Ah Potty Training, that hot topic of conversation in every parent-friends circle.
I had been told things like;
“boys take a lot longer to be ready than girls, leave him as long as you possibly can”
“Some of them can take months to do their poos on the potty, just focus on wee wees”
“there’s no point until they’re ready, it will be upsetting for you both if you do it too early”
All of which had given me the impression that this would be a lengthy and traumatic experience for us both and you know what? It. Was. Fine!
Now don’t get me wrong, I did take some of the things I had been told on board. I listened when people warned me that boys often take longer than girls; I was in no rush at all to get Harry out of nappies. I trawled the internet for articles listing the ‘signs’ of readiness and decided that he was showing approximately none of these (he would actually go to the trouble of lying about the contents of his nappy rather than let you know he’d ‘been’ so unbothered was he about sitting in his own mess).
However, when the girls at nursery starting to drop hints about their eagerness for us to commence the process at home coincided with a growth spurt in the size of my baby bump I decided that whether he was or not, I was ready. I should add at this point that it was let slip after I told the nursery staff how he would lie about his nappy not being full etc. and how I wished he was ready but he just wasn’t, that I was met with bemused looks and advised that at nursery he was asking to go to the toilet (this is not the first time he has towed the line there and continued to enjoy being babied at home, we also found the same with sharing toys, general good behaviour and need for dummies, but more on that another time).
I also did not want to be wiping two bottoms come baby number two and so the plan was hatched, and Potty Training was scheduled for a long weekend I had booked off work for the occasion.
I did quite a bit of research into how I would tackle the process first. I asked all of my friends how they had approached it to begin with, how long it had taken them and for any quirks and pitfalls. I was pleasantly surprised by almost all of them with stories of their toddlers picking it up quickly and being happy to go along with the training regimes they had tried out. There were of course some ongoing horror stories but I decided to ignore those for reasons of sanity (my own).
I scoured the internet for tried and tested methods and watched about a million vlogs, and I came across two things that I found very helpful. The first was the “Three Day Method” and the second was this Vlog from Emily Norris
I prepared us for our three day toileting boot camp like a military operation. I compiled a shopping list of essentials and planned to get these during the morning of the Friday. My husband was away on a stag weekend so I enlisted the help of my mum to come with me to Smyths and Ikea to pick up some new toys and treats that would keep Harry entertained and stave off any stir crazy moments for us both; he ended up doing very well out of this with a new circus tent and mini kitchen complete with full Morphy Richards appliance set along with various other fun things like colouring books etc.
I stocked the fridge, bought a year’s worth of kitchen roll and disinfectant plus some jazzy printed toddler pants and hoarded rewards (read: edible bribes) to be used in conjunction with his behaviour reward chart, the chart came complete with stickers and various lines for different things, e.g. wee-wee on potty, poo poo on potty, you get the idea. Then off we went…
Harry is very particular about things being correct and just so, and he was initially not keen on having nothing on his bottom half as the 3 day method recommends. To start off, I let him get all excited about his jazzy new big boy pants (knowing full well we would go through a few pairs and writing them off mentally before the day had even begun). He also hated the Pourty toilet seat I’d bought him, favouring his potty chair, so a swift decision to choose my battles was made and we gave up on going straight to the toilet as many of my friends had done with their children, working instead with the potty to begin with.
We had x1 wee wee accident, followed by confusion and shame and one poo in his new pants. He did not enjoy the sensation of toileting sans nappy and following that we had an accident free day, with him letting me know he needed to go to the potty and happily taking himself off to do his business. He very much enjoyed the edible treats and star stickers for each trip, and began very early on to ration out what was effectively one normal size wee into about 10 little ones to maximise his chocolate button haul, smart boy.
I found day one very tiring. Because he was so new to the idea, I felt I had to spend every second with him to look for signs he needed the loo and prevent as many accidents as possible, and so we had a solid day of constant play. This might not be so bad for people who aren’t pregnant but I should warn you that if you are – you will be very tired.
By this point he had gotten over his issues with being nude on the bottom half and was just happy to be playing with all of his new toys and cashing himself in with regular chocolate treats throughout the day. We sacked off the percy pigs as a reward after a choking incident – as much as I love the pig, I do not recommend him for under 5s.
We didn’t have a single legitimate accident on this day, bar a turd in the middle of the living room floor. Having turned my back for a split second to take a bowl into the kitchen (bear in mind that at this time we were living in an apartment with an open plan kitchen and living room, not the terraced house with steep stairs and separate rooms we now reside in) to hear a shout of “look mummy, a Poo!” as if he had just stumbled upon it and couldn’t work out quite where it had come from. Imagine a little dog turd on your living room floor and you get a good idea of the curly delight I was presented with.
At this point it’s worth sharing a tip I was given by one of my friends which was not to acknowledge accidents. It goes without saying that you want to create a supportive and encouraging environment for your child whilst they get the hang of things, but she was of the opinion that by telling them it’s okay in a soothing tone when they’ve had an accident, they see that they still get positive attention even when they do the wrong thing. Instead she recommended not speaking, just cleaning up the mess and carrying on. I found this to be a really smart tip that worked well for us and I think it added to the speed at which he picked things up – that was the last floor turd we saw.
By this point, to my utter amazement he had cracked it. Even his nap time nappies were dry, having had a wee before he went down. I was elated, considering writing my own best selling potty training book and bragging about how insanely clever he was to anyone who would listen to me (via whatsapp, as obviously we were still housebound and he had no pants on). We even managed an accident free trip to Tesco (with pants, and clothing), where I treated him to an ice cream as the overall prize for his efforts.
Some Concluding Notes
This method is perfect to get them over the first hurdle of saying bye to nappies, and learning to recognise when they need the toilet with a view to holding it in or getting themselves there before it happens. It then requires some work on your part and your childcare provider’s part to maintain and develop their progress.
We are lucky in that Harry’s nursery were all over this, so he hasn’t worn a nappy since we started the process again and we were able to send him in pants from the Tuesday he went back in. He had a handful of accidents, but now comes home every day in the clothes he went in. The only time he wears nappies is for naps and bedtime, and mostly they are dry. I’ll keep him in nappies for sleep until we see a long period of time where they’re consistently dry though because he’s done so well, knows the score and when he can hold it in or wake to go to the loo consistently (something he is already starting to do) I am sure that he will.
It’s tiring when they start to wake in the night for the loo, as of course it breaks your sleep but he is getting to a stage where he can and sometimes will take himself. For me I think it’s just about confidence and the novelty of showing you what they’ve learned wearing off.
The other pitfall I have found is he’s now like an addict with sweet treats, so we are phasing those out – not sure we would have been so successful so quickly without them but they’ve got the capacity to turn him into a demon when he wants and doesn’t get, so it’s worth warning that if you sell your soul to the candy companies, it can be hard to ask for it back…
If your child is ready to do it, potty training can be completed in days. They are scarily clever and will surprise you with their ability to learn and adapt at break neck speed. Bravo Harry bear!