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!