Eimear Hutchinson: Tips for potty training your child

The summer is a great time to potty train your child, ahead of pre-school in September, says Eimear Hutchinson. Here she shares her tips for when your child is ready...
Eimear Hutchinson: Tips for potty training your child

The summer is a great time to potty train if your child is ready for it, many do it ahead of the impending pre-school year starting in September but don’t let that pressure you either. Picture: Stock

TOILET training is one of those things, like doing your Leaving Cert and learning to drive — it is a life experience most of us have to go through, whether we want to or not.

I’ve been through it three times now and have found the process so different with each child. Granted it doesn’t make me an expert on the topic either but I want to share some of the tips that have worked for me in the past.

The summer is a great time to potty train if your child is ready for it, many do it ahead of the impending pre-school year starting in September but don’t let that pressure you either.

If the weather cooperates, it means washing and drying clothes is easier and it also means less layers of clothes to get through in that first week where speed is everything!

The single more important thing to look out for before you start potty training is that your child is showing signs of willingness, and please note that I didn’t say signs of readiness. There is a difference.

Children often show signs of readiness by telling a parent when they have done something in their nappy or showing interest in using a potty. They may even go so far as to use a potty from time to time but there is a huge leap between that and taking off a nappy and putting on a pair of underwear.

For my second and third lady, I waited until they were able to tell me they were ready to be toilet trained. I was sowing the seed by asking them if they wanted to start or suggesting they do so for weeks and months beforehand, but I left it up to them tell me they did not want to wear a nappy anymore. It meant that the whole process was relatively straightforward because it was done on their terms...

Well, nothing with children is straightforward. My second lady told me she wanted to be toilet trained a week before I went in for a section to have my third lady and I left my mother in law to finish off the job for me, poor woman!

It is important to let the child lead in terms of what they want to use; some prefer a potty and some prefer the toilet with a training seat on top, have both on hand and let them decide. It can be a stressful enough experience for them so its nice to hand back some control. Whatever they decide, it’s usually helpful to leave a potty in the kitchen as a gentle reminder.

Once you have established that you are ready to start, approach the whole process with a sense of enthusiasm. The first couple of days you need to ask the child frequently throughout the day if they need to go to the toilet. I would say at least once if not twice an hour, especially in the hour after having food and drinks. It is usually less stressful to try and stick close to home for the first few days too.

We always employ a rewards-based learning system in this house, I get a big bag of jellies and offer one jelly for a wee and two for a poo. In my experience, within a few days they recognise when they need to go and the rewards can taper off then.

Shower them with praise when they are successful, and it goes without saying any accidents should be met with kindness and compassion and quickly and quietly cleared away. If and when they do use the toilet, I would encourage you not to flush it when the child is nearby for the first little while because this can frighten some children.

It is often more difficult for a child to pass a bowel movement, some find it strange and scary doing so into a toilet when they are so used to the sensation in a nappy so do your best to encourage them. Some find using the potty less daunting as there is less of a drop!

If they do become frightened, they can end up holding it in, leading to constipation. It is nice to have some of their favourite books or toys nearby to encourage them to sit for a little longer if they are slightly reluctant.

If, after about four or five days of trying, there doesn’t appear to be any progress and the whole experience is proving stressful and upsetting for the child, it is worth strongly considering giving up.

There are times when stress or a change in routine might cause a child to go backwards. One of our ladies was trained day and night and when we took away her soother at night she went back to bed wetting briefly, so we had to retrain her at night. Like many experiences in parenting, there are ups and downs, toilet training is no different!

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