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The pearls, pitfalls & proud moments of potty-training

Published Oct 23, 2015 | Updated Feb 19, 2020

I am not a Pottyologist. I am a believer that every child is different, if you remember that then you are off to a good start. Just because Little Tommy did it in a week doesn’t mean that Jack will follow suit. Each kid will pose a different set of toilet training challenges for you to resolve.

Listed below is what you will need to start the Toilet Training adventure: 

  • A child who is showing signs of readiness.
  • A potty or two.
  • Flushable wipes
  • Lysol wipes to clean the potty – you gotta get down and dirty.
  • A padded toilet seats for when they dish the potty
  • Incentives – for mine it has been smarties all the way.  One for a pee and three for a poop.
  • Potty Chart to track successes.
  • Training pants/Pull ups.  Ensure you go shopping together for new big boy/girl underwear.  This will be a good incentive to say goodbye to the diapers.
  • Perseverance – you will need bucket loads of this.  It doesn’t come in a book or in a retail store, you’ll have to drag it out from within.  I promise you that it will be worth it. You won’t believe how excited you are going to be as your child exclaims “I did a poo”.  Ah the quirks of parenting.

From my experience of toilet training my three monkeys I have listed below some of the pearls and pitfalls I myself have encountered.  I think we all have our potty stories to share. 


This is by far the most important aspect of toilet training.  If your child is showing no signs of readiness don’t waste your time.  A week is a long time in a little one’s world.  Wait until they are showing signs that THEY want to be a big boy or girl.  It’s not your call.  I know this because when I moved to Canada my oldest was approaching her second birthday.  I met a girl (now a good friend of mine) whose daughter was a month older than mine and she was toilet training.  I jumped on the band wagon thinking I should do it too.  I made this decision not looking at the bigger picture. It was a disaster.  My little one never showed any signs that she was ready.  However, I decided that I was ready.  This is a big mistake.  For us, we had just moved not only country but also house.  There was major changes going on in her little world without me adding to the upheaval.  Please factor this one in when toilet training.  Is your child actually ready? This mistake on my part put my daughter off the whole idea and I waited until she was 2.5 years before I tried again successfully. 

Lead in period

Like all parents I have learnt from my mistakes, I just recently trained my youngest Ryan (2).  This time I talked lots about why we use the bathroom and took him with me when I needed to go or I got his big brother (4) to also show him the ropes.  When I felt he was ready, out came the potty and I started to encourage him to use it and use it he did.  He was a dream to train. The key was I got his buy in – he wanted to use the potty. 


Petrified of Poop

At 2.5 years my daughter was using the potty but only for her pee’s.  She was literally terrified of doing a poop on the potty or toilet.  I tried everything but I couldn’t shake the fear and I didn’t want her to stop doing her pee’s as well.  So I watched her like a hawk every day and when it was time I popped a pull up on her and she “let it go”.  At one stage I got frustrated and decided that the pull up wasn’t helping so I didn’t give the option.  She didn’t go for four days, so the pull up was not the enemy.  I was.  I decided enough was enough and I would just keep gently encouraging and when she was ready she would decide.  One Saturday around her third birthday was the day she decided no more pull ups and we have never looked back.  I re-emphasise that readiness is key.  Don’t push your toddler, they are only little and it will only backfire.

Poop in the Park

Nobody tells you what parenting is going to be like.  It is the hardest job on the planet and every day a curve ball is thrown at you.  Jamie (4) my middle child recently set a poop in the park precedent.  The moment we arrive at a playground he shrieks the words “I need to poo” at the top of his voice, everybody now knows that my kid wants to relieve himself.  Funny thing is they are all ushered to the washroom before their little backsides hit the minivan seats.  Maybe it’s the fresh air.  I don’t know but it has happened three times in the past couple of months.  I won’t go into details but I will say thank God for Kirkland wipes and bushes!!!  Luckily, last time he shrieked the dreaded four words we were at a playground with flushable toilets!!! Hallelujah.

