We all remember that scene from ‘Look Who’s Talking’ when John Travolta and Kirstie Alley dance around the bathroom singing ‘Pee pee in the potty!’, don’t we? I thought it was funny, but didn’t quite realise that one day I’d pretty much be doing exactly the same thing.
Of all the developmental milestones and new challenges that we’ve faced since Amelia arrived, potty training really was the one I was dreading. I don’t know why, it isn’t an issue with the hygiene of it, I mean, I’m fine with changing nappies, but I just had this deep-rooted fear of her having an accident and how I would deal with it, would she get a complex? Would I end up shouting at her? Would she refuse to co-operate? Would I lose the will to live? How long would it take? Endless questions. I swear, I think I worried more about embarking on this than I did during my final year at University.
I really needn’t have worried. Kids really do know more than you realise and they are quick learners. I think overall, it’s taken about 8 days to get to the point where she now ‘asks’ to go to the loo. It probably took about 5 days to get her completely out of nappies and we’ve been out of the house loads and NO accidents! She really has amazed me. Of course, the lure of a sweetie from the treat jar and a gold sticker when she does well are definitely helping, but I think it was just the right time for her to be ready to learn. And the plus side for our household is that now we will be buying nappies for the new baby but not for her, so money-wise we aren’t complaining!
Being a total rookie, here are the 10 things I found helpful for potty training that I’ve learned from other Mums, a few websites and learning as I’ve gone along….
1. Wait until your child is ready, if you encourage them a few times in a row and they are just not interested, then put it on the back burner for a while. Don’t stress over it. They will be ready when they are ready.
2. Let them see you using the toilet. I know some people might struggle with this, but I think it was one of the main things that helped Amelia progress. Toilet time was fun because ‘Mummy’ was there too and she got to flush the toilet etc.
3. Sing songs. Yes, Really. Make a silly one up with their name in it, if you’re inventive enough.
4. A reward chart and treats REALLY made all the difference. On a side note though, I believe they only work if sweets and chocolate aren’t usually a regular part of your child’s diet. Amelia rarely gets these, so a sweetie from the jar for a ‘wee wee’ and a small chocolate sweet for a ‘number 2’ really motivated her. Not to mention her excitement at pleasing Mummy and Daddy – ‘Do you want one too, Mummy?’ when she was successful. Getting to share her achievement really mattered to her.
5. Have lots of spare clothing changes ready as well as pants. Don’t forget spare shoes – the shoes will get wet…
6. Trying to do it in the summertime is best, since when they are running around without pants or bottoms in the first few days, it is best if they aren’t cold. Of course this can’t happen for everyone, but it definitely helped us.
7. Plan to begin it when you can be with them for long stretches of time, maybe during a holiday or time off work, or even a long weekend. It’s best if they have continuity and you’re able to observe patterns in their ‘potty’ behaviour so you’re best placed to help them.
8. Don’t be afraid to head out and about after a day or two in the house. Just make sure they go to the toilet/potty immediately before leaving the house and remind them that when you’re in the supermarket/library/friend’s house that there will be a toilet they can use and how much fun it will be.
9. Loads of hugs and excited praise – a really worthwhile and valuable affirmation tool.
10. If they have an accident, I would advise to never scold, shout or show disappointment. You’re expecting them to learn something quite tricky, so have patience. Just say cheerfully that they will go in the potty next time and that it is okay if we forget. When I see Amelia’s face now, and I can tell she is aware she needs to use the toilet, it is so endearing to see that she wants to get it right.