after a certain number of stickers he got a small treat of some kind. The latter may not have been my best idea as after a few hours he had very much cottoned on and was doing the tinest wees you’ve ever seen just to get a sticker, and subsequently a treat, however I didn’t really care because it was still signs of success.
Everyone I’ve spoken to who used reward charts has found them helpful so I highly recommend. I have since reviewed these wonderful charts from Miggins & B which could easily be adapted for potty training too.
Make it fun
The reaction Caterpillar got from me after that first unexpected wee on the pot was full of such genuine excitement. Although subsequent responses from me days later may not have been as genuine they were still really important in my opinion. Big smiles, cheering, praise – basically whatever it takes to make your child feel really positive about using the potty or toilet. And why not bring in other people? Everyone who visited us during this time joined in the praise too, which made Caterpillar particularly happy.
When Caterpillar was tiny I was the Type A personality control freak who brought out five more bottles than I needed every day “just in case” and with potty training I was just the same. I dragged around a backpack full to the brim with clean clothes, wet wipes and even kitchen towel for more weeks than I’m willing to admit. Even now, when he has been dry for more than nine months I still don’t leave the house without the travel pot and one set of spare pants and trousers. This is kind of a pain and might seem unnecessary but it makes me feel better to know we will never be caught short (especially since I don’t drive – I don’t fancy trying to get home on the bus with toddler naked from the waist down!).
Buy lots of “puppy pads”
The only place I’d ever seen these before beginning the potty training journey was when my mother-in-law first got a new puppy and. Although the dog ones work out just fine, you can actually buy pads specifically for toddlers if you’re posh. We had these on the carseat and in the buggy at the begining and it provided just that little bit of extra comfort (for us, I mean, Caterpillar couldn’t care less). Later on, they were also really useful for putting on top of the mattress when trying to get dry at night.
Get a great travel pot
This Potette travel potty is easily in my list of top five most useful items I’ve bought since becoming a mum. It folds wonderfully flat, comes with it’s own little bag and the system with the liners mean it is so clean and easy to use, and you don’t have to find somewhere to empty it like other travel pots. We have gotten so much use out of this and it’s totally worth the money.
Try to relax
Potty training is stressful, there is no getting away from that, but if you can try to let go of worries about things like mess in your house and how to handle accidents in public you’ll be a lot happier and I completely believe this rubs off on the child too and helps them feel less anxious. I don’t think there is a single place in our house that Caterpillar hasn’t had an accident but there is no permanent damage (or smell!).
Likewise, difficult as it is, try not to be too negative about accidents. Sometimes I would be so frustrated but did my best (most of time!) to hide this from Caterpillar. When he had an accident I would just plaster on a sad but understanding face and tell him gently to make sure he told me next time, and then move on.
Don’t expect night dryness to be as easy
After Caterpillar was dry for about six months we decided to embark on night-time dryness. This has been a lot less straightforward. He still has the occasional accident even now (maybe once or twice a month) and it is a lot harder to stay calm when it’s the middle of the night and everyone is really tired. Only advice I can offer on this one is really obvious – use pads on the mattress and limit drinks at bedtime. And persevere.
I’ve heard conflicting advice about when to begin the night training – some say to do it at the same time as day training so as to avoid confusing your children and others say wait until they are significantly older. We did something in between and it works for us maybe 90% of the time!
Don’t compare your child to others
This is advice for life, as well as potty training, but try your best not to worry if your child seems to be having less success with toilet training than his peers. As with walking & talking, all children develop at different rates, and comparing and pressuring only brings with it negative emotions.
Wishing the best of luck to anyone about to embark on this stage, hope you find these tips a little helpful.