Potty Training – A Relaxed Approach

Ever since I started working for an Early Years' Consultant I have come across a vast amount of information and a wide range of ideas through keeping up with social media feeds and industry press. And sometimes it can all feel a little overwhelming – which style will suit you best and how will you adapt what you see, hear and read into your reality of life as a parent?

One thing I have come to appreciate more than ever before is that there really is no "right" or "wrong" answer and most of us are just blundering our way through parenting, hoping to do the very best we can for ourselves and our children but knowing we will invariably get some things "wrong". Finding what works for you and your own family is key to not only surviving but thriving.

Some things I have found myself doing differently to how I thought I would prior to having a child of my own, others I have stuck with completely. Many of those things I already had strong ideas and preferences about came from experiences working in childcare and thinking "I like the way that parent does this, I hope I can achieve something similar when I'm a parent". But some things I just had no experience of whatsoever.

Potty training is one of those things! I've worked with under 2s and pre-school aged children, but never with this 2-3 year age when potty training usually begins. I have no experience and therefore had no pre-conceived ideas about how it might work or how I might make it as stress-free as possible. And so this is one of those areas where I would avidly read any messages that popped up on the various social media feeds I follow.

The one thing I really took from this is that I wanted to take as relaxed an approach as possible and that all children potty train in their own time. No matter what techniques people used, the one thing most seemed to agree on was that there was no rushing children to potty train, you could try for months without success and then as soon as they were ready they would "get it" within a week or two. Sounds good, right?

Except because both TJ and I work full-time, Little Man goes to nursery 3 full days a week. I also work another 2 days from home, fitting work in around Little Man as best I can. This means that there is very little chance for us to let him run around and just take it at his own pace. Were I at home with him every day I would simply leave his potty where he could find it as and when he wanted to, following his cues and just going along with his leads.

Little Man started holding on to his wee months ago, and so we decided that as he seemed to be showing more control and interest in the potty we would try potty training over Christmas. We had 2 whole weeks off with him and thought it was the perfect opportunity to have a "relaxed approach" to the whole thing. But what actually happened was we spent such a large amount of that time travelling and visiting family that there was very little time to just take it slowly… Little Man was put in nappies for journeys and visits to avoid stress (for him and for us) and so there was no consistency to it at all.

And so when he returned to nursery he was in pull-ups and had no interest in trying the potty. We continued letting him run around without a nappy on or "big boy pants" at home and he was doing okay. He really enjoys his Pirate Pete's Potty book and will happily sit on his potty whilst watching tv or reading a book. But he would then wait until his nappy or pants were put back on before doing his wee. He actually got quite upset when he did a wee in the potty at times, whereas others he would happily ask us to "flush" it down the "toilet". It was all a bit confusing…

Then the other day he had 9 accidents at nursery (which is entirely unheard of normally) and got very, very upset about it all. And I felt awful. Though I had set out to have a "relaxed approach" it just hadn't worked out as I had hoped. Little Man was obviously getting upset by it all and it was time to say "stop". The last thing I want is to stress him out about it.

I didn't want to take a complete step back, so instead of returning to cloth nappies we have gone back to disposable pull-ups. We had been using cloth training pants but they just aren't absorbent enough to deal with Little Man's mega wees! This way he can still pull his "big boy pants" down and sit on the potty, but he has the security of knowing if he wees himself it will be okay. It has taken a few days of reassuring him that these "special" big boy pants will do that but he seems much happier again now.

In retrospect we tried too early. He has the physical control but is not quite ready to take that big step. He is, after all, only 2 years and 4 months and whilst some children potty train this early, many don't. And I feel bad that we rushed him, but equally I know as a parent that the "relaxed approach" should not only benefit our children but also ourselves. We are all on a huge learning curve and if we can't cut ourselves some slack then who will? Certainly not the media who makes us all think that we should be competing in this parenting journey!! 

I misjudged the situation… but we got through it and we're just going to take it as it comes. If it takes until next Christmas to get to grips with the potty then so be it! Of course I would rather it didn't, but I am not going to stress Little Man and myself over it. Too much of life is spent comparing ourselves and our achievements with those of others, I don't want to start Little Man's life in that way. 

Now begins our new and improved "relaxed approach". I am sure we will make many more mistakes along the way, but hopefully we can continue to work through it together and keep listening to each other and honouring the feelings we all have.

So tell me, how did potty training work out for you and your family? Did you struggle with it or was it relaxed and straight-forward? I'd love to hear from you as I know everyone's experience is different!

