Potty Training – Don’t Make These Mistakes

You know how we all have at least one cringe worthy moment in life where no matter how much time has passed, we still frequently revisit that train wreck just so we can bury our faces in the pillows? Well, I think our first attempt at potty training of our 22-month-old is going to be one of those moments. The experience is hot off the press, so I’m currently licking my wounds and hoping we haven’t scarred the kid for life!

I did a lot of reading and preparing beforehand, yet I had to abort plans 4 days into this terrible ordeal. As you’ve probably gathered, our first potty training experience was not at all successful and looking back, we hope to at least learn from our mistakes. There are countless resources out there detailing how potty training should be done but as we found out, there are many, many shades of brown! No one actually tells you what NOT to do, which surprisingly, is not just the opposite of what should be done. So here’s a synopsis of our balls up – don’t do these!

What the books suggest: Set aside some dedicated time to kick-start the process.

Sensible advice, however, a long weekend over New Year’s Eve is not the right time. We didn’t have any specific plans or places to be, but the whole nature of those days was just too exciting. There was hustle and bustle all around, one-off events that we felt a bit miffed to be missing out on, loud and bright fireworks, so on and so forth. No matter what you’re doing, choosing such a high profile time period creates an external buzz that is out of your control.

Next time … I’ll be taking some time off work during a dull, regular, mundane week. If it means taking some time out of nursery for my daughter, then so be it.

What the experts say: Put her on the potty frequently, especially when you think she may need to go. Get a training timer.

We did just this. Every two hours or so hubby or I would put our toddler on the potty at 10 minute intervals. Either leading her there or asking her to take herself, which she did reasonably willingly in the beginning. The problem is that it soon gets old. Very old. She got fed up of sitting around on there. Once she realised it was not a crime to get up and wander off, she did. Her mind was on getting back to doing something more interesting rather than doing her business. When we tried to engage her with the iPad or books while she sat there, she became engrossed in those instead.

Next time … I’m just going to explain what happens on the potty, which she already knows now, and leave it at that. Every time she has an accident, we’ll reiterate. If she can remember her iPad unlock pass code, I’m confident that she will eventually be able to remember where to poop!

What everyone says: Don’t scold or shame her when accidents happen.

Absolutely. I prepared myself for many, many accidents and since 90% of our floors are tiled, it’s really no big deal. But here’s the part I didn’t foresee – regression can happen DURING training and when you have absolutely no idea why your kid (who had started to put herself on the potty) is suddenly pissing on your sofa like she’s the Fontana di Trevi, you’re gonna feel frustrated! You can try your best not to let this show, but these little people are intuitive, they know when you’re about to lose it. The best way to get around this, is to not feel frustrated in the first place.

So next time … I’ll know to be prepared! Sounds simple and obvious, but it’s amazing how having expectations can trip you up majorly.

Speaking of expectations, some experts claim that you can have a potty train a toddler in 1 day/3 days/a week.

For every poor bastard out there whose offspring took 6+ months to toilet train, there’ll be a smug mug who boasts that their baby got it straight away. It’s cliché as hell, but every child IS different. My daughter took very well to sleep training and has long shown that she is ready for toilet training, so I figured 3 days was generous! Setting expectations like this is a guarantee for failure.

Next time … I definitely won’t! Sure, I’ll expect to be cleaning up a lot of mess, I’ll expect to repeat the word “pee” 542,784 during the process and when there is a nugget in the potty, I’ll expect to dance that thing all the way to the toilet like it’s the Tiffany diamond – but I won’t set a time expectation. It will take as long as it takes.

What most of the Internet says: Don’t quit potty training. Once you’re sure that your child is ready and you’ve committed to the process, even if all hell freezes over, do NOT put him back into nappies.

One of the biggest mistakes I made was not quitting sooner. Yes, I was sure my toddler was physically ready but there’s a large psychological element to this – which may come as a surprise given it’s such a normal thing to adults. So here’s what happened – she started with a healthy interest in the potty and after running around in her bare tush with a few accidents, she started to do her business in the potty (twice even unprompted). Then the resistance began, she was reluctant to sit on the potty and would pee on the floor/sofa/chair literally 30 seconds after having sat on the potty. Finally she started to hold in her pee to a point where she was dancing around in discomfort and only going 3 times a day (poor bubs!). This was not good and it was high time to take a step back.

Next time … hopefully we’ll have learnt some lessons and when we quit, it’ll be because the girl is fully toilet trained. If we realise that it’s another false start then there’ll be no shame in backing off to reassess the situation.

I’ll be back with an update in a few months. In the meantime, watch this space.

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