Potty training – what’s the worst that can happen? Don’t let a trouser leg full of poo get you down – use my handy guide to how to make it easy on yourself.
I’m no expert. But I have potty trained three boys and I feel I have left no mistake unturned. If I can help one mother go a day without crying into her child’s tiny, suspiciously squidgy pants, I will be glad. So here’s my dump-by-dump guide:
Know your child’s wee wiggle.
“Do you need the loo?”
“No, I’m just dancing.”
“Are you sure?”
“I’m just excited, that’s all!”
Is a conversation I still have even with my oldest (age 7). You know your own child’s moves – maybe they clutch their bottom, dance on the spot, do a little shiver, start talking really fast or high, or make a worried face. (If they make a relieved face, you’re too late. But hey, who’s counting?) Take their cue and run for the loo.
Don’t make it a big deal.
My lovely mummy told me this. I am one of six so she knows a bit about child-rearing. Going to the loo is – obviously – just a normal, natural thing to do. It happens. Several times a day. Of course, get them excited about their new Thomas / Peppa pants and how they’re going to be a “big boy / girl”. But don’t make it such a big deal that you and your toddler get stressed about it. After all…
…What’s the worst that can happen?
The worst that can happen is not a poo in the pants. It’s a poo in the pants when you have no wipes, nappy bags or new clothes. Obviously, I’ve been caught out more times than I care to count and improvised with leaves, scraps of tissue found in pockets and my scarf as a bottom-coverup. So I can advisedly say – don’t forget your changing bag!
Praise, praise, praise
Well all know kids thrive on praise. So pile it on. Even if they didn’t quite make it on time. Even if they told you a little while afterwards, praise them for acknowledging a wayward wee. This might sound contradictory to my “don’t make it a big deal” point, but I think praise is important in the early weeks. When they start to get the hang of it, you can stop calling daddy at work every time there’s a tinkle.
Go out – just not to soft play
Depends on your comfort level, but an accident anywhere outside is never usually a problem, and if you’re at someone else’s house, just don’t let them sit on the sofa. What’s a wee on the carpet between friends, eh? But poo in a ballpit? Best not to go there.
Ask them if they need the loo – but not all the time
Gina Ford says to ask your child every 15 minutes to try the potty. (I read a lot of potty training manuals with my first.) I quickly learned that all this did was annoy my son. Just ask them now and then, and of course just before you leave the house. But I’ve found it better not to nag. To doubt your child’s ability to even know if he needs the loo or not can be undermining to their confidence (even if you turn out to be right. But a lot can change in five minutes.)
Know their toilet timetable
We’re creatures of habit. Most people have regular times when they need a little “alone time” in the smallest room, and children are no different. Obviously, there is a strong correlation between food in, poo out, and same with drinks and wees. But in between meals they can go for ages.
Respect their bladders.
My sons’ bladder control is better than mine. There, I said it. Not much of a surprise after three children, and I’m fortunate not to be in Tena territory yet, but I definitely need the loo more often than my children. My oldest sometimes goes a whole school day without going to the loo, and isn’t even bursting when he comes out. I can only dream of such control.
Use bribes carefully
Lots of people use sweets to reward wees on the potty. But where do you go with that? When do you stop? Reward charts can work, but in my experience, only with older children. My toddler is instant gratification or bust. But of course, if it works for you, go for it.
Put a nappy on first thing.
“Once you’re in pants, stay in pants”. Is true to an extent. With some notable exceptions:
When you’re getting ready in the morning. Mornings are hard enough without the risk of a poo-bombing incident. Especially if you have older kids to get ready too, make it easy for yourself and only put your little one’s pants on when you are all dressed and at hand ready to deal with a loo visit.
On long journeys. And short ones, to start with.
For the first week or so, especially if you’re doing the school run, it takes the stress away if your toddler’s in a pull-up. After a few days, I take the risk and put a towel on the car seat (you can also buy proper protectors, which sound awesome, but I didn’t get one). Then one day, wing it, and your child will probably surprise you.
If it’s too early.
If they’re just not getting it after a couple of weeks, give up and wait a bit. It’s not a race. Don’t make both of you miserable about it.
I know it’s easy to say, but there truly are very few adults still in nappies. They will get it. With my first, I clearly remember crying hysterically to a line of indifferent mums at a gym class, because my son had been sent off with wet pants to be changed.
“Why won’t he get it? What shall I do?” I sobbed.
The combination of frustration, humiliation and guilt was too much for me. Frustration that despite being taken to the loo ten minutes before and asked all the way there whether he needed it, he’d still wet himself. Humiliation that I was the only mum who’d failed to potty train my child properly. And guilt that I’d let him down and left him to wee himself in public.
It was brutal.
But I know now – those mums probably wouldn’t have even noticed he’d been sent off for new shorts if I hadn’t howled to them. When you’re potty training, you can feel like the whole world is watching for a telltale patch in your child’s trousers. Which is obviously not true. And more to the point, who cares what they think? If I am judged for a potty training accident, then that is a shame, but so be it.
Even if you’re being easy on yourself, potty training can be intense and stressful, by its very “race-against-the-plop” nature. But look ahead to three months’ time when you’re accident-free. You did it! Pop a cork!
Good luck to all potty-wielding mothers and their little ones!
What are your top tips? How do you make it easy on yourself?
I’d also massively appreciate your nomination in the MADS Blog Awards – you can vote here. I qualify for Best Pre-School Blog, Best School Days Blog and Best Writer. Nominations close on May 20th.