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24 COMMENTS

  1. My sons nursery persuaded me to try potty training before I thought he was ready. Thinking they might know best I gave it a go. It was awful. There were rows and he really didn’t want to do it. After a week or so we stopped and I took the potty away and we all relaxed. 2 months later my son told me himself he was ready and he had it cracked within 24 hours and only one accident in the first two weeks. I would always advise to wait until you KNOW they are ready and don’t listen to anyone else.

  2. We waited until our daughter asked to stop using nappies at nearly 3, when she’d made the decision she was dry from there on out with only a couple of minor accidents. We’ll be doing the same with our son too, just waiting until he says he is ready.

  3. I’ve always been of the very old skool ‘hold them over a potty as soon as possible’ school, making the potty part of their lives even before they knew what it was for, it was just there x

  4. Mia is 3 in March and I haven’t ever tried potty training with her because I know she isn’t ready. With my eldest, I decided at 2 and a half that she was ready and pushed her and it was disastrous as she was so upset but other children her age where already trained and I felt she had to be too as I didn’t know any different. I stopped entirely and she led the way and one day asked to use the potty and she trained within a few days from there. I have decided to do the same with Mia and let her tell me when she is ready rather than me thinking she should be trained because it’s the norm to be trained at this age x

  5. We initially started potty training too early, he wasn’t ready and we waited a little longer. When he hit 3 we explained to him that he wouldn’t be wearing nappies anymore during the day and he understood. Yes it took a good few weeks and a few accidents but we got there! What really bugged me is that nursery were so intolerant, they wanted him back in nappies which I refused to do! Good luck, I’m sure you will get there soon!

  6. I left mine till they were pretty old as I was unwell.. They never used a potty, went straight to the loo and never had more than 2 accidents. I am a great believer in mums know what is best for their own children and once you step away from the competitive parenting life becomes easier

  7. Having had prescribed ideas about parenting before I began, I have relaxed so much more. My poor daughter was my learning curve – my son has had it a lot easier from me, and I totally agree with you about waiting re potty training.

  8. I had to work really hard with my son as he was 3 and just not interested. Thankfully he got it in a couple of weeks but it was much harder than I expected it to be. I’m waiting for my 2 year old daughter to show me some signs but she’s blatantly not interested either!

  9. Mine have all been ready at different stages. Fran is now 3 and uses the potty occasionally but is very possessive of her wees and won’t give us the potty back to empty. A tug of war with a full potty is never going to end well!

  10. I think each child is so different so it’s really important to listen to your instincts.
    For example, my youngest is now two and a half, and while I potty-trained his older sister at this age, he’s not interested in the slightest. I’m just going to wait it out.

  11. Relaxed approach is definitely the way forward. We spent ages hoping our toddler would use her potty for more than a hat! Then when she was ready she cracked it in just over a week 🙂

  12. I totally agree that every child has their own pace and time. You did the right thing by recognising that it was too early for him and finding a solution that makes him happy. When the time is right he will tell you x

  13. My little girl is only eight months so as much as I would love for her to deal with her toilet issues by herself, no chance yet haha. However I think when the time comes we will go with a slow and steady approach. It is important to look out for a time when the child is ready rather than pushing it on them, but that is my humble and as of yet untried opinion 🙂 Good luck

  14. You are so right about there not being a “right” or “wrong” way to parenting (on the whole!) and those who don’t take a more relaxed approach to things like potty training invariably end up with a determined, uncooperative toddler taking control and stool holding etc.

  15. The eldest would do a wee on the potty but it took months before he’d poo on there. The middle one would sit on it and not do anything; it took a few months before she did but then she was fine and the third basically potty trained herself because she didn’t think it fair that she had to wear nappies while her sister didn’t!

  16. We decided to wait until our boy was well and truly ready to use the toilet. He never used the potty except to sit and read magazines on so we didn’t push it.
    When we did encourage him out of nappies it was a few days of accidents but on his second day at nursery in pants he just got on with it.
    Being relaxed about it made all the difference. Good luck and take your time – there’s no rush at all 🙂

  17. We are in potty training hell here……she just hasn’t got that feeling mastered that she needs to go. At least she actually will sit on the potty or toilet unlike her brother used to!
    I am waiting until the warmer weather now

  18. Relaxed approach gets my vote. JD was ready when he was ready. Attempts before he was ready failed miserably, then suddenly he was potty trained in 2 days. We’re taking a similar approach with Miss J. We offer her the pot but it’s a case of no pressure, she’ll start when she’s ready to.

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