Complete Guide to Positive Potty Training
I’m just going to be honest, this might be our third time around, but every child is different, and to add to that, this one’s a boy. I need this post as much as anyone!
Tip 1. Setting the scene:
You’ve been prepping your little one about what’s going to happen next. You’ve had the potty in the bathroom for a little while. You’ve talked about what a potty is for and how you use it. You’ve had lovely conversations with them about them being a big girl/ boy now, that soon they’ll be able to use a potty and won’t need nappies/ diapers anymore, that they can have big girl knickers/ big boy pants.
Let them know that the potty is theirs. Maybe they can help to decorate it? Write their name or draw a picture on (or under) it – obviously you’re going to need permanent markers for that. Let them sit on it as often as they like, and make sure to encourage them when they do.
Preparing for D-Day:
You’re going to need to buy A LOT of knickers/ pants! They’re going to get through 10 – 15 pairs a day. Are you going to be able to wash and dry them all every night? Do you have a washing machine, or do you have to use a laundry? You’re going to need at least 20 – 30 pairs, and at this stage you want everything about those pants to be a positive, enjoyable experience, so it’s definitely worth investing that little bit extra to get pairs your little one is going to like.
Right before you start, make sure all your clothes have been washed and your laundry baskets are empty! There’s going to be plenty of washing to do over the next week or so without a backlog of everyone else clothes. It’s not just their pants, even if that’s all that they’re wearing! It’s going to be towels, bathroom mats, rugs, sofa covers, your clothes, cushions, chair covers, bedding… Mattresses?
You need fabric stain remover, disinfectant, a cleaning product, cloths, wet wipes, a mop and a bucket. And that bucket is going to be your best friend! From the day you start potty training, have your bucket filled with hot soapy water and stood (out of reach) ready to go. It’s not just for unexpected accidents around the house. It’s to have by the potty when there’s a bit of a leak, or when a momentarily unsupervised two year old decides to empty the potty into the toilet themselves!
If you have older children, prepare them for what’s going to happen. It’s not only about telling them that their little brother/ sister is going to start using the potty soon. They need to know that it’s going to take a little while; that they need to ‘learn’ to use the potty and that means learning to know when they need to pee and poo, learning to hold it until they get to the potty and learning how to let it go once they’re sitting there.
Tell them about when they learnt to use the potty; show them pictures. Let them know that their little sister /brother is very likely going to start peeing and possibly pooing all over the place! And that you never really know when that might happen. Talk to them about what you’re going to do when accidents happen and how you’re going to react to that. About keeping calm when there’s a leakage and not making a fuss about it. About not making their little sibling feel awkward, embarrassed or ashamed about anything that may happen. Talk about how they can encourage this learning by acknowledging and praising when they see them sitting on the potty.
If you have children’s books about potty training it’s great to read these with older siblings too (age dependent of course).
Once you get the potty training in motion:
Make potty visits fun! When we started potty training our oldest, she was also at nursery during the day, this was one of their tricks: Keep some books and toys in a box next to the potty. When your little one sits down, let them take out books to look in and toys to play with while they sit there. Making it fun to sit there, and distracting them from the task at hand means they stay there longer and without any pressure to perform all of a sudden 10 minutes later, maybe they’ve pee’d!
Planning potty visits. This again was a trick from the Swedish nursery, structured ‘potty visits’. Of course the toddlers could go to the potty whenever they needed to, but alongside that there was a plan. Everyone went to the potty at about 9am before they went outside in the morning; at 11.30, after they’d eaten lunch and before they have a nap; and at 2pm straight after their nap.
Think about what time of day your little one normally fills their nappy. Having a structure during the day, at least for the first couple of weeks means knowing that they have had regular sessions on the potty and opportunity to use it. It also means you may spare yourself and your little one at least half of the ‘do you want to go to the potty’ repetitions.
When you’re ready to tackle nappy free nights:
Buy 3 or 4 protective sheets! In Sweden it’s most common that you buy lengths of this fabric rather than fitted sheets, obviously though, there’s different products available in different countries. A little tip if you’re buying lengths of fabric – they don’t need to be as big as the mattress, 2/3 the size is perfect since it’s not the head and toe ends that need the protection.
Why 3-4? This tip is fantastic! It’s because whenever you make the bed you want to fix at least 2 layers. Being woken up in the middle of the night to an upset child with wet pajamas and a wet bed is enough to deal with, without needing to remake the bed as well. The idea here is that you put a protective sheet on the mattress followed by a regular fitted sheet; then another protective sheet and another regular sheet on top of that. Then when you’re stood there at 2am, all you need to do is take off the top 2, and voila the bed’s ready to be slept in.
Going along with the same idea, it’s great to have an extra blanket/ quilt, already sorted and ready to go, so should it be necessary you can just through the wet one into the wash and not need to start looking for quilt covers in the middle of the night.
When you’re starting out, you might want to go for three layers right from the beginning. Whether or not you need the fourth depends on how often you’re going to be able to wash everything.
A final tip in this section, when it comes to tackling nappy free nights is don’t be too quick to put the washing machine on! There’s this feeling of satisfaction having completely dealt with a leak, toddler back in bed asleep and the washing machine quietly spinning… But you can be stood there 30 minutes later with another urine soaked pile of laundry and nowhere to put it! Hold off until your washing machine is full.
Tip 10. Make sure you take care of the cleaner!
Despite all our eagerness, research, preparation and awareness of all that potty training may entail, there comes a point when when running around like a crazy person from puddle to puddle to washing machine to mop to disinfectant to poo, to wet wipes to shower to… is both mentally draining and exhausting! You ARE going to need a break. A breather. A moment to recharge. Plan it in from the beginning! You’re starting tomorrow… Ok, then it’s your night out in 2 days; child-free coffee with a friend 2 days after that; an hour off reading a book in the garden 2 days after that.
If one parent is at home and one is working, then try to plan a few days in the week when the one that’s out working starts a bit earlier so they can get home a bit earlier. Or get grandma, your brother, or a friend to come by for an hour or so in an afternoon to break it up a bit.
Regression is TOTALLY normal! Your little toddler can be right at the stage when they’ve mastered all the tricks; know exactly what they’re doing; totally nailed it; and suddenly they’re stood on the doormat peeing in their knickers/ pants again! Try to keep in mind that this really is a huge step for them, and that despite being ready for it and excited about it, they’re also suddenly surrounded by everyone calling them a ‘big girl/ boy’ all of a sudden and that’s unfamiliar, nerve-wracking stuff… They’re still the little one they were 10 days ago, they just learnt a new game.
Also, they’ve had weeks of your FULL attention. You’ve followed them everywhere, checked up on them constantly, been completely focussed and attentive to every word they’ve said in case any one of them might have been ‘pee, poo, potty…’. All of a sudden no one’s asking them anything. Where’s the fun in that!
How’s your potty trainer experience been? What’s worked for you? Is there anything you’re worried about?