And you’ll be relieved to hear that the expert is not me! With Little Man just starting to potty train now, I’ve put a few questions to potty training expert and child psychologist Emma Kenny and here’s what she had to say…
First up, a question from one of my readers…
We’ve been trying on and off since April with no luck. Alfie has known when he needs a poo and will go in another room to do it and tell us not to look and since we’ve started trying to potty train he will ask can he do a wee when he’s got a nappy on. So he does know when he needs to go but when we put him anywhere near the potty / toilet he SCREAMS and sobs uncontrollably. How can we get past this? He’s 3 in September.
Right now Alfie is forming a negative relationship with the potty and this is triggering behavioural reactions that are distressing for all of you. When Alfie does a poo in his nappy, take it off and empty the poo into the potty praising Alfie whilst you do it. Start to associate him positively with his potty and allay his fears and frustration around his potty experience. It’s clear that he is ready, but he needs a break around the conflict he feels. I would also let him see how you and your husband use the toilet and allow him to flush the loo as this once again will help him positively associate. It can be really scary for children to see, smell and deal with poo, it looks so different from anything we put in our bodies and can cause anxiety. Showing him that you do the same can make it less scary.
I keep hearing he will let me know when he’s ready. But I want to know how exactly I will know?!
In some ways you will only truly know when he is remaining mostly dry and using the potty happily. That noted, if your boy stays dry for more than two hours, is coordinated physically, can indicate that he needs the toilet and can recognise his bladder and bowl movements and ideally dislikes feeling wet or nappy dirty then he is as ready as he can be.
What sort of things can we do to prepare our son for the start of potty training?
Allow him to own the journey; this can include him decorating his potty, you agreeing to read a few pages of his favourite book when he uses the potty etc. Communicate with him about how proud you feel of this new and exciting journey he is going on. Don’t get stressed or angry at any point as this will only heighten his anxiety. Put him in HUGGIES® Pull-Ups® because this will help him to feel a physical change and make it easier for him to be in control of using the potty.
How can we best incorporate rewards, treats and celebrations for progress made?
Your praise counts more than anything. Using star and reward charts can be positive, however this should also note other positive behaviours as otherwise it may cause too much focus on his potty training target.
Potties or straight to toilets? What are the pros and cons?
Straight to toilet or potty to toilet is fine, it’s simply your personal choice. If your boy is afraid of the potty, you could suggest to him that he is such a big boy that he is allowed to use the toilet now. Then you could empty his nappy into the loo and let him flush etc. The main difference with straight to toilet is that this is what he will use away from home and it’s a one stage training cycle. That noted, children enjoy decorating, carrying and using their potties so it’s what the child prefers.
What are the advantages of using HUGGIES Pull-Ups whilst training?
I used HUGGIES® Pull-Ups® from when my children were ready to start training. From a personal and professional perspective what they offer is a distinction between stages for your child. The fact that they can wear them like pants makes a statement that they are in control and are progressing. These days they also fade which means your child can start to have their bladder and bowl movements reinforced.
What final tips would you add for parents about to potty train?
The HUGGIES® Pull-Ups® website has lots of videos and tips that can ease the journey as well as the 8 signs of readiness to guide you for when little one is ready. Also relax and enjoy being a parent as opposed to worrying about the milestones they will eventually complete.
Thanks so much, Emma. All great advice, and making me feel more reassured and relaxed.
Disclosure: Written in collaboration with HUGGIES Pull-Ups