How to hold it together when it's time for potty training

I’m going to begin at the beginning, with the obvious.

Children are available in all shapes and sizes. Some will be happy and ready to learn about potties and toilets at 1 year old, some will have no control or interest until they are 4 or older.
Some children will have medical issues that will mean that sorting out when to use a toilet will always be an issue.

You can sometimes teach a child a bit earlier by sparking an interest in potty training (using rewards, fancy new pants, the joy of being ‘big’ etc) when they obviously have control and knowledge over their bowels and bladder, but not always.

You can never potty train a child that has no control of or prior knowledge of their bladder and bowel movements.

There are clues as to whether your child is aware that they are weeing or pooping. They may notice after the event and ask you to change a nappy. They may become distracted and stop talking while they poop. But these are not always signs that they know it’s coming, or that they can stop it happening and wait, even for a few seconds!

The signs too look for are those of forward planning! Is your toddler hiding before they poo or wee? Do they clutch at themselves before they wee?, can they ask to go to the potty or the bathroom? (this doesn't have to be verbal, just as long as it's clear and you understand)

If you think your little one is showing some signs you can give potty training a go. If it doesn’t work in a week my own opinion is give it a rest and try again in a couple of months.

Tips to potty/toilet train/teaching

  • Get a potty for their doll, if the doll wees even better! Play at potties. Let them be the parent and explain it to the doll.
  • Buy some ‘big child’ pants. I don’t hold with pull ups and the like, I’m old fashioned I know, but wee trickling down your leg is a fine reminder that you are weeing and helps the young mind get a grasp much faster with what is happening in my opinion.
  • I also favour the all or nothing approach. Nappies at bedtime is fine but once in pants in the day, when awake, stick to it. No nappy because you are popping out! You need to help your child and different rules at different times are likely to confuse and upset.
  • Have lots of potties. Seriously buy lots, at the very least have one upstairs and one down. But ideally one in every room. Leave books by them. Remind your child almost hourly to have a try for a wee, read to them or let them read so it’s not boring as they sit, but don’t make them sit for ages! Praise them like a crazed person when they get it right! Say ‘oops, better luck next time’ and clean up quickly when they get it wrong.

  • Take a potty with you when you go out, stash one in the car, under the pram, a folding one in your bag…always have one to hand, little kids can’t wait long – your new super power needs to be producing a potty in a blink! (DD once used hers in the middle of Sainsbury’s – many people are now thinking ‘how disgusting’ but it was that or a puddle! And at the time, no one complained and I removed potty etc with calm and haste)
  • Summer time is best – spend a lot of time in the garden!
I was lucky with DD she was only about 18 months when she decided ‘big girl pants’ were the way forward and she was dry in a week. I know this isn’t always the case. As I said, talk to your child, plan when you are going to give it a go, if they don’t get it in a week, or at least start to improve and have fewer accidents, give it up. Tell your child you’ll try again in a while. Wait a few months. It will happen.

  • Try to remain relaxed.
  • Buy some carpet cleaner.
  • And some wine.
  • Good Luck.

Disclaimer – I have only potty trained one child, the perfect DD, and this was 13 years ago, but my advice stands...and you don't have to take it, that's how advice works.

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