When I started thinking about toilet training, I was told there is a commonly used method after you’ve determined whether your child is ready that only takes three days. Unfortunately, the three day method was shrouded in mystery and high cost. Apparently there’s a PDF floating around the internet, but there were a lot of mums who were concerned about copyright issues. I understood, so I listened to numerous videos on YouTube, read as much as I could gather for free online and then we started training. I thought I would share our experience with you, so perhaps it will help make your toilet training experience easier.
To determine whether your child is ready, paediatricians recommend children:
- can walk to and sit on the potty or toilet
- can take instructions
- are interested in the potty or toilet
- are interested in dressing or undressing themselves
- are able to communicate that they need to use the potty or toilet.
There are others as well, but these are the ones I based my assessment on. It is also recommended that toilet training is not attempted when there are other stressors in the house, which may include but are not limited to:
- moving house
- the birth of a subsequent child
- change of childcare
- lack of support from and for parents involved.
I personally found the last one very important. The previous points are easy to avoid. The last point means both parents need to be on board with toilet training and agree on how they will approach each situation, including accidents. It also means parents require the support of childcare teachers and anyone caring for the child. If you don’t have support where you need it, it’s not the right time to start.
If your child attends childcare, it is important to discuss their techniques as see whether they are willing to ‘do it your way,’ or whether you can learn anything from the way they have helped train children.
Here’s what I did:
After watching numerous videos and reading copious information online, I decided to start toilet training by introducing my son to the process of going to toilet by having him see me and anyone in our family who was willing to participate use the toilet. It meant having him join us in the toilet, when we were comfortable with an audience, and allowing him to pull the paper off for us, shut the lid and flush the toilet. After the flush we would wash and dry our hands. I wanted to start the process of toilet training by showing my son that we regularly had to interrupt whatever we were doing to go to the toilet. We allowed my son to attend our bathroom breaks every day for months before starting training. I used the same words throughout our bathroom visits, including, “Mummy needs to go to the toilet,” “Can you pull some paper for me please?” “Let’s flush the toilet,” and “Time to wash our hands.”
Despite the information I’ve read suggesting full potty training: ie, no nappies for naps or overnight or anything, we decided that we’d continue to use nappies for naps and sleeping. Our son has had significant issues sleeping, and he’s now in a good routine and sleeps well. We value that sleep and are not ready to interrupt it! From the articles I have read, sometimes great sleepers turn into worse sleepers as a result of waking throughout the night to use the toilet. Fair warning, please choose your method wisely!
I bought two matching potties: one for our house and one for my mum’s house where my son spends some time each week. The daycare my son attends has small toilets, so I didn’t feel the need to buy a third potty. For a few weeks before training, I asked my son if he wanted to sit on the potty when I used the bathroom. If he did, I helped him. If he didn’t, I continued with our previous process.
Prior to starting potty training, I acquired the following:
- Old towels
- Disposable gloves
- Antiseptic wipes
- Regular baby wipes
- Disposable nappy bags
- A bucket
- A miniature toilet seat
I had hoped to wait until our son was almost two and a half years old, after winter, to start training. However, when he was 21 months old, he decided nappies were not for him and we had some huge battles to change him. I thought perhaps it would be easier for everyone to train him to use the toilet.
Here’s what happened on each day of training:
I took my son to the shops and told him that today was the day we were going to start using the potty instead of nappies. We were going to buy some big boy underpants! I chose two packets of six pairs of pants to be sure we had enough to make it through the day. To my surprise, my son was so excited to have them, he took a pair out of the packet and insisted on wearing them over his nappy and shorts. He looked a little strange, but I thought I’d go with it, considering I wanted him to like them! Plus, it was super cute.
We visited the toy section and I chose a packet of five trucks for $2 that I knew he would like. We also bought chocolate buttons and star stickers. I wasn’t sure what my son would like the most and I wanted something that would acknowledge his efforts. The toy trucks were for big achievements like doing a wee or poo on the potty, asking to use the potty, or just going on his own. The chocolate buttons and stickers were for smaller achievements to acknowledge each success.
When we arrived home, I took his nappy off and we put his new pants on. He was excited to wear them! From what I’d read about training, I knew I needed to spend the next three days, at least, at home and watch him like a hawk. My son is really good at drinking lots of water, so I knew it was only a matter of time before he would need to use the potty. Some parents have use salty snacks to encourage extra fluid intake, but I didn’t feel we needed to. I had also been advised against using pull up nappies, or going naked, which is why we used pants.