Automatic Flush Toilets

This leads me onto my next challenge – the automatic flushing toilet.  Oh my God they terrify my daughter.  She has a near fit when we go into a washroom with these Lazy man toilet, she is of the flush your own toilet variety.  It all happened a couple of years ago not long after she was “fully” trained and we were at a local recreation centre and she was hopping around the place needing to go to the loo.  Why do kids do that?  You just need to go, stop holding yourself!  Anyway, in we go and she is mid-stream and you guessed it, the toilet flushes and she leaps six feet into the air with fright.  Now, that was a huge setback.  The poor child must have thought the toilet was going to gobble her, backside first!!!  Prior to kids I had no gripe with this new technology, now I dread seeing them.

Pull up’s

There are still pull up’s in my house and there will be for a while yet.  I have no gripe with the pull up, some people do.  It is essentially a diaper but they do come in handy at the initial stages of training as they allow you to easily pull down your child’s clothes so they can sit on the potty.  They are handy if you are say going to the zoo and you know that the toilets are not as easily accessible as your own home.  They are handy at night time at the initial stages of training.  My oldest didn’t wear pull ups for too long.  My youngest will be out of them soon as he can hold himself overnight.  Trick is to get him to the toilet within the first 3 minutes of waking.  However, my middle child is still wearing them because he is a very heavy sleeper and he doesn’t wake to go to the bathroom.  I have tried everything but he is not ready.  It reminds me of the problem I had with my daughter, I know I have to wait this one out and when he is ready, he will no longer need them. Patience is a virtue.



Be warned you child will not be trained overnight.  There will be a little regression which is 100% natural.  Both my boys have been amazing to train (surprisingly to me) but just when I thought I was home and dry (couldn’t resist), they started to have accidents.  Keep on top of your game.  Even a few weeks in you have to keep motivating them otherwise they will lapse.  Ryan as mentioned already has been a dream to train but last week he took a couple of steps back and now we are back to being in pole position through encouragement and rewards.  You’re a parent, you are entitled to bribe.  I said I would not do lots of things before I became a Mom, boy do I feel hypocritical sometimes but it has helped me get through the trials and tribulations with my sanity-ish.


Don’t forget the spares

I recommend that you bring at least one change of clothes per child.  Throw them in a bag in your trunk so they are always there.  Believe me there will always be some kind of accident toilet or non-toilet related. Don’t leave home without it.


Girls versus Boys

It’s funny I envisaged that training my little girl would be a breeze and my boys were going to be a nightmare.  What I experienced was the total opposite.  Laura-Leigh was more challenging and the boys did amazing.  I got Daddy to teach Jamie the standing up part, he is due to take Ryan under his wing for that one.  There’s only so much I can do.

Incentivise the process

Every child loves a book.  Get a potty training book for your child.  Start to read it to them at the pre-readiness stage.  Emphasise that children have accidents and that’s ok and that we just try harder next time.  I made up Potty charts for my older two and we recorded how many successes we had each day.  As mentioned above I gave smarties and I also gave stickers (maybe this is where my four year old’s sticker fetish stemmed from).  When they reach a milestone like for e.g. no more pull ups during the day or night, you could take them out for an ice-cream as a special treat or buy them a new toy, whatever your budget allows and works for your child. 


I think the key things to remember are readiness with a large helping of encouragement for both you and your child.  Remember each child is different, go with the flow (I’m on a roll here).

I love a funny story.  We were in Ikea one day when my daughter was 3 years old and she was doing the usual holding herself, so I said to her “Laura-Leigh do you need to go to the toilet?”, she looked at me as only a three year old can do, scrunched her cute little freckled nose and scolded me “I’m just fixing my knickers!!!”  Well, I thought I was going to wet mine!!!

Good Luck!



Never a dull moment in this house &

Keep Sane



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