Several months ago, I went online and ordered a potty. It arrived, and we put it in the living room. After a few months, S sat on it… and tried to push it around the living room like a ride-on toy.
I had vaguely thought that I might try potty training some time over the summer. Nursery was closed for two weeks in August, so if S wasn’t trained by then, we would concentrate on it during those two weeks.
Talking to a friend, she told me she had trained her daughter completely, with no accidents, in a week using the Gina Ford potty training book. I balked at this suggestion; I have a deep-rooted mistrust of anything Ford has to say. My friend persisted though, telling me: if you can get your head past it being Gina Ford, it’s a great book. I bought the book. It’s a Gina Ford book. I got as far as the first case study, where she calls the child stubborn, and describes it as a nightmare. When the child had issues over eating tea, Ford advised the mother to take his tea away, and if he asked for food later not to give it to him. He was shut in his room to dress himself (at age four, when previously his mother had always dressed him), and bribed using a star chart to change his behaviour. At that point, I threw the book across the room. I’m not bribing my child or manipulating her behaviour in that way.
I’ve not been overly bothered by a desire to get S potty trained; I always figured she would get there in her own sweet time. I’ve been inundated with advice from well-meaning friends though, who seem to think S should be potty trained by now and completely out of nappies. I’m given advice almost daily: “what you need to do is…” or “what I did was…” The assumption seems to be that because she is two years old, she shouldn’t be wearing nappies any longer. Don’t worry about whether she’s ready, whether she wants to be potty trained, whether she’s capable of thinking “I need a wee, I’d better sit on the potty.” People delight in telling me how they potty trained their child, but a lot of the stories I hear do not sit well with me. Even the term “potty training” bothers me. It sounds like something you do with a dog, not a human child.
Over the last few months, S has occasionally expressed a desire to sit on the potty. Sometimes she does a wee in it, and proudly shows me… and then she gets a nappy out and brings it to me, asking me to put it on. Sometimes I ask if she would like to take her nappy off and use the potty when she needs a wee; about half the time she says yes, and takes her nappy off. The other fifty per cent of times, she says very clearly, “no!” Many times when she says she wants to take her nappy off, she sits straight on the potty and waits until she’s done a wee – even if that’s ten minutes or longer. Just as many times, she gets bored and goes off to play, and ends up going on the floor.
A well-meaning friend bought S some pants, which I offer to S from time to time. Only once has she agreed to put them on, and then ten minutes later she wanted them removed and replaced with a nappy. To me, this says that she is not quite ready to go into “big girl pants” just yet.
When S returned to nursery after the holidays, I asked them to offer her the potty when they went for nappy changes, but not to make a big deal out of it. She always seems to say yes to using the potty there, probably because all of her friends do. Yesterday I went to collect her, and found that she had sat on the potty twice, and done a wee both times. She was very pleased with herself, and rightly so. I’m still not taking away her nappies and making her exclusively use the potty though. As soon as we got home, I gave her the option of removing her nappy and she declined. I offered her the potty several times before bed, and she refused each time.
Meanwhile, I’ve been reading Toddlercalm (review on its way!), and it’s all about giving a child as much control as possible over their own lives. This is similar to what I’ve previously read in Happiest Toddler on the Block, and something that resonates with me more than training my child like an animal. S is the person who knows best when she is ready to use the potty or toilet, and when she wants to stop wearing nappies. We have potties in the house; we have a step and a toilet seat. She can use them, or not.
In this article on the Huffington Post site, Steve Hodges MD says that he believes few children are genuinely ready for toilet training before the age of 3. In this article on Babble, Hodges goes on to say that children’s bladders are still growing up to the age of 3, and they are best placed to do that when filling and emptying uninhibited – without the child trying to hold it in for fear of not getting a star on a chart.
Yes, it’s entirely possible to potty train a child before they’re properly ready – and I believe these days a lot of children are trained very early, out of some weird sort of one-upmanship, or parents following Gina Ford’s overall plan of working to a schedule (right, you’re two, time to get rid of the nappies!). But that doesn’t mean it’s the best thing for the child. I believe the likes of Gina Ford have encouraged us to believe our children are lazy, manipulative tantrum machines that need to be whipped into shape and “broken” into the correct way of doing things like wild animals. That is not how I see my child, and it is certainly not how I ever intend to treat her.
As with all other posts on this blog, I don’t care when or how you potty trained your child. I don’t care what you think I should be doing with my child and I really do not have the time or the inclination to judge anyone for their choices. For me, for S, we are doing what is right. And that is all that matters to either of us.
Leandra Bramham · 09/09/2014 at 06:37
Great article, all too often we feel compelled to conform to other peoples expectations of what children should achieve and when (myself definitely included!). This is a good reminder that we should be lead more by our children. It's too late for us but hopefully others will benefit from this advice.
Vicky Charles · 09/09/2014 at 10:17
Thanks Leandra. I think not conforming to other people's expectations can be a daily battle sometimes!
