Saturday, February 28, 2009

Rough Guide to Potty Training

(mainly for Melanie ... feel free to skip!)

For what it's worth, here is my guide to potty training small girls ...

(1) Look for physical and mental readiness. These have to come together. If one or the other is missing, forget it. However convinced you are that she is physically capable, if her head says she isn't you will go nowhere fast. How do you tell if she is ready? Her nappies should stay dry for some time, and moderately regular bowel habits help. Watch for indications that she is aware when she does something in her nappy. Age is a good clue: many girls are physically ready at two; most by two and a half. As for mental readiness, take your cues from her. Is she aware of what potties and toilets are for? Talk up what grown ups and big girls do. Does she want to imitate you (or in our case, big sisters)? Does she seem interested or reluctant?

(2) Decide to go for it. Talk it up. Let her pick big girl underwear, or choose some you know she would like. Buy a potty and a toddler seat for the bathroom (if you haven't already) and acclimatise her to it. Pick a time where you know you can stay home for at least a couple of days. Warn her in advance ... "on Monday you are going to start wearing big girl panties and use the potty". If this results in shrieks and horror, wait a while!

(3) Pick an incentive. There are times when bribery is a vital part of parenthood. Potty training is one of them. A small but immediate incentive ("every time you use the potty you will get ..." probably works better than a larger, longer-term one ("once you are potty trained you can have ..."), because toddlers are immediate little people. Cherub has been getting chocolate buttons. Once the potty habit is there it won't disappear just because the incentive stops.

(4) On "P-Day", first thing in the morning remove nappy, replace with panties, point in direction of potty ... and wait for disaster to strike. Most little ones need to have a few accidents before they can begin to work out the mechanics of control. They are used to just letting it all spill out without a thought, and they need to work out what is happening, how it happens, how it feels before it happens, how to stop it happening, and how to make it happen for themselves. Twice over.

(5) Keep the potty wherever your toddler is going to spend most of her time. Also keep cleaning cloths, paper kitchen towel, wipes, and spare panties to hand. Potty disasters can spread rapidly as a confused toddler blunders around - you need to get in there and clean up fast!

(6) When the inevitable "accident" happens, calmly and brightly say something like "Oh look! A wee! Quickly to the potty!". You may be too late, but she will soon get the idea. Calm is essential, as small girls can get quite distressed by accidents. Explain that it is all OK and she will soon learn to get it in the potty. Calm is hard, as you clean up the seventh accident of the day. Offer it up. Cherub quickly worked out how to stop in mid-stream; re-starting the flow was harder ... but she managed it once the first day and again on the second. We got through twelve pairs of panties in the first two days, a lot of mopping up, and a lot of washing. Then in the evening of the second day she sat on the potty and produced a wee on demand. Triumph! Chocolate buttons! The next day she was taking herself to the potty, and since then she has only had two slight accidents when she didn't quite get there in time, both in the evening when she was tired.

(7) Play nap time by ear. Cherub insisted she wanted to stay in panties at nap time, and has consistently woken dry. Some toddlers might feel more secure if they have a nappy on at nap time for a while.

(8) If you try potty training for a few days and she is not getting it, give up and try again in a couple of months. She is probably not ready and there is no point trying to push it. We did this three or four times with Star from the age of two onwards, and she finally trained in a couple of days at 33 months. In fact, you can often tell within the first day or two that it just isn't going to happen - either the toddler appears totally unaware of what is going on, completely refuses to go near the potty, or gets hugely stressed. We had one abortive attempt with Cherub in the autumn, when she appeared enthusiastic to start with, but rapidly decided the whole thing was a Very Bad Idea. This time round it was clear from Day 1 that she was willing, if not always able.

(9) Wees and poos are not the same. Poos are often more of a challenge, as they can come as rather a shock to a toddler meeting them up close for the first time. Again, play it by ear. Poo accidents are often more distressing - to both parent and toddler! Give lots of encouragement, and maybe a bigger and better incentive. Cherub is definitely having more trouble with poos. We have had a couple of bath accidents (oh! trauma!), and near-the-potty accidents. She doesn't want to admit that a poo is on its way, which makes things tricky. Watch for poo-faces!

(10) Going out without a nappy is a hurdle that has to be faced. Take plenty of spare clothes and things to clean up with in case of emergency. Then grit your teeth and go! Cherub has done brilliantly when we have been out and about over the last couple of days, but is determined to visit as many different facilities as possible - preferably more than once.

(11) Go for it! If you are potty training, don't do it half-heartedly. Switching back and forward between underwear and pull-ups only confuses toddlers and makes the whole process take longer. (This bit of advice comes from K-next-door, who is manager of the local playgroup and deals with lots of potty-training small people.)

(12) Don't panic!

Of course, this is based on my personal experience, and all toddlers are different. I have been lucky in that I haven't had a difficult trainee. I used much the same process for both Cherub and Star, but Angel did it her own way and entirely on her own timetable. At two and a half she simply announced that she was using the toilet now, thank you, and didn't need nappies any more. However, she wanted a nappy on for her nap and at night, and would only do a poo in her nappy. About three months later, she decided it was time for poos to go in the toilet; then a few months after that, she decided against the nappy at night. She only ever had one accident.


Super Fun Mama said...

My daughter is urine dry and has been for some time but still wears a pull up because she will not have a bowel movement on her potty or toilet. Im not sure what to do about this.

Anonymous said...

OH lol, potty training. Was fun!

Squidge wouldn't do a bowel movement in her nappy until a year after she was urine dry. She just suddenly got over it. The trick is not to make a big deal about it and to encourage without being pressurising (which can make it worse I discovered). My friend had the same experience with her son. It was 8 months after being urine trained before he would do a bowel movement on the toilet.