Potty training can be a daunting period for a child and possibly even more so for a parent. When is the right time to do it? How do you it? Is the child ready? If it goes wrong will it mentally scar the child? Should they really be running around naked over the plush new carpet with the threat of an immature bladder hovering dangerously close to a disastrous coating of molten yellow?
Edie has been potty trained for about a year now and it’s been a good, dry year. Besides the obvious benefits of not having to change multiple nappies a day, the money saved is a much needed financial boost in the expensive world of parenting.
Our training went smoothly, largely because I’m lucky to enjoy a lot of time at home with Edie. With this time together in mind, I set myself a week to train her. In the end, it took three days (with a bit of preparation).
Obviously not every parent can afford such time with their children due to work commitments, but I thought, what with the extended Easter Bank Holiday fast approaching, now might be a good time to consider if your child is ready to go dry.
Here’s how I did it with Edie…
From around the age of 2 we introduced potties into the house. We had one in our downstairs loo and one in our main bathroom. There was no pressure on Edie to use them at all, but if she fancied it, they were there for her to try. I’d say at this stage, Edie had maybe one or two wees on the potty per week – nothing extraordinary as all this was doing was getting her used to the idea of this alien contraption, so when we really went for it properly, the process wouldn’t be unknown to her.
Then, a couple of months later, confident Edie understood what was required, we started her training.
The first thing we did was take a trip into town to buy some fancy knickers. H&M had a great range of Disney knickers and I felt it was important for Edie to pick out her own. She went for a week’s worth emblazoned with Micky and Minnie Mouse and another week’s worth of Frozen knickers with Anna, Elsa and Olaf printed on the front – chic. I really think buying these helped as it built a level of motivation for her as she was then excited to wear her new Disney knickers (rather than bland plain ones) in the coming days.
With new knickers purchased, potties in place and a bit of a motivational speech from me during Sunday evening’s bedtime routine, first thing Monday we set to work.
Upon waking, we went straight to the bathroom. The potty was placed next to the loo and I took a ‘sit-down wee’ alongside her. Sorry, a lovely image for you, I know. When we finished, we celebrated with high fives, a couple of ‘whoop-whoops’ and lots of encouraging hugs.
Then I got Edie dressed with extra focus on her special new underwear and not a nappy in sight. And importantly, there never would be during the day again.
Then, we got on with the day but importantly, as it was the first day, we didn’t leave the house. We played, read, watch a bit of TV, ate and generally tried to be as relaxed as possible, the only difference was that I casually reminded her every 20-30 minutes or so, that as soon she felt the urge to go to the loo, she should tell me.
Day one went by with amazing results; Edie used the potty all day long, whilst I got to relax with plenty of sit down wees myself (so much less effort than having to stand and aim!) There were high fives flying around, lots of cheering and importantly, loads of positivity and praise.
I should add, we still used a nappy (pull-up) for bedtime as we thought it might be too much for her to remain dry through the night too… How wrong could we have been? At 3am that night we heard the thundering footsteps of Edie charging across the landing announcing “I need a wee, I need a wee”. I leapt out of bed and rushed into the bathroom to help her with her pyjamas and nappy and again, sat down with her, finishing with our now mandatory celebrations. She went back to bed and amazingly, was dry when she woke up. What a flippin’ little potty-using superstar.
The next day followed a similar pattern. We stayed home for most of the day only venturing out for a short dog walk which she couldn't come on until she’d had a wee. We didn’t go near a nappy all day and we repeated the same methods of day one - lots of reminders, sit down wees with her and praise galore. Day two did however throw up a couple of accidents. Once when she was too busy playing to consider her bladder control and then stood, legs spread in the sitting room as wee shot out like the Niagara Falls. The second was a similar episode to what had happened the previous night… a quick sprint, backed by “I need a wee, I need a wee” commentary, but this time she didn’t quite make it, giving the hallway a good soaking. What was important during and following the accidents, was that she was not told off. Accidents will and do happen. A telling off is not going to help a child undergoing such a change so I simply told her it was fine, accidents happen, she was doing amazingly and simply cleaned up the mess. The night-time produced a wet nappy but that was to be expected, it was clear that the first night was just a massive bonus.
On day three, again, we followed the same routine and methods, but feeling brave, I decided to take Edie into town. I had a momentary lapse of confidence and contemplated putting her in a nappy but quickly reasoned with myself that it would be a backwards step. So instead of packing nappies in the changing bag, I packed spare pants, leggings and socks. In town, everything was going well until we were queuing to pay for an item when Edie announced she needed a wee. The shop didn’t have a loo and the nearest one was a department store down the road. I picked Edie up in my arms, discarded the item we were buying and dashed to the department store. Flustered, I followed various signs and darted up escalators before finally locating them. Luckily we made it just in time. Phew! Obviously there was no sit down wee for me this time, I was busy dangling Edie mid-air, keeping her away from the piss-stained loo seat (why can’t men lift up a loo seat?! Grrr!). But again, we finished with big high fives and words of encouragement. Leaving the store and back out on the street, Edie then muttered the words, “Daddy, I need a wee again”! So back we went, dashing through the store to the same loo and she did indeed, somehow need another wee only moments after the last one. The day finished with an accident whilst getting ready for her bath, but things were going really well.
On day four, we'd cracked it. Edie started heading to the loo on her own and would only call for me to help her wipe and clean her hands properly. There were no accidents and another trip out of the house that day proved to be successful. I was confident she had mastered going to the loo on her own, and a year on, thankfully, and proudly, I can say she did.
After a couple of months of using the potty and noticing Edie preferred to use the actual loo, we threw out the potties and bought her some small steps so she could use the loo on her own. Not only were we now not having to change dirty nappies, we didn't have to scrape sticky poo from the potty too - life changing!
Of course there has been the odd accident here and there over the last year, but no more than a small handful. And there have also been a couple of quick pit-stops at the side of a busy dual-carriageway with the howling wind blowing her piss back over my shoes, but all that’s fine, it’s part of being a parent. Edie has simply been amazing…
Try and find a time when you can dedicate a few days to it. Tough I know, what with other commitments but as I said, Easter is approaching and it might be the perfect opportunity if your child is ready.
Just go for it. Even if day one is a disaster, stick with it. Try not to go back to nappies, it might confuse them even more.
Be confident that they are ready and don’t apply too much pressure. Don’t just do it because a parent on the nursery gate has told you their child is already potty trained. If you do it too early, you might face issues later causing the child to stay in nappies longer.
Buy outlandish themed underwear to motivate them and potties that have a spout design to pour the wee down the loo (we found good and cheap ones in Ikea).
Have potties in all your bathrooms so there’s no manic rush to get to one on the other side of the house.
Don’t be tempted to put them in a nappy because you need to leave the safety and privacy of your home with them. Ensure they go for a wee before leaving and take spare clothes and calmly deal with any accidents.
Staying dry through the night might take a lot longer but it will come. We just ensured Edie's evening milk was drunk earlier and she'd always go for a wee before bedtime. Occasionally she wakes to use the loo, but on the whole, she sleeps through the night remaining dry.
And importantly, don’t get angry or frustrated with them if they have any accidents. Join in with them, wee next to them and celebrate their successes – it’s a life changing moment for them… and also for you.