Anonymous · 09/09/2014 at 06:41
I found this refreshing and useful, thank you
thetraindriverswife.com · 09/09/2014 at 09:23
What a brilliant post. I most admit I have always assumed children need to be potty trained by a certain age, however as long as Buddy is in big boy pants by the time he starts school I'm sure we'll be fine! I have a Gina Ford allergy too. I attempted to read the contented baby when Buddy was newborn and her terminology and attitude reduced me to tears. Surprisingly it's the one book
Vicky Charles · 09/09/2014 at 10:18
Ah, good old Gina Ford! Someone lent me her book while I was pregnant, and I read it from cover to cover. I was adamant my child would not "manipulate" me and I would follow Ford's schedule to the letter. Then S was born, and I quickly gave the book back to my friend! What a bunch of bollocks.
bloggingastrid.com · 09/09/2014 at 09:33
Wow, this is such an enlightened view. A few weeks ago, I read a post about potty trainign a child (with special needs) in four days. Some of the tips included no adapting of the toilet because in the real world, toilets are all the same, throwing out all diapers on the day you start potty training, etc. It may be a successful method, but I doubt it'd help the child feel confident (let alone
Vicky Charles · 09/09/2014 at 10:20
Thanks for your comment. I think a lot of people tend to think there's some sort of unwritten timetable to which all children must conform, and that there's some sort of prize to be had for how quickly we can do things like potty training – even if it's at the expense of the child's happiness and security.
mummascribbles · 09/09/2014 at 09:35
What a fab post :) We too bought a potty recently as Zach had started telling us when he needed a number 2 so we thought maybe he'd be interested. He has sat on it a few times, even walked over to it and pulled his own jeans down but nothing has entered the bottom of the pot yet! In fact the other day he wanted to sit on it so I took his nappy off, popped him on it where he sat for 2 seconds,
Vicky Charles · 09/09/2014 at 10:23
Thanks for commenting! I like the idea of giving them time to get used to the potty, and to the idea of not using nappies. Much as I too look forward to the day I don't have to cart bags of the things back from the shops, I'm happy to do so until S is happy using the potty.
Victoria - WTPP · 09/09/2014 at 20:52
I love this, I think Rio is the same age (10th april) and although he knows when he's going in his pull up, hides, wants to be out of it straight away etc, like S, he doesn't like the idea odf wearing big pants. Or even sitting on the potty for that matter (he used to get constipated sitting down so prefers to go stood up)..we're leaving it up to him and intend to train him when he&#
Anonymous · 09/09/2014 at 21:14
I don't mind Gina Ford, but her potty training methods were next to useless with my kids. Interestingly, my eldest was pushed into being potty trained she really struggled and, now 8,still struggles in this area. My youngest, now 2y8m decided she wanted to use the loo and, apart from one off week, she's had no accidents at all! Wish I'd been less pushy with my first.
Anonymous · 10/09/2014 at 08:37
Great article – should be read by all mum's! I too believe children should do everything at their own pace and not by forcing intervention. The only timeline to work by regarding potty training is the child being dry in the daytime for (most if not all) schools – not nursery, preschool etc – there's certainly no rush for them to be 'trained' at the age of 2! I know nappies are
Californian Mum in London · 11/09/2014 at 13:12
My daughter wasn't potty trained until she was 3, as she just did not want to use the toilet or potty. And we will wait until my son is 3. I don't understand why people are always in such a rush to potty train.
Jem · 11/09/2014 at 13:18
#1 decided she didn't want to wear nappies any more at around 2-2.5ish (I forget exactly!) and that was that, potty trained instantly. No training required.<br /><br />I'll wait for #2 to do the same. Mostly because I'm lazy. ;)
You Baby Me Mummy · 11/09/2014 at 16:49
This is brilliant! Baby is 17 months old and I know nothing about potty training but what you say makes so much sense to me. x #MMBH
SEO Belle · 12/09/2014 at 07:53
We tried a few attempts after comments from mil that child should be potty trained by 18 months once was ready over 3 years old he just got it dry night and day no fall outs no pressure I agree don't rate Gina Ford at all X
Isobel Morrell · 12/09/2014 at 15:05
As one who had both her girls fully potty trained and out of nappies before they were 15 months, I'm not sure I agree with you – although I do agree it should not become a battlefield! Thanks to my mother-on-law, God rest her soul, who was one of 8, and had done the same with her three kids (two boys and 1 girl – the former allegedly more difficult in such circumstances), it was a case of
sharon powell · 13/09/2014 at 09:55
Brilliant post! I agree to let the child decide when they are ready. Harry did a poo on the potty about a month ago but hasn't bothered with it since and I don't care :) Both my older two didn't even use the potty, just went straight on the toilet. x
Julie · 19/09/2014 at 17:00
I really like this! My son is the same age as your daughter & I’m in no hurry to potty train either. He’s actually started telling me when he needs a poo & lots of times he gets to the potty on time – and gets lots of praise. He’s certainly nearly ready but I don’t feel it’s quite time yet so I’m holding off. We talk vaguely about wearing big boy pants ‘soon’ but what’s the hurry? I’m waiting til I know he’s ready.
Adventures of a Novice Mum · 31/03/2015 at 12:05
I don’t have a clue about potty training yet but I’m happy to read my child too. Good for you, following your instincts. A book doesn’t know your child, you know your child and what works for your family. #aNoviceMumTwitterFeed
Morna · 31/03/2015 at 16:08
From reading some of your friends comments I thought you were going to say your daughter was 16 and about to leave home not 2!! I don’t understand the obsession with early potty ‘training’ it just leads to anxiety and pee on the sofa. I think what you’re doing sounds great.
Although I love star charts – not for potty training- you can’t bribe somebody’s bladder!