The potty was in the living room. I had been told to both keep the potty nearby and to keep it in the bathroom so he would associate going with the toilet. I thought it was better to keep it near where we were until he understood the urge to go. I had my old towels, clean underpants, gloves and wipes on hand. Because we have a rug in the living room, I used a craft splash mat to cover it in case he wet it.
As expected, my son had numerous wet accidents on Day 1. Each time he had an accident I said, “Oh no, next time we’re going to use the potty. Would you like to sit down and finish your wee?” When he sat, I’d reward him. Sometimes there would be a dribble of wee, which we celebrated with clapping and smiles, a chocolate or a sticker. Lots of praise meant he was more like to try again next time.
Poo. Oh poo. Again, as expected, my son pood his pants. The problem with poo in pants is that you need to pull the pants down. The highlight of Day 1 was my son stepping in his poo as I pulled his pants down and then freaking out about it and kicking his pants across the room. This equalled poo everywhere… sigh. Lots of disinfecting later, my son was in clean pants. The important part of the day was not to be upset by any accident or issue, despite any distress the child may feel. My son caught on very quickly that pants were not the place to wee or poo and became upset when he had an accident. I saw this as a good thing, even though I hate seeing him upset, and told him it was alright and we’d use the potty next time.
On Day 2, we caught many more wees than we did on Day 1. I had seriously been considering whether to stick at training after no successes on Day 1. It was frustrating for me and my son, but I had been told that by the third day, it would be easier. For each success, my son received a chocolate or a sticker. We used the same process every time: success meant taking the mess to the toilet and pouring it in, wiping the potty out with a disinfectant wipe, flushing the toilet and washing our hands.
We didn’t catch any poos on Day 2, but I was still proud that my son was learning so well.
Days 3 and 4
On Day 3, we started the weekend, which meant that there were added distractions with other people in the house. Days 3 and 4 were very similar to Day 2, but my son started showing more signs of when he needed to go. He has well developed speech for his age, but hadn’t ever had to use the words before, so I reacted when he looked scared or worried, pulled at his pants, or squatted in a corner. From what I’ve read, many children hide, particularly when they’re ready to poo, and it’s those times we need to encourage them to use the potty. I encouraged him to use his potty by asking him whether he need to go when he acted strangely. Most importantly, I trusted him when he said no. I know it sounds strange, particularly because we think we know better, and sometimes we do! But, in order to encourage him to tell me when he needed to go, I needed to wait until he said he was ready.
Skip ahead a few days and we’d reached a week. By the seventh day, our little guy was telling us that he wanted to use the potty. We sent him to daycare with nappies for naps and undies for the rest of his day. There were a few issues that came from the difference in location for our boy. Firstly, he wasn’t used to telling anyone except me and his father that he needed to use the potty. Secondly, even though the carers encouraged him to use the tiny toilets they have specifically for toddlers, he seemed afraid of them and wouldn’t go. We solved this one by taking his potty to the daycare! Thirdly, daycare is a really distracting place, so I can understand and expect a few more accidents when there are so many other children and toys around. Lastly, the daycare routinely takes children to have their nappies changed and use their potties. This discourages children from asking to go, which means there might be unexpected accidents and attempts at using the toilet when there’s really nothing to do. However, we have understood the way the daycare operates and let them manage toilet training their way. What happens at daycare stays at daycare… except of course the wet clothes. Be sure to take many pairs of underpants and pants so they always have a clean change of clothes.
It’s now been almost exactly two months. There have been a few accidents, particularly when my little guy was feeling unwell or had hurt himself. Some days he just wouldn’t use the potty at all. Some days he hasn’t had an accident. Most days are accident free or have one or two accidents though. Last week the daycare educator said that he’d asked to use the toilet, and he uses the toilet there as well as his potty. We found toilet training to be easier than we thought overall, but I think it definitely comes down to the child. There are definitely difficult days in the process, but after having so much trouble changing the nappy of a toddler who didn’t want to wear one, underpants are much easier!
If you have any questions about how we managed, because I’m sure I haven’t covered everything here, please post below and I will address your questions and concerns.