When I went to college there was a guy in my year who was still wearing nappies, and hadn’t yet graduated to using a toilet. Actually, that’s not true, but it does rather highlight the daft nature of one of the most common worries parents have – that their child will never, ever be potty trained!
It does seem as though you’ll be spending the entire rest of your life changing your child’s nappies, but you really don’t find too many college aged children still wearing Huggies SuperDry and bursting into tears the moment you suggest they try using their Extra Comfy Squeaky Yellow Potty With Real Flushing Sounds and Happy Duck Companion.
Potty training will come, and it’s important to let your child make the first move. That’s right – don’t force it, let them tell you when they’re ready. Having said which you won’t find your toddler lying back with their feet in the air calmly turning to look you in the eye between their knees saying, “You know what, I really feel as though we should try moving this on to the next stage, what say?”
So what are the signs that your child might be ready to start potty training, and what do you do when it doesn’t quite work out according to plan?
How To Tell When Your Child Is Ready To Start Potty Training
If you’re on your first baby then you may well wonder what on earth to look out for, and may worry that you’ll miss it. Don’t worry, you won’t, because as a parent you’ve been re-wired to be ultra sensitive to the slightest change in your child’s little routines.
You may find for instance that all of a sudden your child is showing an interest in the bathroom, or the toilet. Perhaps they are starting to tell you when they need the toilet, or are telling you that they’re going. They may start to tell you that they have been to the toilet and that they need changing. These may all seem fairly subtle, but you’ll notice them, and these are the signs that he or she may be ready to potty train.
BUT! Don’t think that you can throw out the nappy boxes just yet. Being ready to start experimenting with potty training is one thing, actually potty training is quite another, and it’s vitally important that you don’t rush them. They won’t end up at college still untrained, but it may slow them down a little and cause unnecessary anxiety, so just take it slowly, and take it at their pace.
What To Do When The Potty Training Goes Wrong
Various things might well go wrong, and they probably will. You might find that your child becomes scared or anxious about using the potty, or they may have a few accidents (such as doing their business before reaching the potty, missing the potty, or getting up before they’re finished.)
The one Golden Rule to keep in mind through these inevitable hiccoughs is not to tell them off, or make them feel as though they have made a mistake, or done something wrong. Lavish praise on them when they get it right, and reassure them calmly should things not go to plan.
How To Help Your Child Avoid These Mishaps
There are a number of things you can do to help your child work through the process of getting used to using their potty, and most of them centre around making it fun, and to seem to be a clever, special thing that they are doing.
For example, you could have one of their favourite teddy bears sitting on the potty nearby to where they are playing, and tell them that the teddy doesn’t need a nappy because he/she/it can use the toilet like mummy or daddy. This is the sort of tactic which is likely to help foster a belief in the child that they want to be as grown up as their teddy!
You might also want to have a selection of books or toys that are ‘special potty’ books and toys, that can only be used by ‘anyone’ who uses the potty. Or you could be more subtle and simply bring out a sticker book or something whenever your child sits on the potty, quietly removing it ‘until next time’ after they are done.
Some parents have found that singing ‘potty songs’ helps, or handing out a couple of chocolate buttons when they get it right works too.
The important thing to emphasise here is that everything must be about praise and rewards – not about sanctions. So they should never be told off for not doing it right, or denied sweets on the basis that they aren’t grown up enough yet, not trying hard enough or not getting it right. Always focus on the positive, and never on the negative. It sounds easy, but it isn’t always, but this is the approach which will help your child get through those difficult moments better than anything else.
What Happens If They Have A Relapse?
Although plenty of children progress smoothly from nappies to potty training, and then on to using a normal toilet with an adapted child seat, many children do have relapses. They might have been quite happy using the potty for a while, but then all of a sudden start not using it, or making a fuss about using it, wetting the bed or having other similar accidents.
Quite often these relapses can be triggered by a change in circumstances, perhaps when they start nursery, although it isn’t always that obvious. The important thing again here it to make sure that you let the child lead, don’t punish or penalise them, and make sure that there are plenty of rewards and much praise for when they do try using the potty or toilet properly again.
Never, ever tell a child off for wetting the bed or having a little accident as this can cause a great deal of anxiety and slow them down much further, increasing the likelihood of more accidents in future.
Today there is an enormous range of children’s potties, from comfortable ones for sitting in for longer to bright, colourful ones which appeal visually, and from potties which have interactive elements such as flushing handles and sound effects to training seats which fit to your standard toilet seat and allow your child to make the transition to using a proper full sized toilet.
You might even consider involving your child in the choosing of their potty. Browse potties online and let them see the different colours and styles, and act on any special interest they show in a particular potty. Make them feel that buying their potty is a treat, something special, and a sign that they are getting bigger and cleverer.
And ultimately, don’t worry. As I mentioned at the start, they won’t end up attending their first job interview still in nappies. It will pass, and you’ll end up looking back wondering why on earth you were ever worried!