I write this blog post having recently potty trained my toddler Immy. Although quite honestly, I’m not sure there was much ‘training’ involved. The definition of training is ‘the action of teaching a person or animal a particular skill or type of behaviour.’ I tried to teach Immy, I really did. She wanted to learn. But the more I showed or explained to her what to do, the more she refused. Point blank refused. Screamed at the top of her lungs until she was red in the face… refused.
So how did we manage to do it?
This might not be of interest to a lot of you, but for those who are about to start, or for those of you part way through, you might find some pointers (or things to avoid). Now I’m no expert, quite the opposite as you’ll see! And this is by no means a blog on how to potty train your toddler. It’s merely an account of how things went for us; so here is our story.
I had no intention whatsoever of potty training Immy at this moment in time. In fact, when we first started a couple of months ago (we had a break) the twins were still breastfeeding quite frequently, and the thought of having to ditch one of them and race off to the loo at the drop of a hat wasn’t very appealing.
But Immy had different ideas. Immy always has different ideas. Like the time I wanted to keep her in her cot until the twins were a bit older, so she decided to become an escape artist and climb out, meaning we had to bite the bullet and put her in a big bed. Not ideal when I was up most of the night feeding babies, with a toddler roaming around out of her bed, claiming there were bugs and monsters in her room.
Anyway, I digress. Immy wanted to learn to use the potty. She asked for knick-knocks (knickers to you and me), and she enjoyed giving us a running commentary of exactly what she was doing on the potty. So we went with it and tried to support her the best we could.
We’ve had a potty in the house since the summer to get Immy used to having it around, and she would spontaneously go on it when she felt like it. It wasn’t always used as a potty. It was a great tool for emptying the paddling pool. She filled it with mud and threw it all over the garden. It was a hat, a frisbee, a table, and somewhere to stash her toys. She liked it though, and I thought, well that’s a good start. She’s never had a fear of the potty, so perhaps befriending it over the summer helped. That’s what I like to think anyway.
Now something you should know about me as a parent. I don’t tend to read parenting books. In fact, I’ve only ever owned one (The Wonder Weeks) which I loved but it wasn’t a guide to practical parenting. I have nothing against parenting books at all, I just for whatever reason have never bought one. Like with many things in my life, I fly by the seat of my pants and just go with the flow, trying not to procrastinate and generally just being quite impulsive. I mean, we bought our house from a floor plan, in Wales, in an area we had never been to or knew anyone. I also moved to Vancouver to live with Ross when we had only known each other for 12 weeks. 11 years later and it turns out that was a good move.
Winging it is definitely a term that I should have plastered all over my face.
So when it came to ‘training’ Immy, I just went with what I thought felt right. And it turns out it wasn’t right at all! Not right for Immy I should say, as one thing I have learnt from potty training and speaking to my mum friends, is that there really isn’t a one size fits all when it comes to this.
Where we went wrong with Immy is we asked her too frequently if she needed to go. It frustrated her, and I could see that, but for some reason I just couldn’t help asking! The worst thing that could happen is she would wee on the floor, but something inside me just didn’t want her to do that. Not because of the floor (hell no, we have 2 dogs and 3 children – a bit of wee is nothing). I just didn’t want her to get upset and feel like she had failed, which in hindsight sounds silly I guess, as it’s inevitably going to happen.
Anyway, she got so annoyed at me that she decided enough was enough and she would do things on her terms. For those of you who know Immy, this won’t come as a massive shock.
She decided all poos would be on the potty, and wees would be on the floor a few minutes after I asked her if she wanted to go, followed by a dramatic announcement of “oh noooo, Immy’s done a wee on the floor again – Mummy clean it up.’
We also bought her a star chart, but she wasn’t interested in that at all. She loved the star stickers, but not to reward her potty success. She liked using them to sing the family finger song, and to stick on Tabby and Wilf.
So we decided to stop. I’ve heard that waiting a few weeks until they are properly ready is key. I thought, perhaps that way we can let things smooth over and we can start anew. However, Immy didn’t want to stop completely, so we entered this limbo where she was half trained and did what she wanted. “It’s a Monday, sure I’ll wear a nappy. Today is Wednesday, I think I’ll wee on the sofa today. Friday you say, I’ll use the potty today like a champ.”
This also fell at a time when restrictions were easing, and she was starting playgroup, gymnastics and rugby tots, so I felt a break to get used to being out again would be best.
So, how did we do it? Here’s the annoying part … in all honesty, I don’t know. One day I decided it wasn’t fair to keep her in limbo, so Ross and I decided we would just bite the bullet and put her in knickers, even when we went out. We also stopped asking her if she wanted to go. We just left her to it, and you know what, she did it! She started telling us she needed to go and reveled in the praise that came with the success.
I sent her to playgroup the first week she started going properly, and she came home dry. Immy has always been a social learner, and I think having other toddlers to learn from helped her along the way. Within a week she was fully trained, and now just takes herself off to the loo, and only wears nappies at nap and bedtime.
Now I know this might not be at all helpful, but as I said, I’m no expert. I just wanted to show you that it’s not a one size fits all with potty training (or anything with parenting in fact). So many children will do really well with some encouragement and prompts, but that’s just not Immy. They all get there in the end don’t they, it’s just a case of riding out the wave.
I’m sure there will be accidents to come. I mean, we haven’t really been anywhere apart from her toddler groups. We are yet to do a long car journey, or be somewhere where a loo isn’t easily accessible. Who knows when we will get the chance to do that (I nearly went a whole blog without mentioning the C word), but I have every faith she will adapt and continue to be a potty using pro.