Potty Training - Has your Little Thinker reached this stage?

Written by: Chris and Rose from ‘Expect The Best’


“My child was potty trained in two days at 14 months”. How many times have we heard people claiming that their child nailed potty training with apparent ease and long before anyone else had even begun to think about it? Now, of course, we are not suggesting that there aren’t some lucky parents out there who have had an easy time potty training their little ones. However, often we have found that the opposite is usually more accurate for most families. Potty training is a subject that we feel can cause a lot of stress and worry for parents. There is always an underlying current of competition to make sure that your child is potty trained the fastest and the easiest.

For some parents it can be an emotional subject, potty training can feel like a step towards real independence from you where before they relied so heavily on you for that particular need. Don’t beat yourself up if you feel like this, try and embrace this new and exciting chapter in the journey of parenting.

Let’s first address what all the books mean by “Is your child ready to potty train?” it is absolutely vital that you remember that every child is different, every child will go at their own pace with potty training and forcing the matter, because we feel we have to, is not beneficial to anyone. So, relax. We are here to help you move away from the parental guilt that we believe so often governs all aspects of parenting and help you feel more confident to tackle potty training as and when you feel your child is ready. 

The first stage of potty training in our eyes starts from the get-go. Creating a positive narrative around all aspects of going to the loo. After all, it’s totally natural and we all do it. When we talk about creating a positive narrative we start by looking at the language we want to promote when changing nappies, for example we like to encourage parents/caregivers and anyone in between to avoid using words such as ‘dirty, stinky, disgusting’ when we pull faces (even as a joke to make our children laugh) what we are actually teaching them is that their bowel movements are something to be ashamed of. We want our children to feel proud of going to the loo and not scared, sometimes if a child feels ashamed, they can start to withhold bowel movements.

Change it up use language and phrases like “doesn’t your tummy feel good now” or “great work going to the toilet” or “that’s so healthy for your tummy”.

At around 18 months, or earlier if you think your child is ready you can put a potty in the bathroom. It helps if your child can get used to the idea of a potty before they even sit on it. That way it isn’t a scary foreign object. If you have older children who are already potty trained it’s a great idea to get them to show your little one what to do. Another useful tip is to take their nappies off for different periods during the day in the run up to potty training so that they can get used to the feeling of the air in that area. You can always offer them the opportunity to sit on the potty before bath time as another way to help them get used to it.

Books are a fantastic resource for potty training. We love the Princess Polly potty books or the boy equivalent. In this case a gender specific book is helpful because it can be very different, just as it is different from child to child.

Also, using a book to make a story bag is another fantastic resource to have. Grab a bag and fill it with lots of different toys that represent potty training. Such as a potty, loo roll, knickers and a favourite doll, or soft toy as props. This way they can learn through imaginative play without feeling pressured.  

The signs of potty training are quite straight forward.

o   Pulling at the nappy

o   Asking to go the loo

o   Being dry for long periods of time.

o   When they tell you that they are going in their nappy, or they are able to identify what is in their nappy.

When you see these signs, we suggest that you wait for about a week or two, just to make sure that the signs are consistent.

When you feel your child is ready; get them to choose some pants and after they have woken up pop the pants off you go. At first, it is a great idea to have timer set for every 20/30 minutes and ask if they need to potty or loo. Alternatively ask them to sit on the potty about 15 minutes after having a big drink. As the days go on then this time is likely to get longer, and you will start to be able to work out if there is a pattern. If you are using a timer, then make sure you explain to them exactly what is going to happen when the timer goes off. It is important that you don’t over ask or become agitated if they refuse to go. What we suggest is that the first day or two you encourage them to go every 30 minutes, but if you can see that most of those 30-minute slots result in nothing you can extend them.  Also, if they refuse to sit on the potty, explain very calmly that it is okay, but we are going to try again in 10 minutes. Some children need to feel the sensation of being wet before they really grasp the concept. Celebrate every wee and poo with a sticker or you could do a marble jar.

It’s a really good idea to have spare pants and clothes in a basket downstairs so you can encourage them to help in getting changed if they have accidents. You can also pop a dirty laundry basket beside as well so that they can pop their wet/dirty clothes away as well. Accidents are completely fine. Just stay calm and never get cross with your child if that happens. If, your child is doing a wee/poo in the middle of the floor, try not to pick them up and rush them over to the potty because the sensation of being picked up and rushed somewhere whilst going for a wee can be really alarming and distressing for children. Just accept that they have had an accident and say “it is okay, next time let’s try on the potty. Why don’t you have a sit down on the potty now and see if there is anything else still to come”. If you find that they are getting really upset when they wet themselves, don’t be afraid to call potty training off. Often children come back to it themselves but in their own time.

At nap and bedtimes move way from nappies and get pull ups and call them sleep time pants. Being dry at night will come much later on.

Things to remember, some children need to be taught the concept of pushing a poo out. You can encourage this by getting them to squat down, ask them to put their hands on their tummy and feel the sensation of what happens when they push down into their bottoms. Sitting on a bouncy ball can also help them to learn to relax in that sitting position.

For those who are also having problems, sometimes giving them a drink of water on the potty whilst rubbing the soles of their feet can help.

We suggest you find a little song or book that can help keep them on the potty for a bit longer. Also remember that sometimes when they have done a wee, they may need to sit there for a little longer just to make sure they are really finished.

Top tip for training boys to stand is to put a cheerio or something a long those lines in the bottom of the loo for them to have something aim for.

Remember to be kind to yourselves, celebrate the wins and trust in your instincts!

Check out more advice from Chris & Rose on their website here.