Potty-training. The word filled me with fear. It seemed like an insurmountable hurdle. I decided to delay it until my daughter turned two and then, when she did, I decided to wait a bit longer until the winter break, when she would be home from nursery and I would be able to do the whole ‘nappy-free in three days’ trick.
Before I knew it, she was two and a half and still in nappies. I kept putting it off because there wasn’t a good time for us to be at home for three days solid. When the opportunity presented itself, I dusted off the potty we had bought and decided to take the plunge.
I started by keeping her nappy-free and without clothes from the waist-down. I would carry the little potty with me wherever we were in the house, in the kitchen, in the playroom, in my bedroom… and I began by placing her on it every half an hour or so.
That wasn’t effective. Her bladder wasn’t full in 30 minutes and so she was getting confused as to why she was sitting on the potty. I realised that I needed the association of the potty and the physical feeling of the ‘need to go’. So I decided to wait until it was obvious she was about to do something and then to quickly place her on it.
I spent time watching her closely – making sure I wasn’t allowing myself to get distracted by something else – so I could get her to the potty in time. However, it would often happen that, for the entire two hours that I was keeping a close eye on her, nothing would happen. But the minute that I’d get busy with something, she would go into a corner like a little kitten and do her business.
The first few days, there was a lot of confusion (on her part), and lots of cleaning (on mine). But she slowly started to get the hang of it, she would rush to the potty when she felt she needed to and she got better control of her bladder.
I made a point that I would not say ‘good girl’, or reward her for it every time she got it right and I would also not make a big deal out of it if she got it ‘wrong’. I also did not promise her a ‘big present’ when she was completely potty-trained. I wanted her to be internally motivated and I didn’t want such a regular transition in life to seem like a big deal.
When she got it right, we would do a little dance and clap and some cheering to encourage her. Soon, we didn’t have to carry the small potty around the house with us as she could make it to the bathroom in time. When she had a small accident, or she didn’t make it in time, I’d say, “It’s ok. It happens. Next time, we’ll try to get to the potty on time”.
By the second or third week, we were nappy-free at home (except at night), but she was still wearing nappies out of the house. One day, we were getting ready to go out and she refused to let me put a nappy on.
I decided to go for it and see what happened. She was totally fine – no accidents. By that point she was going to the toilet every two to three hours and, if she didn’t tell me, I would take her to the potty, or toilet, around that mark.
From that day on, she refused to wear nappies except at night time and, although we had one or two random accidents – normally due to a flat out refusal to go to the bathroom when she’s busy with her friends – it has more or less been a successful journey.
When I look back at our potty-training journey, what strikes me is that nothing that happened was intentionally introduced by me. I didn’t wake up one morning and say “OK, today we will go out without diapers”. It was completely child-led and I simply picked up on her cues to tell me she was ready. It was a slow transition and one that was stress-free because of that.