The Joys of Potty Training

10th September 2014

“Joy” being sarcastic, just in case you were wondering. It has been horrendous, easily one of the hardest steps in our parenting journey so far. It’s not something you can “teach” them to do, you can show them but there are so many factors that need to come together to make it work. Physical factors such as realising the sensation of needing to go, being able to undress and dress again and being able to pull themselves up to the toilet. Psychological factors such as feeling confident enough that they can do it and overcoming embarrassment and the self-esteem knocks of accidents.

We were keen to follow Seren’s lead. She would tell us she needed her nappy changing from around 18 months old so I thought this would lead to a natural potty training progression. When she turned 2 we bought a potty and put it in the bathroom to get her used to it, no pressure. After a while we suggested she might want to use it, especially before her bath as she ALWAYS did a wee in the bath. She sat on it once but declared that “her wee wee doesn’t come out” and that was that. She had concluded that she didn’t actually wee, so didn’t need to use the potty and became very resistant to our further attempts to get her to sit on the potty, to the point of high pitched screaming in protest.

I thought I would spend the first week on my maternity leave carrying out the traditional ‘complete-immersion-parent-led’ potty training. But as the time neared, she didn’t seem any more ready. At her 2 year check up, the health visitor suggested we wait and a lot of people talked about regression when the baby arrived anyway.

We continued to hint about her being a big girl and using the potty, we read Princess Polly’s Potty book and watched Elmo’s Potty Time. When the warmer weather arrived in spring we had some nappy-free time in the garden, suggesting she used the potty when she needed to go. No joy!

Fast forward to an afternoon July when some friends came to visit, Seren accompanied their little girl to the potty and decided to have a go too. And her wee wee came out! Success! We were on our way! The rest of the day was OK, about half accidents and half success. The next day was awful, all accidents really. Accidents when I was feeding Imogen, accidents when I was making lunch for friends and in a cafe too. We went back to nappies – I could not take anymore.

A few days later we started again when Seren took her nappy off to use the potty. We also instigated a chocolate button reward system (unusual for us) which seemed to boost success (I think she preferred applause to chocolate buttons though!). Things were going well at home and at childcare. Trips elsewhere were disasterous with lots of accidents – embarrassing for me and upsetting for Seren. Another problem was that she wouldn’t use the travel potty or a toilet (she was convinced she would fall down the toilet). A friend told me at that point that she was Not Ready.

Rather than rewind everything, we switched to a a ‘two tier process’; nappy-off at home/childcare and nappy-on for trips elsewhere. Most advice will tell you not to do this as it confuses the child but it worked for us. Seren’s success at home gave her confidence to build on. Before long something just “clicked”, she refused to wear the nappies for trips out anymore and was willing to use the travel potty and gradually proper toilets too. Seeing other children use a toilet and not fall in was a revelation for her.

She is now using a toilet at home (with a child seat on, a pink one of course) and climbs up onto it using a step. She is so proud of being able to do this by herself. We still get accidents but fewer and fewer of them. She’s still in night time Disney Princess pull-ups and will be for a while yet (which is common).

When it’s time to potty train Imogen I need to remember to:

  • Let her see other children going to the toilet so she knows that even little people won’t fall in. This will be easier with a big sister around!
  • Encourage her to use the potty or the toilet from an early age. I wonder if we missed a window in training Seren earlier by being too laid back. But no pressure either, we got there in the end.
  • Get the book and DVD out, Seren enjoyed them and I guess they helped build her awareness though didn’t seem to spark any direct action.
  • Work out what encourages or motivates her, applaud and praise worked well for Seren, chocolate buttons helped.
  • Not be afraid to try a gradual approach of using the potty / toilet at home and nappies for trips out.
  • Not stress out, it will click eventually!

Not that I’m wishing baby years away, they are going far too fast anyway.


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