Of all the stages children go through, the one I was most nervous about when having children was the potty training phase. I had heard that it can be a real challenge (and a messy one at that!) so had not been looking forward to the process. My daughter at 3 is now fully potty trained, including being dry through the night, and I have to say, looking back, the process was a lot easier in reality than I expected. For anyone who is just starting out with their toddler’s journey – here is what we did to train Erin, and some of my hints and tips to help make the process as stress free as possible!! 🙂

I first started thinking about potty training when my daughter was about 18 months old. Erin had a really bad viral infection and we ended up in A&E being asked for a wee sample. This was a lot easier said than done – we found that getting her to do a wee outside of her nappy was virtually impossible! She would not wee without the security of her nappy and kept begging us for one – crying “Pappy Pappy!!” As soon as we put one on her she would wee. The poor little thing was holding it in until she felt comfortable to go, and clearly didn’t like the feeling of wetting herself. We chatted to the nurse at the hospital at the time, who told us that we should let her experience being nappy free as often as possible, otherwise she felt she would struggle with confidence when it came to potty training. We took her advice, and when she was better, spent a few weeks with Erin getting her used to naked baby time! 🙂

We then decided to start potty training in a non pressurised informal way. She was still relatively young at nearly two years old, so we did not feel that we needed to rush the process.

First of all we decided to focus on familiarisation – We bought a potty and simply started to ask her to sit on it, with no pressure, just to get her used to it. Erin would sit on the potty quite happily for ages, but never actually do anything. However this was progress. I know some children who don’t even want to sit on it at all, but Erin seemed quite excited by the prospect! 🙂

As the months passed, we then incorporated Story Time – to encourage learning about the potty. We used the personalised penwizard book – http://realmumreview.com/review-penwizard-personalised-princess-potty-book/ which told the story about big girl pants and how big girls wee and poo in the potty or toilet rather than in their nappies. We read this book fairly regularly as Erin liked the fact that the little girl looked just like her!

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One of our biggest progress tasks came when I bought erin some special Disney big girl pants in the Next sale. At the time Erin was just over 2 and a half. Erin is a massive princess fan and wanted to put them on straight away. That evening she was wearing her new Cinderella pants and suddenly made a little panicked noise – I realised that she needed a poo and quickly plonked her on the potty, – she did her first poo there and then – albeit not planned! 🙂 – We made a real fuss of her and told her what a clever girl she was and she loved all the positive attention.

From that point onwards we started to up the anti, and started full potty training. We decided to incorporate a reward chart – and used stickers so that Erin learned about positive reinforcement for her actions – it really worked! Every time from that point forward that she wee’d or poo’d on the potty she got a sticker – and would actually say “I get a sticker now!” with real excitement at the prospect. Obviously you can  buy fancy reward charts – but we literally used a piece of cardboard and some frozen stickers from Sainsburys! It did the trick! We alternated between big girl pants and pull ups and generally she did really well. We did have a few accidents initially – I am not going to lie – there were a few wees on the floor and the odd poo that started to come out before she got there!

Moving forwards, consistency was key. We had to make sure that we followed similar patterns both at home, and at nursery and her grandparents. We spoke to both of them about what we had been doing at home, and even took the reward chart along with her, so that the routine was the same and the message was further reinforced. She would have more accidents at nursery than at home, but I think part of this was due to her being distracted by everything going on!

We did experience some “Never mind” moments – Erin had a few inevitable accidents, but I didn’t tell her off,  and tried to say never mind and explain to her that she should use the potty next time, or tell mummy that she needs the toilet. This seems to sink in and didn’t make her feel embarrassed for having not got there in time.

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The biggest challenge we had was partly due to my confidence – Losing the pull ups – when it came to it I just had to be brave! This was actually the transition moment for us. The pull ups actually gave Erin a bit of a false sense of security, so despite the fact she would use the potty regularly throughout the day, there would always be the odd little wee that crept out into her pullups – I guess because of their similarity to a nappy. Once we lost the pullups all together, she started doing all her wees on the potty, and didn’t really look back!

We made Erin feel really proud of her achievements – saying things like “clever” and “big girl”. She was very proud of herself and soon transitioned naturally to the big toilet. After a few weeks of being dry she would ask for the big toilet rather than the potty. We have been using the Pourty toilet seat and step, meaning Erin can get herself on and off the toilet and doesn’t risk falling down it or needing to be held by me! 🙂 As a mum to be that was a real bonus!

The biggest frustration for me of the whole process was being preapared to run in those first few weeks out and about – you can guarantee as soon as you sit down for dinner in a restaurant you will get “Mummy I neeed the toilet” – or you sit down at Disney on Ice having already moved an entire row once to “Mummy I need the toilet” – only for her to not go when you get there! Its frustrating, but better that than dirty pants! 🙂

Erin as well would sometimes use it as a bit of a ploy at bedtime – often as a buying time tactic so she could stay awake a bit later! It was hard to know whether she genuinely needed it or whether she was messing around, but at first I had no choice but to assume she was being genuine! As the time went on, it became more obvious when she was just using it as an attempt to get me back in her bedroom!

In the last few weeks, we have lost the pull ups at night and she now sleeps in just her pants and pyjamas. Considering everything that has been going on in our house recently (with a new baby and Mummy being away in hospital), I think this is a massive achievement. We left the pull ups on at night for quite a while, but found that 99% of the time they were 100% dry when she woke, so I think this was done more for our reassurance than hers!!

The whole experience was not as traumatic as I expected, and I think starting it without thinking about it too much in advance actually really helped! We started slowly without too much pressure on any of us, and it just worked. I am a strong believer in the saying that it will happen when they are ready.

My biggest concern now is that Erin will digress slightly now that her baby sister has arrived, as I have been told this is very common. I need to reinforce the message that we are proud of Erin for going on the big toilet, and that baby only wees in her nappy as she doesn’t understand how to do anything different. Wish me luck!

What other tips would you give mums and dads starting off their children’s potty training journey?? x