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February 17, 2016

Potty Training Troubles? Here's How I Did It

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Getting Emma potty trained was quite a daunting task for me. I had already heard horror stories about how long it took other families to make the transition, including a story of a four-year-old who rather peed in the corner of the bedroom instead of the toilet. I prepared myself for a gruelling task.

I had tried to train Emma around March or April of 2015 and she was clearly not ready. She struggled with the concept of recognising her bladder's requirements and also with telling me when she needed to go. But sometimes it's just a matter of waiting until your toddler is ready. I tried again in August and she was potty trained in two weeks.

What was the trick, you ask? Three things, really:

1. Time: You have to be willing to set aside some time to spend just training them. A lot of parents try to train their toddler when they're at home but then when the children are at creche, they're kept in a nappy because it's easier for the care worker. This won't work. I set aside two weeks to train her.
2. Patience: While you need to let your toddler know that weeing on the floor or in their pants is not acceptable, you need to be patient enough not to lose your cool - it will simply upset them and they will relate potty experiences with your anger.
3. Persistence: It is really simple to just give up because they seem to be uninterested or there appears to be no progress, especially at the beginning. However, keep at it and you will be surprised.

It also helps to have some kind of plan. I started off by putting Emma on the potty every 10 minutes. If she happened to wee at that time, I praised her extensively. I increased the time span by five minutes throughout the day and the time spans became longer every day. I also used one of those portable potties so I could continue the training when we were not at home. A portable potty also made sense because it could be hers exclusively, making it special. And we could both use the toilet at the same time: it helps that they see you do it, too. When it came to using the big toilet, it was more of an adventure. She no longer uses the little potty. With number two, I continued to stress that using the nappy for it was wrong. She eventually started using the toilet for number two on her own. Our only hurdle now is night training, but we're waiting for her to be ready for a big bed.

Another thing that worked, especially for number two, was allowing her to be naked: she could not hide it if she just went where she was standing.

A lot of other techniques involve rewards and incentives, such as decorating the clothing with stickers to show another caregiver how well they performed or dropping a coin into a potty piggy bank. Personally, I feel as though using rewards is more of a bribe, making a simple act such as using the potty a give-and-take situation when it shouldn't be. (I recall Sigmund Freud believing that a child withholding a number two is meant to punish the parent, to me a sign that our bowel movements should not be a reward-based achievement.) It may also set an unhealthy precedent.

Other techniques you can try include:

- Splitting the training into sessions. Take three hours in the morning and three in the afternoon for two days where you put the toddler onto the potty every 15 minutes. With this technique, a full third day of training is required.
- If your child is old enough and struggling with number two (some children view it as a part of themselves and don't want to get rid of it), try explaining how the digestive system works. Use pictures.
- The wait-and-pee method, where you place a potty into the bathroom and wait for signals that your child needs to use the toilet. Apparently, your child will be in nappies a little longer.
- Using disposable training pants. These still allow the wet sensation, but then your child has been sitting in his own pee for a while already...
- If you must use the rewards method, try using prizes relating to toilet use, such allowing them to flush the toilet.

Once your toddler is using the toilet on their own, remember that accidents will still happen. Sometimes a game is simply too fun or they won't get to the toilet on time. Be upset but don't act as though it's the end of the world. When you overreact, they're less likely to come to you for help again.

{Image credit: Flickr/Tim Johnson (CC)}

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