Toilet Training My Toddler

I started toilet training our daughter months ago. In fact, the day I found out I was pregnant with Little L was the day that I decided enough was enough and she had to be dry day and night by December.

Cue a lot of agro, and a lot of accidents.

They make it sound so easy. They make it sound like teaching your child to count to three. They also say a child in cloth nappies is easier to toilet train, because they know the sensation of going to the toilet and being wet better than children in disposables.

It was nothing like they say.

Starting out... and deciding what to have her wear.

As we had been using cloth nappies, I invested in cloth training pants. We were determined that we would continue to use them because we were worried R might react badly to pull-ups, the same way she had when we used disposable nappies.

However R just treated them like her nappies, weeing (and pooing) in them to her heart's content. The only problem with this is, they are only semi-absorbent. So every time she went to the toilet, it went everywhere.

A lot of mess to clean up later, I decided it wasn't working.

We bought some Huggies pull-ups, to see if they worked any better. Our thoughts were that the difference is design and comfort to the cloth would change her mind set towards using the toilet.

We were wrong.

The only difference with the pull-ups was that R was able to go to the toilet without having to worry about her pants leaking.

These above points - combined with the fact that when we went out we didn't reinforce the toilet training, and simply put her back in nappies - meant that we didn't get anywhere with the training.

Starting out... and deciding what to use.

Being slightly OCD about a lot of things, I was terrified of teaching R to use a potty. The idea of having to tip her poop and wee away and clean the potty out completely freaked me out.

So, we started by buying a purple hippo toilet seat and stool from Lidl.

She loved it, until she realised she had to sit on it. Then she refused, even threw massive tantrums when it came to going anywhere near the downstairs loo.

Finally, I caved.

I tried buying a Peppa Pig potty from Mothercare.

I explained what it was for, and left it where she could see it. I asked every so often if she needed to go for a wee, and pulled her pull-ups down to sit her on it whenever I could.

We had a few what I like to call, "pellet poos" where she forced out a tiny little poo, but mostly she didn't use it.

Starting out... and thinking outside the box.

My mom bought a Tiny Tears doll for R to help. When given her bottle filled with a little water, the doll would then 'wee' on the potty. Absolute winner... it had R wanting to sit on her own potty next to her doll. When she was sat there, she was all excited and ready to go. I thought, "yay!"

But she didn't go.

She sat there for hours, and the minute she was back in her pull-ups, she would go to the toilet.

I made a sticker chart next. Even dolly had a side on it. Whenever dolly went for a wee, she got a sticker. I told R she could have one too if she went.

When that didn't work (except to be an amazingly fun game!) I even tried putting her on the potty in front of me whenever I went for a wee. Which, as I'm pregnant, was quite regularly. I thought maybe she might like to be like mummy, and dolly, and start using the potty to wee.

That didn't work either.

After a while I gave up pushing it. We went on holiday, made trips to visit family, and then I fell ill. We kept the potty, stool and seat around, but rarely pushed the training, or reinforced it. We just kept changing her nappy.

Restarting... and how it worked for us.

In September, I decided it was time to start again. "This time", I said to my husband, "we don't give up!".

We went about it a little differently this time.

  • We bought a Frozen toilet seat and stool.
    Frozen is one of our girl's favourite movies, and she loves anything with Elsa, Anna or Olaf on it. Plus, we decided having two wasn't a bad thing anyway, for two reasons.
    1. We could have one upstairs and one downstairs (to save pregnant me having to ship it up and down the stairs)
    2. If we took one away with us (when we visit friends and family) it wouldn't matter if for whatever reason we forgot it and left it behind, because we'd have a spare one at home. *
  • John bought Frozen knickers.
    I have never seen such an excited look on anyone's face as that on R's when she saw the pack with her favourite characters on the front.
  • She mostly wears dresses.
    R loves to wear dresses. Mostly, we have her in leggings and t-shirts, because they are so much more practical when she's running around like a loony. However they are not so practical for a quick in-dress which is sometimes needed when R needs to go to the toilet. So we put her in a dress. As it gets cooler, she will need to wear tights, but she is now confident enough to even pull leggings down on her own, and mostly goes to the toilet with enough time to spare to get undressed before an accident occurs.
  • We left the stair gate open.
    Not everyone will have the luxury of being able to do this, but we are lucky that R is excessively well behaved (mostly) and doesn't go in to the kitchen without permission. The only time she goes through is if she needs to go to the hallway where the downstairs w/c is located.
  • We let her go alone.
    I'm not sure if it is my fault (probably is, from the thousands of times I've asked her to let me wee in peace!) but our daughter likes her privacy. Once I had helped her pull down her knickers and pull up her dress, she insisted I leave the toilet. Don't worry, I didn't go far, I stood on the other side of the door, and listened to when she had finished. These days she is able to undress herself alone, so I don't even have to get up until she needs help turning the tap on to wash her hands.
  • We never get cross.
    In the first few days (as you may have seen in a previous post of mine) we had a couple of accidents. Mostly, these accidents were when R would make it in to the w/c, but then wee on the floor, so they were easy messes to clean up. One time though, she pulled down her knickers behind the sofa and just pood on the floor - because she knew she wasn't going to make it to the toilet. I wanted to cry. I wanted to cry a lot. I had to clean poo off my carpet! However, the last thing she needed at that time was for me to lose my temper. She was so upset, she knew she had gone in the wrong place, and she knew she was meant to go on the toilet. So I didn't shout. I didn't get cross with her. She didn't mean to make a mess, and she was still learning. I asked her if she was ok, and explained to her that it was an accident, and that I knew she didn't mean to. I then cleaned her up first, and sat her on the toilet, in case she needed to go for a wee too. Afterwards, I put new knickers and clothes on her, and then cleaned up my carpet.
  • We don't change her into pull-ups or nappies for 'ease' when we leave the house.
    We made the decision (well I did anyway...) not to change her out of knickers, just because we were popping out. The first car journey to pick John up from work I panicked all the way there and all the way back. John told me I was crazy. I told him she had to learn. We didn't (and have yet to) have any accidents. She goes on the toilet before we leave, and holds in until we get back.
  • We reinforce the training.
    When we went out for the first time, to meet a friend for Costa, I was dreading it. I was determined she would only wear knickers; but packed a bag with spare everything just in case. I made sure she went for a wee before we left the house, and asked her every chance I got if she needed to go. It was the first time I had to hold her over a full-sized toilet seat but she went three times whilst we were out. We had no accidents. She was so proud of herself. So was I!

We are now into week 4 of toilet training, and she is 99% dry.

We have had a couple of incidents, mostly when she has gotten distracted, or over excited, (or been tickled to the point of weeing herself!) but she is doing so well, and loves the independence. She is even dry when she is at nursery, friend's houses and when we go to visit family!

We do still have her in pull-ups overnight - just in case - but she has yet to wet them, as she will go for a wee before bed and rush into the bathroom first thing in the morning when she wakes up.

I am so happy with her progress, and so surprised at how easy it turned out to be the second time around.

Who knew that the trick was simply to not give her an option (knickers are in no way, shape or form absorbant!) and put her in (and on) something she doesn't want to get dirty?!