This post is part of the ‘Tales From The Other Side Of …’ series. There are so many stages, achievements, milestones and heartbreaks we go through as parents and whatever we are experiencing, whether good, bad, exciting or terrifying, it’s always nice to know someone else has already done it and come through the other side. To find out how you can get involved and share your story/tips and tricks click here. Today I’m sharing with you my own tips for potty training.
Potty training is one of those milestones that all parents dread. While we can’t wait to be rid of the nappies, the thought of all those ‘accidents’ scares the life out of us. Having been through it twice now and come through the other side fairly intact, I thought I’d let you all know what I’ve learnt and what worked for me.
1. Know Your Child
The very first thing you need to realise is that every single child is different. What works for one might not work for another. You need to understand your own child’s abilities and what makes them tick so that you can pick the right methods that will work for them. There are so many places to pick up tip posts like this one and it can be tempting to try every little thing only to feel disheartened when it doesn’t work and then quickly try someone else’s tips and on and on until neither you nor your child knows whether your are coming or going. Read through the advice and tips and then just pick what you think’ll suit your child’s abilities and personality.
2. Don’t Make Comparisons
Again, every child is different. Just because your friend’s son was potty trained before they turned two doesn’t mean yours should be. We can get so worried that we’re somehow failing our children if we feel they’re behind others that we push things before they are ready. Good parenting isn’t about whose child walked/talked/pooped on a toilet first, it’s about understanding when your child is ready to take that step. Even within the same family there will be differences. My son practically trained himself at 2 years old, my daughter was almost 3 and needed a little more guidance. Which leads us the next tip.
3. Follow Their Cues
By the time my son turned 2 he was already dry through the night (most nights) and always told us if he needed a poo. He was clearly ready for the next stage and took to it straight away. We had very few accidents with him at all. My daughter showed no interest in potty training and always had a full nappy on a morning so we waited longer until we felt she was ready.
4. Introduce them to it early
I’m not talking about potty training early. I’m talking about having a potty from an early age. With both of my children from the age of around 6 months (or as soon as they could sit unaided) I would sit them on the potty every time I changed their nappy or took them for a bath, or just before bed. There was never any expectation of them doing anything on it, although I told them they could if they wanted to and offered lots of praise when they did, they could just sit there while I cleaned up or ran the bath. My son loved his potty and by 8 months he was doing all his number two’s on there rather than in his nappy (unless he was poorly). My daughter also loved her potty, but more because she liked to sit on it and read books, as for anything else, she didn’t care where she did it. The point here isn’t to get them using it as such, more to get them used to it so that it doesn’t scare them later on. You hear of a lot of children who struggle to let go (especially of number two’s) when they are on a potty to begin with, and if you think about it, it is completely alien to them.
5. get them involved
Talk to them about it before hand. Explain how they are becoming such a big girl/boy now and before long they won’t need these baby nappies, they’ll be able to where cool/pretty (whatever motivates them) pants like mum/dad/brother/sister (anyone they admire or want to be just like). Ask them if they would like to go shopping to chose some. They could also choose their own potty. We already had a potty so when it came time with our two we let them choose a nice toilet seat and step (My son had a Cars one and my daughter chose Peppa Pig).
6. Use pull-ups at Night
I wouldn’t advise using them during the day (unless you are going out) as they are too similar to nappies, but they are great for night time. Potty training can be a stressful time for little ones, especially at the start, and it’s a lot for their minds to process. In the beginning the pull-ups will allow them to still get a good night’s sleep even if they do have an accident. You could of course continue to use nappies at night but I think that can be confusing for them, once the nappies go they should go completely. Remind them to call you if they need the toilet in the night and eventually they will get the hang of it. Once they have been dry overnight for a week it’s time to drop them.
7. Double-Up on Sheets
It’s inevitable that accidents will happen, especially at night. Take some of the stress away from yourself by doubling up on the bedsheets. By this I mean having a waterproof cover over the mattress followed by a normal fitted sheet, and then add another waterproof cover and fitted sheet on top of that. That way, when your child has an accident it’s really quick to strip off one set and the next layer is ready to go. No-one wants to be making up a bed in the middle of the night. I’d also advise having a spare quilt and pillow ready at hand too in case they were lying on the quilt when it happened. One night my daughter sat up to call me that she needed the toilet but by the time I got there it was already too late, unfortunately she’d decided to sit on the pillow. It also wouldn’t hurt to put a mattress protector on your own bed in case you end up having to have them in with you after an accident or two.
8. Take it at their pace
As I mentioned before, my son was practically dry already so we didn’t really have many accidents and he took to it all really well. He was also dry through the night a lot already so although we used pull-ups at night for the first few days he never needed them so we stopped. My daughter took a while longer. At first we tried some toweling pants during the day that would soak up small accidents but they were too similar to nappies for her and I don’t think she really noticed the difference and being a bit wet didn’t bother her. After that first day we switched to some normal pants and this time she recognised when she had an accident. The first few days were difficult as was expected but on the fourth day it seemed to click. There were still many more accidents to come, but they gradually got fewer and further apart. It’s also natural for things to take a slight backwards turn sometimes. It could be because they are poorly or something else is going on in their lives. My daughter recently had a few accidents after being dry for several months but she’s going through a stressful time at the minute with not liking preschool and there is a touch of separation anxiety going on. Just reassure them that it’s ok, accidents happen, and remind them to ask for the toilet sooner next time.
9. Make it Easy for Them
If, like us, you don’t have a downstairs toilet, I highly recommend getting an extra potty for the main living space downstairs. A lot of children won’t recognise they need the toilet until right at the very last moment, especially if they’re distracted and having fun. Having a potty close at hand will make it easier for them in those early stages. I also recommend asking them regularly if they need the toilet to act as a reminder, and if it’s been over an hour it may be an idea to sit them on the toilet anyway just in case, but with no expectation that that have to do something. Let them know that you understand it can sometimes be hard to recognise you need the toilet and just sitting on it will sometimes make the wee flow. If they don’t do anything tell them its ok and praise them for trying anyway and to let you know when they do need to go.
10. Lots of Praise
Praise them at every opportunity. Not just when they successfully use the toilet, but every time they tell you they need the toilet, even if they don’t quite get there on time. When they manage to pull their pants up/down themselves; when they take themselves to the potty; when they choose their new big girl/boy pants. Focus less on the results and more on the effort they are putting in and how proud you are of them for trying. It can be a stressful time for us as parents, but it must be even more stressful for them trying to learn to recognise the signs and get there on time.
Each child is different and will respond to different rewards. For some, the praise and smiles they receive will be enough, others may respond to a sticker chart. With my daughter it was chocolate. I’m not advocating giving your child sugar every time they use the toilet but for the first day or two, whenever she successfully used the toilet, we let L have a small bite of a funsize milky way. This motivated her at the start but after the first few times we didn’t mention it again and started giving her a special high-five instead, which she loved. Sometimes she remembered and asked for a bite and we let her, but by the end of the second day she had forgotten herself. We used one and half fun size bars in total so it really didn’t take much. Like I said above though, know your child and choose a reward that is best for them and your parenting style.
Which brings us nicely to the last, and possibly most important, tip:
12. Follow Your Instincts
You can read all the advice in the world but when it comes right down to it you just have to follow your instincts. Pick and choose the methods that appeal to you and the way you raise your children or ignore them all and do your own thing. There is no right or wrong and no-one will know your child and your circumstances better than you. Listen to your gut, you’ve got this.
Do you have any great tips to add or questions to ask? Let me now in the comments below.
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