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Potty Training Help

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So potty training is meant to take 3 days right?

Hmmm … if only …

My daughter showed all the signs of readiness.

So we got the books on how she’d master the potty in 3 days flat and tried to follow them.

And I really, really did try hard.

But the house descended into a war zone.

Littl’un had successfully used the potty and the toilet quite a few times before we started potty training properly so I knew she could do it.

And she so wanted to wear big girl knickers.

But what she didn’t want to do, was stop playing when she was “busy” and sit on the potty, unless I read her endless stories during which time she would do nothing!

She’d then jig around for hours on end obviously bursting but refusing to go and so I nagged and she dug her heels in and I nagged some more and she dug her heels in further.

And finally after 3 or 4 hours she’d have an accident.

Oh my, those were some dark days!!!

Where Did I Go Wrong?

And I just couldn’t understand where I was going wrong.

Until, I backed off and just stopped nagging and let my daughter take control.

And then she got it … not immediately but soon.

The big problem was I had not remembered my daughter’s personality when I swallowed the potty training manuals … she has strong verbal skills and great concentration, but that also means she is as stubborn as a mule and really struggles with transitions.

I needed an approach that helped her feel in control and to switch activities without going mad.

My friend’s son on the other hand is super high energy so she needed an approach which still gave him space to run around and be physical … rather than the manual she tried to follow that had him in one room for the first day and caused complete melt down!!

Now don’t get me wrong, there’s some great tips in these quick potty training manuals … e.g. Toilet Training in Less Than Day, Potty Train Your Child in Just One Day, That’s How I Roll … but if you’re about to start potty training don’t swallow them verbatim without thinking if they suit your child’s personality or indeed your own!

And if you’re tearing your hair out because it’s all going horribly wrong, it’s easy to think it’s because they’re not”ready” when actually it may well be … as it was for us … that the approach your following isn’t right for your child.

I absolutely don’t promise to have all the answers to successful potty training but these are a whole load of practical tips … learnt the hard way … that will help you come up with an approach that works for your child …

Getting Ready for Potty Training

  • Think hard about your child’s personality
    • What motivates them most? What do they rebel against?
    • Do they like strict schedules?
    • Do they need freedom to run around doing their own thing?
    • Do they get immersed in activities & struggle with transitions?
  • And then pick an approach that suits them
  • Do look at quick potty training books but adapt any advice critically e.g.
    • If they’re never still for a second they won’t sit for ages on the potty
    • If a sticker chart never worked before, don’t kid yourself it will now
  • Look out for the following signs of readiness
    • Interest in the bathroom, toilet, toilet words
    • Often dry for two hours at a time
    • Awareness of and discomfort in dirty nappies
  • Don’t be put off if your child doesn’t display behaviour some “experts” claim is needed for successful training – usually means their approach won’t suit your child
  • Think hard about your own personality 
    • Can you actually follow a strict schedule?
    • Are you an extrovert who’ll go crazy stuck in the house on your own?
  • Invest time in stay calm techniques for yourself … e.g. deep breathing, counting to 10 … my frustration & anger when things went wrong so slowed things down

Practical Preparation for Potty Training

  • Ask if they’d like to try & talk about what’s involved
  • Read children books together about potty training
  • Get them to choose big kid pants … choices can help them feel in control
  • You can get training paints but we really didn’t use ours in the end
  • Get two potties for upstairs and downstairs so you’re not lugging around house
  • Get identical potties to prevent arguments about which one to use
  • Get a trainer seat and step for toilet so don’t become too attached to potty
  • Get easy pull up clothes – avoid fiddly dungarees & crotch poppers
  • Let them try out potty & trainer seat but don’t force it
  • Stock up on baking soda – gets rid of wee smells from furniture & floors
  • Stock up on paper towels, disposable cloths & anti-bac spray (or vinegar)
  • Stock up on rewards your kids like most … e.g. stickers, chocolate, plastic figures
  • If your kid is in childcare talk to childcare provider that you’re planning to start and find out how they usually approach it so can synchronise efforts
  • Agree to start on a week when you can be at home lots
  • If your child is nervous of new situations give them lots of exposure to the potty before you star

Tips That Helped Us (In The End)

