The idea of potty training has always scared me a bit.
Every other issue that has caused me anxiety I have found a sneaky way around it. I avoided the financial strain and endless cardboard boxes cluttering my house by using washable nappies, I avoided the strenuous task of preparing batches of homemade veg purees when I did Baby Led Weaning, I started babywearing and found getting about so much easier than ramming my pram up and down curbs… how was I supposed to avoid scrubbing my floor of baby poo whilst my naked son danced around the living room weeing? That was all I could see.
I had it in my head, pre-parenthood, that children all got to two, then with effort and stubbornness the parent got them using the potty or the toilet. If they didn’t they were probably lazy.
I suppose I knew I was going to take a child led approach to it but it was so unknown. When is a child ‘ready’? Mine turned two and had a vocabulary of about 50 words, and his communication was not at the average level. He didn’t have any idea that he had dirtied or wet his nappy; it was something that had never bothered him.
He had had access to a potty since he was 18 months and had been encouraged to sit on it whilst the bath ran (in the hope of encouraging a coincidence to learn from). It was very new and exciting for a while but it soon became a stress and that was the last thing I wanted it to be. Two coincidence wees and one coincidence poo were the fruits of our labours – and that was far from worth it.
So the potty became a hat and I started to let go of the idea of having a child trained at 2. I was due my second son; it was a bad time. But I knew in my heart of hearts he wasn’t ready and there wasn’t a gentle, loving way of teaching him – and that was a good reason to stop.
I didn’t think much more about it until I could see his awareness changing, probably 4 months later. I could see he was absorbing and learning so much: suddenly he grasped puzzles, using a fork, and widened his vocabulary considerably. His final molars broke and I started to wonder about how he learnt, why he picked up some things and not others. What excited him? What interested him and motivated him to learn?
We did. He learnt through watching and then by doing – his language was nowhere near a level where something could be explained. An adult ‘reason’ for doing something couldn’t be grasped. It had to be an instant consequence – he could see us doing something, try it, then establish its usefulness. Our little scientist.
He had entirely learnt to eat this way, play with his toys this way, climb onto the sofa… how could I apply the way he learnt to toilet training?
Maybe I needed to change my perspective on this; rather than toilet training, this was going to be toilet learning.
So we started getting his attention when we used the toilet, and although he wasn’t as good at language we explained it simply. We occasionally asked him if he wanted to go on the toilet and do a weewee; sometimes we got a yes – it was quite a privilege to sit on the toilet (especially on your own special seat!)
So one day I offered him some light motivation: ‘If you do a weewee on the toilet you can push the button’. It just clicked, and to my surprise he did it for the novelty. He knew how to isolate the right muscles to some extent! I was quite excited.
So I would ask him from time to time, and sometimes he said yes, others no. He once asked to go at a friend’s house and surprised us both by actually going. As time went on we offered more frequently, we got less wet nappies, we put him in pants part time (subject to plenty of accidents!) – he was figuring it all out.
Within 4 weeks I managed to pick up his ‘poo-signs’ effectively enough to take him and I will never forget his delighted little face as he heard and then mimicked loudly ‘A plump!’.
It was all a natural progression; he would go to the toilet when offered and taken. Accidents decreased, I got braver with a few pants outings (not all successful) and he still wore nappies when we went out sometimes.
Our toilet learning adventure is still on-going. I’m amazed as it has all happened so quickly and he has led the way and seems to be quite proud of his achievement. He’s starting to ask frequently now as well as remaining dry overnight – we use less than one nappy a day. He still wouldn’t understand a decent explanation; he doesn’t think using a nappy is ‘naughty’ or ‘bad’ and he never had pressure to progress. I haven’t felt stressed and have never had to scrub smeared poo off the floor.
And my child has not done a naked wee dance.