Eimear Hutchinson: Tips on potty training your child

Toilet training is one of her least favourite jobs as a parent, admits mum of four Eimear Hutchinson, as she refreshers herself about the task ahead
Eimear Hutchinson: Tips on potty training your child

Is your child showing all the signs of being ready to be toilet trained — a willingness to do so, telling you when they are going to the toilet in their nappy, asking to use the potty? Picture: Stock

I HAVE to be honest and say that I had planned on writing an article discussing potty training because I thought I would be in the thick of it with my two-and-a-half year old — but alas, this fourth lady of mine has a mind of her own.

Now, don’t get me wrong, she is still only young so I am not pushing the idea of potty training on her fully yet, but I am gently and frequently dropping hints about potty training which are currently falling upon rather reluctant ears.

But isn’t that parenting summed up nicely in one single paragraph? 

Just when you think you might have a tiny portion of it figured out, it just takes one child to come along and put you back in your box and show you that in fact parenting is a constant learning curve!

I won’t let my belligerent toddler put me off writing my article though, I do need to refresh my approach to it regardless as it’s been about two years since I last did it. It is probably one of my least favourite jobs as a parent, not because it is a messy job and can result in one highly strung parent on days out (although that element will be fondly missed when potty training in the first half of 2021 as there is no where we can go now anyway!).

I dislike it because it can be strenuous on children emotionally. Generally speaking, it has always gone relatively smoothly in our house but there have been instances where it was accompanied by nightmares and the removal of a soother set one lady back and she had to be retrained by night again.

Without doubt, I think the most important thing that any parent has at the front of their mind when it comes to potty training is that this is not one of those times where you persist to succeed.

There is no shame in quitting potty training if your child is simply not ready, says Eimear. Picture: Stock
There is no shame in quitting potty training if your child is simply not ready, says Eimear. Picture: Stock

You may think your child is showing all the signs of being ready to be trained — a willingness to do so, telling you when they are going to the toilet in their nappy, asking to use the potty, but sometimes it can just be that when you start they just don’t get it. They have accidents that can leave them upset, it can cause frustration on behalf of the parent, none of which is good, productive or beneficial.

If, after a few days of trying, the potty training is not working out, my advice would be to call it quits in a cheery way and leave it off for another few weeks until they might be more able for it. 

There is no shame in quitting, if you are fighting a battle to get it done I don’t think it is a time to stick in your heels and persist.

Anyway, if you do find yourself in a position where you are the proud owner of a child who is, unlike mine, ready and willing to be potty trained, here are some tips that have worked perfectly well for me in the past.

Broadly speaking, my other three ladies were all trained within about the space of a week. I do have to give credit to my mother-in- law for training one lady as I was in hospital having our third baby when the second girl decided she wanted to start potty training. Knowing her as I know her now, this was probably a strategic move on her part to stress out my mother-in-law but no mother-in-laws were harmed in the process and the potty training went smoothly, even without my input.

It is always useful to start at a time where you know you can stay at home for a few days so you can try and get things under control with the training before you venture out into the world. I usually start at the weekend and have a decent stash of small sweets to hand as a reward — one for a wee, two for a poo. I should point out I don’t generally employ a rewards system in the house but for this particular task I am happy to break from the norm.

Ask the child frequently the first few days if they need to go to the toilet and encourage them to sit on the potty, every half hour at first, especially after they have had a meal. I taper off the asking and the rewards as the days go on and they start getting the hang of it.

I have always found it takes longer to train by night and in our experience each child was different in the time it took them to get through the night without accident. 

We have always put pull ups on our girls at night (differentiating them from nappies to alleviate confusion) and we stop putting on the pull-ups once they were consistently dry in the mornings. With some of the girls, we used to bring them to the toilet at around 11pm and I’m not sure if this was right or wrong but it worked for us.

Hopefully, my head-strong fourth child will be trained by the summer time, thus bringing to the end the era of nappies in our house after nine years!

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