  • Do everything you can to help them feel in control as possible
  • How ever frustrated you get do everything you can to stay calm
  • Accept that they will have accidents … and erm .. stay calm
  • Plan some really fun new activities so happy to stay home
  • Plan new high energy activities for boisterous kids e.g. creating obstacle courses
  • Try to hang out in a room with easily wipeable floors 
  • Set up a bucket of laundry soap & water into which wet clothes can be put
  • Keep potty in the room to start with
  • Encourage to drink plenty so more likely to need to go
  • Make sure getting enough fruit and veg so not constipated
  • If they wake up dry suggest you race to the potty to see if you can get there before the wee comes … it should be pretty easy for them to wee first thing
  • Encourage them … some how! … to sit on potty roughly every 45 minutes initially and as they start mastering it stretch that time out gradually to 2 hours
  • If your child thrives with a strict schedule you can make them a picture chart showing each activity and potty times
  • If your child hates schedules plan a range of activities that will roughly take 30-40 minutes and get them to choose the one they want to start AFTER the next potty break and repeat throughout the day
  • If your child struggles with transitions buy a fun alarm clock with a 5 minute snooze and set the alarm to go however frequently you want to remind them … when the alarm goes get them to press the snooze button & shout “5 minutes to potty time”
  • If your child refuses to go to the potty … despite saying they want to do potty training … back off, don’t get into a battle of wills
  • Let them sit for a while … have to learn to make a wee or poo come on demand
  • Celebrate wildly anything in the potty … even if it’s tiniest drop
  • If the wee starts encourage them to run to the potty anyway so constantly building the association and still have something to cheer wildly about
  • Get them to help clear up accidents … but don’t treat as punishment
  • Ask if they want help initially with underwear and wiping but also ask if they want to do it themself as this control really important to some kids
  • Gradually stop reminders and let them decide when they need to go … is critical they learn to recognise for themselves when they need to go
  • Gradually move potty further away until is in toilet, so they learn to judge how long they need to get to the potty and to “hold on” whilst getting there
  • Have a 2 tier reward system … a tiny reward, e.g. a really basic sticker, for sitting on the potty and a bigger reward, e.g. a fancy sticker, for doing something
  • If your child is very sociable see if you can potty train at the same time as friends and hang out together which makes it more fun & less lonely for you
  • Come up with some super fun reward activities … it’s very easy for potty training to be deadly dull so plan activities you know they’ll love that can be done after e.g. 3 wees in the potty … it all builds more positive associations with the potty
  • Encourage to use toilet training seat early on so not resistant later
  • Plan treats for you … e.g. a night out … it can be draining and all your deep seated resentments can boil up when there’s yet another puddle on the floor
  • Once they’ve mastered basic control be prepared for the wee jig where they dance around for hours denying they want to go because they don’t want to stop what they’re doing … try adapting reward system so they get a bigger reward for a dry day
  • After 3 or 4 days plan short trips out as will go cabin crazy otherwise … scout out nearest toilets but go prepared for accidents and get an experienced mum to show you how to hold them so can go outside without weeing up your leg!

Big No Nos

  • Don’t get cross when they have accidents … ask them to help you clear up
  • Try, try, try NOT TO NAG … some kids will become very resistant to any suggestion that they need to go, however infuriatingly obvious it is they need to go, avoid nagging at all costs as this will just make most of them dig their heels in more …  they will learn better if you just let them wet themself
  • DO NOT confine boisterous kids to a small space … will just rebel
  • NEVER force to sit on potty … believe me there will be times when you will be sorely tempted but just don’t, don’t do … it will just make them more stubborn
  • DON’T have them sit for ages and ages on the potty until something comes … will drive you both insane with boredom & doesn’t help them recognise when they need to go
  • Don’t think they’re potty trained if they never have accidents because you always shepherd them to the potty before they can … they may still be unable to recognise the signs for themself of when they need to go

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Friday 10th of July 2015

Thank you so much for this post. We are on morning 3 of potty training and my son, who is 20 months, has had several successes in the potty the last two days, but also showed some signs that were frustrating me. For example, he sat down on the potty, started to pee, didn't want to wait to finish, so he stood up and finished peeing on the carpet. Your post just refreshed me that there are times when it will go up and down and the key is patience and persistence. Thank you! Loved all the suggestions at the bottom too...


Tuesday 14th of July 2015

So glad it helped Ashley ... I know I found it so hard when all the books were saying it would all go perfectly smoothly in 5 days and it did anything but!!

Gaye Christmus

Saturday 30th of August 2014

Hi Alice - I noticed you haven't been around for a while. Hope all is okay with you. Gaye - CalmHealthySexy

Alice Emma Thompson

Sunday 31st of August 2014

Hi Gaye ... I decided to have a summer break but just back ... hopefully with a vengeance ;-) Alice x