About three weeks ago, we started with the oh so dreaded potty training. Back then, I promised to share my experience once I would have safely arrived ‘on the other side’. So, here we are. The ‘worst’ seems to be behind us (guess we are still in the process though since little L peed on our friends’ leather couch last weekend). In this post, I will tell you a bit about our experience. About what worked for us. And about how we did it.
If you’re hoping for a ‘How to potty train your child’ post, however, I apologize in advance. This won’t be the one. I won’t recommend the best potty training method neither. Cause I don’t think that there is such a thing. Every child is unique and this is also true when it comes to potty training. There is only one method that worked for little L. Ours.
So, this post will be simple experience sharing. Maybe you can get some inspirations. Some ideas. But after all, you’ll do it your way.
What I did long before we started potty training:
I freaked out. A little. Ok, maybe a lot. I have to admit that I was pretty scared of the whole potty training thing. Because I just didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know how to start and when. I didn’t know how to handle it.
I talked to friends, my mum, my mother-in-law, our nanny and a woman in the elevator (ok, that was a bit random but the subject just came up). After listening to everybody’s opinion, I was more confused than ever. I googled “how to potty train my child”. I started reading ‘Potty Training in One Week’ by Gina Ford. And stopped again. I bought a potty. And we used it to store toys. I started reading with Luca ‘On My Potty’ by Leslie Patricelli. I loved the book. Luca loved the pictures. Of the dog who pees on a tree, that is. I bought a toilet seat for little L. It was stored (and still is for now) in the corner of the bath room. I started taking Luca to the bathroom with me and commenting what I was doing. I stopped again. Cause it just felt too odd.
All of this was pretty useless by then. Or it felt useless, at least. Cause we were just not ready. Well, maybe Luca was (even though he didn’t show the oh so important ‘signs of readiness’ but then again, he didn’t show them when we started neither). But I was not for sure.
Nevertheless, I do believe that all of this was part of the process. It helped me get ready. And maybe it helped Luca get ready as well.
The best advice I got before starting for real:
To wait. Not to start too early. There is no adult (at least, none that I know of) who is still wearing nappies. Every child gets there. Eventually. So, r-e-l-a-x. Somebody told me that potty training can take ages when the child is not ready. And goes fairly quickly when the child is. There is no point in rushing if it only makes the whole thing harder for your child. And yourself. When Luca turned two years old, I suddenly started to get obsessed with potty training. To think about it. To talk about it. Why?? A lot of children do the potty training when they are closer to three. Or even later. And that doesn’t mean they are less intelligent than others. Luca was two and a half when we started. That was the right moment for us. For him. For me. Maybe it will be a completely different story with my second one.
To take some time off. Cause little L needed me during this time. 100% of me. All my attention. I am so glad I followed this advice. We chose the week between Christmas and New Year to start with the potty training. Because there was no nursery. Because we had no commitments. Because Miss M was already seven months by then and I knew I could concentrate on Luca. And be there for him.
To be positive. Whatever happens. To focus only on the achievements. Never on the accidents. I prepared myself for that. I knew that there would be accidents. Loads of them. I knew that it would take time. And patience. Loads of patience. But I told myself that if there was one advice I would follow, then this was the one.
What I did just before we started potty training:
I read ‘Potty Training in One Week’ by Gina Ford again. This time for real. I didn’t follow her advice though. Or only partly. But it gave me some good ideas. I searched online for some experiences of other mums (my friend and co-blogger Zeyna’s post about potty training is a nice read that I can recommend) to get some further inspiration. I stopped using the potty as a storage box for toys and started explaining to Luca what we do with it. That it is for ‘pipi’. Luca started sitting on it (with his pants on but it was a first step in the right direction). We also read ‘On My Potty’ again. And focused this time on what the baby in the book was doing (pipi in the potty) this time. Not on the dog who pees on the tree. And I went shopping. Cause I realised that I didn’t even have underwear for Luca (NB: I’d initially planned to let Luca without pants and nappies during the first days. Until a friend of mine told me that no pants, no nappies meant having your furniture sprayed if you have a boy…). I found some Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck boy’s trunks at Centerpoint MoE, which were perfect for us as Luca is currently obsessed with these Disney characters. I bought quite a few of them (about 10 or so, and I probably should have bought more). As well as five or six pairs of jogging pants that you can easily pull up and down.
Oh, and stickers.
Loads of stickers.
We started potty training right after Christmas. In the morning, when Luca got up, I told him that it was time to say ‘bye bye’ to his nappies. That he wouldn’t need them anymore (only for nap time and at night) cause he was a big boy now. I did the whole speech. Little L didn’t care about it. What he cared about was the Mickey Mouse on his new underwear.
