Back in February, when everyone was still going about their lives freely, I was tentatively worrying about potty training. Going into parenting I always said it was the bit I was least looking forward to – how do you teach someone to wee or poo into a hole?!
It was always something that worried me and because my mum had explained how stubborn I was to potty train, I didn’t hold out hope for success with my male mini-me. So as my little man was making his way through the terrible twos, each day brought more anxiety about the moment it would eventually happen. We had bought potties and watched videos, read articles and blogs all about it, so we could be prepared when the time came. We just didn’t think the time would come during a global pandemic when we were already being tested in so many other ways.
Throw the rule books out the window
Honestly, we watched so many YouTube videos which punted expensive potty training manuals, listened to advice from friends and family, and read articles in all the usual mum & baby website havens. When it came to it, our toddler didn’t want to conform to any of their rules and suggestions. We tried involving him in the potty process, letting him add stickers to his potty, introduced a reward chart, gave him potty training books and let him pick his own pants.
None of it worked. Just because he picked the pants and liked Simba, didn’t mean he was going to wear them. I should probably point out that, according to all the signs, our child was 100% ready for potty training. He would tell us every time he needed a wee, would go and hide (and still does) to do a poo, grabbed his crotch when he needed to go and pretty much all the usual signs. So we weren’t trying to force him into something prematurely (or so we thought).
There’s no magic week or fortnight
A few of the resources and self-help parenting books had suggested taking a week or two away from work to potty train; the more bold of these suggesting that your child could or should be fully potty trained in that time. Sorry to burst the bubble, but there’s no magic fortnight. At least, not in our experience or in the experience of any of the mum friends and family I spoke to about my potty training worries.
As with everything, your child will learn and do it in their own time. Some take longer than others, and some start much earlier or later than others. Maybe the start of a magic potty training method will work, whereas it might fall down halfway through and you might end up winging it. Everything could go swimmingly (not literally, I hope) and your child could work through a standard set of checklist tips and be potty trained without so much as a grumble. If anyone has mastered it in a week or fortnight, please share your experience with me!
We eventually had a couple of flukey wees in the potty but then came a major regression. All of a sudden he didn’t want to be without a nappy, and he really, really didn’t want to do a wee. We got to the point it was exhausting trying to convince him it was ok to wee while he had screaming fits, going rigid trying to hold it in. And this was with his nappy on…
Weirdly, once we’d taken a good few days to get over the wee-anxiety, he was quite happy to sit on his potty to go – but only if he had a nappy on. By this point I was picking my battles, and I was happy to concede him wearing a nappy if it meant he was going on the potty freely without tears, and understood the actions of what we were working towards overall.
I’ve never read or watched a guide or tutorial where this is done, or seen as good practice, but it worked just fine for us. The anxiety of using the potty was removed and if it meant he took much longer to use the potty without a nappy, it wasn’t a big deal. We didn’t have to explain a quirk to nursery teachers or have anyone judge us for how we were doing it.
Isn’t it easier in lockdown?
A few people have alluded to, or just asked me this straight out. The implication is that potty training is somehow easier in lockdown because you’ve been told to stay at home where possible so it shouldn’t be a problem with accidents, outings and regressing. So wrong. Firstly, have you ever tried to keep a 2 year old in all the time? It’s difficult. Secondly, everybody’s situation is different. I didn’t have the luxury of time afforded to me to potty train – I am still working full time and caring for my toddler full time. My partner works shifts so we are regularly having to vacate the house to keep a hyper toddler entertained whilst letting a tired adult sleep. It’s just not possible to stay at home all the time, and when I am home, I’m working about 70% of the time. So actually, it becomes more difficult dragging yourself away from zoom calls for potty emergencies, and feeling generally frazzled as you try to make up the time in your work day you’ve missed due to wee breaks, accidents and tantrums about the potty.
Also, in lockdown, your child doesn’t have the benefit of perhaps seeing other children (whether friends, at nursery or whatever) and learning or progressing with them, unless they have older siblings. This can mean a delay to learning about potty training or feeling ready for it.
I’d also argue that it might have longer term implications by learning to potty train in lockdown. Whilst kids had routines they went about once upon a time, from nursery to pre-school groups, swimming lessons to granny’s house, those different settings have been denied to my toddler for the moment. He has already had tantrums about not using the toilets in ASDA, so I’m anxious about him regressing when it comes to going back to nursery and anywhere else he might need a wee that’s not in his own house.
That and we’ve not mastered number twos yet, so there’s still a way to go!
Honestly, there’s no big secrets or hacks. The best tip I can give is to relax and listen more to what your child says than what any adult tells you about potty training. Guides are great as just that, but don’t stress if it doesn’t go to plan.
The only other thing I can advise is to make sure you’re prepared with all the equipment you’d need for potty training, from actual potties to underpants and mattress protectors.