Updated: May 6, 2022
Oh potty training... It's my least favourite parenting job, but it has to be done and it doesn't have to be awful! So here are my top ten tips, taken from my own experience of toilet training my three boys, and compiled from advice collected from my community on social media.
1. Exposure to the potty. Keep the potty in clear view long before you start toilet training and chat about it when you change your child's nappy. If you're buying a new potty involve your child in choosing which one and refer to it as 'their potty' in conversation. Our potty has been used by siblings so some personalisation with stickers has been a useful way to add ownership to the next child.
2. Follow your child - don't succumb to peer pressure. This is key, potty training is developmental and like anything all children develop at different rates. You may find alot of peer pressure from your parents or grandparents generations to train very early but if your child isn't ready then they won't be ready even in Nanny says they are.... If your little one refuses to sit or stand at the potty then don't push it. The last thing you want to create is a phobia; so, sit back, offer the opportunity to use the potty gently but regularly and follow their lead.
3. Start naked from the waist down. It's harder for a child to tell if they need to use the potty if they're wearing pants - it gives them that association of wearing a nappy and being able to wee wherever they like! So dedicate some time to nudey days until they are consistently using the potty. Then add pants (don't worry if that throws them off, just go back to without for a while) and then add trousers/leggings etc.
4. Give it 3 full days before assessing. Children rarely fully potty train in less than 3 days, yes of course there will be a niece or nephew or friends child who bucks that trend and went from nappies to pants with no accidents, but they are the exception. Children learn by repetition, in some tasks some children need more repetition than in others, it's perfectly normal. So allow three days and if you've had some progress then stick with it, if it's been a complete disaster and you're both upset and fed up then stop! Leave it and try again next month/year. Remember it's not about you backing down, or your child not listening to or respecting you. It's about your child not being developmentally ready at this stage. This will change, they will potty train and sometimes the kindest, most supportive thing that you can do is to jack it all in if need be.
5. Reward. Chocolate buttons, stickers, high fives - whatever it is that you choose I highly recommend a reward but don't be stingy. At the start of the process reward attempts, effort, even consideration of using the potty, don't withhold. Shower your child with praise and recognition - this milestone is monumental and a huge shift in their learning and habits, don't underestimate it. As your child becomes more confident, perhaps they're weeing more often than not when they use the potty you can scale back on the rewards to only giving when they wee/poo and not just for an attempt.
6. Patience. I cannot stress this enough! There WILL be accidents, and you WILL feel exasperated at times but try not to let it show. Take a deep breath and a moment to compose yourself, be kind and say something like 'accidents happen!'. You can recap to your child 'this time we forgot to use/didn't get to the potty in time, next time we will don't worry! Now, let's get you changed.'
7. Puppy pads, you can get these in pet shops or Poundland-type shops, slip them under a blanket on the sofa, or car seat to protect difficult to clean surfaces. I like to slip mine under a napping toddler if they've refused 'sleeping pants' (you can't night time train - it's hormonal and will happen when it happens. You'll know your child is ready when they're waking up consistently with a dry nappy, don't attempt before then as you're setting yourself and importantly your child, to fail.)
8. Reading material - a fantastic top tip from a member of the Resolve to Play community, giving your child a book to look at, or an I-spy jar encourages them to sit for longer that 0.3seconds! Thanks Amanda for this gem of advice!
9. There will be a regression. There will, it happens to everyone and it's just one of those things. So a) don't panic b) remain calm, patient and supportive c) don't ditch the pants and run back to nappies. You may question your sanity, life choices and so on but try to consider the whole picture - has there been overall progress? Then this is regression, not a sign that you should give up.
10. Take a few changes of clothes everywhere, including tops, socks and shoes! Leave a set in the car, take a bag with you whenever you go out - no matter how quickly you're nipping to the shop, as yes include every item of clothing and footwear as well as a packet of wet wipes and some nappy sacks for wet or soiled stuff.
Good luck to you all! Remember that all children develop differently, and if you have any concerns to speak to your Health Visitor.