We Potty Trained By Ignoring All The Advice

The first time we tried potty training, it was a total and utter disaster. So much so that I was rather apprehensive about giving it another go. I had continuous nightmares that my 2-year-old would still be in nappies well into her teens, or even worse, that she was already psychologically scarred.

I needn’t have worried because when we tried again two months later, it barely took a weekend before we were accident-free at home. There is definitely no smugness as I know full well how disastrous the potty training roulette can be.

We did things differently second time around though, we ignored all the advice!

They said …

Don’t start until you see all the signs of readiness

Any Google search will produce a well quoted list of potty training readiness signs. The psychological aspect however, is not so easily spotted. For my daughter, it was more like a barrier to overcome rather than a developmental thing. She wasn’t ready to let go in the toilet, simple as that.

Strangely enough, once we gave up, she started to insist on reading this (terrible) potty book over and over, and would rush even more eagerly into the bathroom the moment she heard a fly unzip.

When we decided to give it another go, I could feel an emotional acceptance.

They said …

Whatever you do, don’t go back to nappies

I wish I wish I wish I had stopped earlier on our first training attempt! Everything I read said once you start, don’t EVER go back to nappies, no matter what. Doing so would confuse them and set up a tougher “battle” for next time.

From day one, I could feel deep down that she wasn’t 100% comfortable with it all. As the days ticked by, her discomfort grew to the point where she would rather get up from her potty to pee on the floor than let go on there. Clearly her accidents were not because she simply forgot. Her occasional “hits” made it all the worse as it gave us hope to persevere.

Here’s a revelation: it should not feel like an uphill marathon. It shouldn’t take months and months. If that is happening, then it’s best to stop. There is no shame in trying again.

They said …

Prompt frequently

Most sites and forums suggest monitoring your toddler’s fluid intake and then persuading them to try the potty at regular intervals when you feel they need to go. When you think about it, this is actually quite weird.

If someone asked you every ten minutes whether you needed to use the bathroom, you might start to get a bit defensive and even if you did need to go, you’re probably not going to admit it.

Taking away their independence and undermining them goes against everything that growing out of nappies is supposed to do. It’s a step towards making up their own minds, not having someone else nag constantly.

They said …

Watch your toddler like a hawk and rush her to the potty

First of all, following and watching someone intently for hours is enough to creep most people out! It would certainly make me think twice about going to the toilet, especially if they insisted on following me in there too.

Secondly, the last thing a learning toddler needs when she’s got pee running down her legs is to be hurried to the potty, still peeing, slipping and trekking the stuff everywhere. This did nothing except cause my daughter further anxiety around the whole thing.

This time around, we just left her to it. We reiterated what needs to be done in the potty and when she needs to go, she can simply ask. We rarely prompted her and when she did have an accident, we just mopped it up, explained that we don’t pee on the floor/in trousers/chair and that was that. Move on.

They said …

Offer her lots of fluids during the day or salty snacks

Seems like a good idea – practice makes perfect after all. In reality it just made my toddler suspicious of everything we were pushing on her. It seemed the more we wanted her to do something, the more resistant she became. Not like toddlers at all.

They said …

Don’t leave the house for the first couple of days

Are other people’s 2-year-olds not bouncing off the walls by 7am each day?! There was no way we were going to be able to keep her indoors for more than a morning let alone days on end. We continued as normal and this meant running around crazily outdoors to expend as much energy as possible.

Give them some credit and these little munchkins will surprise you. In those first few days, she went in her potty behind the car, a portable toilet at a country show, a regular adult toilet (I forgot to bring the training seat) and squatted in the bushes. She didn’t bat an eyelid and just got on with it, like a grownup.

I say …

Trust your child to take responsibility and give them a little piece of independence that they so desperately crave. Every time my little girl put a sticker on her chart, her whole face lit up with pride. Ignore social pressures and age guidelines, as many wise parents have said before: they’ll be ready when they’re ready.

And lastly, cannot argue with this one, rewarding with treats absolutely work. It’s amazing what a toddler will do for an M&M. When they’re gaming the system by squeezing out a few drops every twenty minutes to get a little round of colourful sweetness, you’ll know they’ve nailed potty training.


  1. We ignored a bit of the advice out there as well. Now potty training kid two, I’ve been more relaxed, and she has gotten better slowly! It took three tries with the first, and then something just clicked that last time that hadn’t before.

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