Saturday, 1 March 2014

Potty Training

A phase in your life that's frustrating, and very very messy at the same time, all parents (and by parents I mean moms) go through this period in a hit and miss sort of way. In this article I'll attempt to give tips and small suggestions that helped me through this period five times and in fact I am currently going through this phase for a sixth time.

First off, you have to know all children are different and each develops individually, however I believe that you can have a child potty trained in about a week's time if not less. The road can be paved a lot before the actual time comes by pointing out how the elder siblings go to the toilet and teaching them the associated words used in your home for waste matter. This is just laying the foundation. This can in fact, motivate your child and he may show interest himself. It also gets rid of the fear of toilets that many children develop.

So the question is, when exactly is the right time? Are you starting too early, are you already very late?
In my opinion if your child can speak simple words like mama, baba, dada, soosoo, peepee or at least try to repeat simple words, can make out when you say no (because we don't say yes) and if he is around 2 years give or take a couple of months, he is ready. Anything below that can actually stress your kid out, but you can judge that your child may be more responsive and you can start earlier or according to his physical and cognitive abilities, even later than this. In addition you can see if your child's bowel movement is regular and if he shows displeasure at staying in a soiled nappy.

So next question is, what kind of a potty do you buy? Again I would suggest no potty at all, instead just get a small seat to cover the usual toilet seat. I actually don't even do that. But this way you don't have to deal with the washing up of the potty (isn't it the whole idea of potty training to get rid of dealing with waste), and as he gets older the removal of a small seat is so much easier than transitioning him to toilet from potty. Some kids don't leave their potty and then you have another headache altogether.

A child's toilet seat- fits over your regular toilet.

Moving on, how do you get your child to willingly, happily get on the seat? Your child will already know that the toilet is used for pee and poo. But from his view point, it can be intimidating. The toilet (even with the seat) looks big and it makes loud noises, the water splashes in it like a little storm. How can you convince the child that it is harmless? Here are a few suggestions:
1. Demonstrate by dumping the poo from his nappy into the toilet and let him flush. 
2. Personalize the toilet seat, may be stick some stickers on it or allow him to doodle on it with a marker.
3. Have some dry runs with his nappy on and then take it off and let him sit on it, or maybe allow his favorite teddy to sit on it. 
4. I don't like the idea of taking in a book to read. The point is not to distract the child from the task at hand but other little things can be done to disperse the stress he may feel like talking to him or holding on to a toy.
5. Buy him nice colorful underwear as an incentive. Show him underwear is more comfortable and exciting than plain old diapers.
The whole idea  is to extinguish the fear of sitting on the toilet. During this time, each time he sits on it, give him lots of hugs and kisses. 

Okay now what? Well now begins the real work. A couple of words of caution:
1. Expect plenty of accidents.
2. Do not scold your child if that happens, just kindly say a word that gives the message that it was not good, even a slight gesture with your finger saying no is enough. The child knows. 
3. Diaper companies want business, so even after diapers they have come up with pull up diapers, pants or whatever they call them. This delays potty training and is only a ploy to get your money out of your pocket for as long as possible. In order for this whole potty training thing to work effectively, show your child clearly that there are no diapers. Once he knows the diapers are gone and are not coming back this will subconsciously motivate him. I understand that you may need to go out somewhere, but it's best that for at least 3 or 4 days you stay indoors and stick to the plan without any diaper in sight. After that, if you don't feel confident taking the child out without a diaper then do so, but make it clear it is only for a special occasion. 

4. Do not keep reminding your kid about going to the toilet like a crazy person. This will irritate your child, even put him off the entire experience. You taking him every couple of hours is reminder and lesson enough. You can ask him before you take him though. 

So once your mind set is in sync with the child you can begin to put him on the toilet every morning when he gets up, then set your alarm again to make him sit after a couple of hours. If he pees before that, next time set your alarm for 1.5 hours etc. A general pattern will begin to take shape. If an accident occurs, don't make a big fuss, but if he gets it right on the toilet, show the greatest appreciation that you can. You can even stick little sticker stars on his hand each time he gets it right. A big red star for poo and a smaller blue star for pee. And hugs and kisses.

If the child fidgets and wants to get off after a minute or two without doing anything on the toilet, let him go. Here's a trick, turn on the water tap. The sound of water can really make your child pee. But keep in mind that they may retaliate if you make them sit too long without their consent. Some kids find it uncomfortable if you are watching, mines does so just pretend to look at something else.

Also watch  for signs he wants to go like pacing or jumping or holding onto the crotch.

Expect some leakage.

After a couple of days he will approach you himself.

Right, that seems simple enough, but what about night time? News flash people, children will have accidents at night, fact of life and its quite normal till about the age of seven even. But for your kid, just minimize liquids as much as possible a couple of hours before bed and visit the toilet before sleeping. Most children can go quite a few hours before urinating. Some children do not for many years. Just line the bed with plastic and accept it. Sometimes children may fidget in their sleep when they feel like going, if you think that is the case you can gently pick him up and take him. Some kids sleep so soundly they wouldn't know anything is going on. It's okay. They will run dry eventually. A lot of bed wetting after the age of 7 is partially genetic as well. But that is a different topic altogether. In short this action is involuntary. Hence if he does not have an accident at night be proud but if he does have an accident, don't disapprove. You don't know how his heart breaks when you disapprove of something he has no control over.

It's not an exact science. This is probably the most effective method I know. I've tried combinations of toilet going and diapers and believe me it does not work effectively. It just prolongs the process. Today is the third day without diapers and he has begun to say pee pee when he wants to go. I still take him every couple or so hours when he doesn't. He hasn't begun signalling for poo, but I know he generally goes in the evening so I just keep an eye on him and take him when I think he needs to go. For constipated children this is especially difficult. I suggest incorporate plenty of roughage. Carrots are wonderful.

But by the time you take him to the toilet the urge is gone. Yes that does happen. Rub his lower back gently. No worries. Let him run away. He will feel like going again shortly. 

There is no shortcut. It's going to be a tough week but the secret is to be consistent and loving and supporting. I think if after a week your child is not showing any signs of wanting to be potty trained and is not making progress as expected, then try again after a couple weeks and start from scratch by mentally preparing him. 

Sometimes relatives, especially grandparents criticize your tactics. This is true in a lot of aspects of raising kids. A lot has changed since we were babies. For one, most of our generation wore cloth diapers which were very uncomfortable since they did not keep bottoms dry. This prompted kids to be potty trained sooner. Some relatives give amazing advice. But know that you are best for your child, smile graciously and accept what's good and let go what you don't believe is right for you and your child. No need to be impolite or rude. You are the best judge for your child and in this information age you will find 100 ways to do just one little thing. One of those ways will be right for you.

The rest of the stuff like washing up and patting dry all comes gradually. He'll catch on as he gets older, he will not want you to continue doing it, and even if he does you can train him as you do with all other things with lots of patience, love and support.

Best of luck.


  1. Agree, consistency is the secret. Well written and very helpful.

  2. Omg that was tooooo good! My younger one is 15 months and I was thinking of ways to start training her...guess I'll wait till she is two to actually out this plan in action..

    1. Glad you liked the article. I agree with you, why stress yourself and your baby? Wait a few months, but you can begin to lay down the foundation.