My aim was to put little L every 15-20 min on his potty. I have a toddler who actually sits still for a while as long as he is occupied (drawing, reading a book with me, watching TV or YouTube on my Iphone). Within the first hour, he did pipi in the potty. I made a big deal out of it. Called daddy at work. Put the first sticker on the sticker chart (the idea was to give him 9 small stickers and one big Mickey Mouse sticker every 10th time he had done pipi in the potty). “Cool!”, I thought. “That’s easy.” Well. It was not. The rest of the day was full of accidents. I tried to explain to Luca that the Mickey Mouse and Donald on his undies were getting wet when he did pipi on them. And that they were then feeling cold. Brrrrrr. No reaction. He didn’t care. Worse. He didn’t even mind to be in wet undies.
At the end of the day, I was exhausted (whoever advised not to potty train your toddler just before or after the second baby was born had clearly never potty trained a toddler when the baby was seven months old… Have you already stayed inside with a toddler and a baby for several days? Without going outside? Trying to convince your toddler to sit on a potty. While nursing, feeding and putting to bed the baby? Yep… Exactly…). I was convinced that Luca was not ready at all. That I had made a mistake. That I had started too early. That I should have seen that there were no signs of readiness… Bad mum…
I decided to continue with the potty training for a little while, now that I had started. For three or four days at least. If there would be no improvement after that, then I would just stop and start at a later time. Day 2 pretty much went like Day 1. Except that Luca now sat on the potty because he knew that he was allowed to watch TV if he did so. So, I stopped letting him watch TV to distract him. Instead, I explained him every time I put him on the potty that he needed to do pipi. Like the baby in the book. That helped him concentrate better. I also stopped asking him “Pipi?” every 20 minutes or so. It started to get annoying. For him. And for myself. I increased the intervals a bit. We had accidents. Of course. But also one or two successes. And, once again, every time we had a success, I made a big deal out of it. He got a sticker. And everyone was applauding. Mummy. Our nanny. His plush Mickey Mouse. We also called daddy every time (who tried to sound enthusiastic about the pipi despite the fact that he was in a business meeting – this is why I married this guy).
I didn’t focus on the accidents. Or on the wet undies. Only on the fact that poor Mickey and Donald were sad because they felt wet and cold. I also started recognising a certain pattern in his pipi timings. I should probably explain that, since day 1, I wrote the timings down. Every time he did pipi, I marked it in ‘Notes’ on my phone. ‘PP’ for Pipi in potty. ‘A’ for accident. At the end of the day, I realised that the timings when Luca did pipi that day were similar to the ones of the first day. Otherwise, there was not much improvement unfortunately (and I thought I would go crazy after two days in the apartment with two kids). But, at least, there was hope.
On day 3, I decided to stop harassing Luca with my pipi questions. I just asked him from time to time. However, when it came close to the time when I knew that he had done pipi during the last two days (approximatively, of course), I told him to sit on the potty. And – it worked. We had fewer accidents. And more successes. Luca suddenly got the link between the pipi and the stickers. And that everybody around him was so proud of him when he managed to do pipi in the potty. As soon as this ‘clicked’ he wanted to try it over and over again. He suddenly wanted to participate in emptying the potty in the toilet. We said ‘bye bye pipi’ and he was allowed to flush the toilet. We also started to go out for a little while. With the potty. And loads of extra clothes. Never expect to have less things to carry with you once your child is potty trained. At least not at the beginning. It’s a lot to carry. A potty in a plastic bag. Wet wipes. Tissues. A bottle of water to clean the potty. Spare clothes…
Where we are today
After Day 3, things got a bit better every day. We nearly have no accidents anymore. And if we do it is because he is so occupied with something else that he doesn’t want to go. That he forgets. Or because he tells me ‘pipi’ but just cannot hold it long enough to reach the potty. When we go out, we always take the potty with us for the moment (thanks God nobody knows that my husband is carrying a potty in his rucksack on our weekend excursions, and Luca his second set of clothes…). I find it very practical because there is always a quiet corner somewhere where we can put the potty without being seen. Or nearly. It’s just a bit easier than searching for restrooms.
The next steps will be to move from the potty to the toilet (I want to wait until Luca is confident with the whole pipi thing) and to remove, slowly but surely, the nappy during nap time and at night. We bought some training pant from Eggs & Soldiers for that, which are great cause they look like undies but can catch little accidents so that it is not necessary to change the bed sheet every time.
In our case, the key to success was observing Luca. Knowing what he loves. Mickey Mouse. And Donald. Knowing that he is competitive. And wants to get things done right. I knew that the sticker chart would be something that could motivate him. I also knew that he would need a lot of encouragement. A lot of praise. A lot of explanations. And hugs. A lot of me. Of my time. And attention.
The key to success was not to apply a method but to observe Luca and develop a method of our own. Based on his needs. And his personality. To take the time to be there for him. To write down the timings when he needed to go. To take the time to understand him.
That’s why this is not a ‘How to potty train your child’ post.
Cause there is no method that works for all.
Cause every child is unique.
And this is also true for potty training.