9 Things You Really Need To Know About Potty Training
Now that his second child is out of nappies, Pat Fitzpatrick shares his top tips on Potty Training.
1. The Potty Training Book
The go-to book is Gina Ford’s, Potty Training in One Week. This sounds as optimistic as Get your Two-Year-Old to Dress Himself Using Praise And Cooing Sounds. That said, it is practical and clear and not overly optimistic, given our younger fella managed to train himself over a weekend. (We are thinking of putting up a bronze statue of him in the back garden. His big sister is a little upset with all the attention, but he is definitely our favourite now.) Here’s the main thing that Dads need to know about Gina Ford’s book. You won’t read it, despite swearing blind that you would. There doesn’t seem to be anything anyone can do about this. I’ve read a bit of it for this article, so feel free to quote me like a boss.
2. Potty Prep
The whole potty training arena can be very competitive. Gina Ford reckons that a child should be ready for potty training from the age of 18 months. There is no point in arguing about this because Gina Ford sold a squillion books, and I haven’t. Bear in mind that all your partner’s friends will have the same idea when they read the book – I can do better than that. That’s why you’ll find women showing Elmo’s Potty Time video to their four-hour-old baby in the maternity hospital. Like I say, competitive.
Your main job will be soaking small wet underpants every night because your 18-month-old didn’t quite get what was going on in the Bear in the Big Blue Mountain Potty Training Video. The good news is she can sing every note of the weird rap in that video (look it up); the bad news is she often does this while wetting herself.
3. You put your botty on the what?
The Elmo and Bear in the Big Blue Mountain songs work a treat, as long as the child is old enough. They are simple, addictive songs that seem to get into their heads. The problem is they’ll also get into your head. Which is fine until you drift a bit during an important meeting at work and suddenly blurt out, ‘You do the poo poo that you do so well.’ With any luck, your boss will have kids and might even join in. Otherwise, I hear LinkedIn is the best way to find a new job.
4. When is the best time to do it?
Gina Ford says the best time to take on potty training is during the summer when its dry and the child can spend most of its time outside. She’s obviously never been to Ireland. But soaking dirty underpants in a bucket is slightly more palatable when it isn’t freezing cold outside. Which in Ireland, is from mid-June to late July. There’s your window of opportunity.
5. Reward Charts
We got a lot of mileage out of reward charts for the first born. They’re cards with, say, 20 spaces for stickers, and you put a sticker after every successful visit to the potty. A row of stickers earns a small treat; a full card earns a bigger treat. Just to be clear, the treat is for the child. Toilet training is tough for parents, but there’s no need to award yourself a weekend in the Hotel Europe just because you filled a chart.
The harsher side of rewards charts is that you remove a sticker after every ‘accident’. I’m not sure this does much for the child, but as a parent, it gave me some satisfaction before I set about clearing up the mess. (I never said I wasn’t petty.) 6.
6. I’m finished!
That means she did a poo and needs someone to come in and wipe her bum. (There’s another thing you didn’t think about before you had children.) Some people are weird about wiping anyone else’s bum. The alternative is you insist that she wipes her own bum. Go that route if you enjoy dealing with a child who has half a roll of toilet paper stuck to her bum and looks like she is about to start a dirty protest. Otherwise wipe away until they are coming up to school age. (They don’t have someone to wipe their bums in school. I checked.)
7. Water, Water Everywhere
Just because you don’t wash your hands after going to the toilet doesn’t mean you should pass that habit on to your kids. The bit you never tell you in potty training school is that you will also need to teach kids how to wash their hands. The good news is it’s very easy to get a child to start washing his hands. The bad news is virtually impossible to get him to stop. It’s like one of the 10 Commandments for Kids reads ‘Thou shalt never willingly step away from running water.’ Bear that in mind as you bask in the glow of a child doing his first poo in the potty. You are now going to have to spend ten minutes trying to lure them away from the sink. And then another five minutes mopping the bathroom floor.
8. Do you need to go?
The five words that dominate your life after the nappy comes off – do you need to go? There is an urge to check a nappy-less child every ten minutes. This gap drops to every five minutes after you’ve cleared up your first poo-related accident. No one is going to judge you for that, it’s a messy business. But look at it this way – how would you feel if someone came up to you every five minutes and said, “Do you need to go?” The answer would be yes, I need to go to another family, please leave me alone. So, maybe step away from the child and let them make their own mistakes for a while.
9. Night Training
The final step is to take the nappy off at night. Views seem to differ on when a child is ready for this. Gina Ford reckons the child should be three, and have dry or nearly dry nappies in the morning, for a few weeks. I’ve heard others say you’re good to go after three dry morning nappies. All I’ll say is that it’s a good idea to put replacement sheets and pyjamas near their bed, so you won’t go bananas trying to find them at 3 am in the morning, after an accident. Let’s just say your patience levels might be somewhere between ‘livid’ and ‘angry crocodile.’ There’s no way you want to lay that on your child.
Daaaaad – Stop!!
I’m still congratulating our five-year-old when she goes, even though she hasn’t had an accident since forever. It’s like I’m afraid to stop with the praise in case I jinx it and she ends up back in nappies. But I guess I better stop at some stage. Otherwise, I’ll just end up at her 21st, praising in front of her friends for doing her wees. That’s not a great look.