How I Toilet Trained a Scared Child

One night, we were all out with friends, my first needed a nappy change. We headed to the disabled toilet and got him all changed, then I used the toilet too. Afterwards, without thinking, I used the new hand dryer. It made an extremely loud noise that even I jumped at. Needless to say, my first ended up in tears, completely horrified. I think this is the moment that made him afraid of toilets.

He had never shown any interest in the toilet, and when we bought him a little potty, he would flat out refuse to even sit on it. I didn’t want to push him into using the potty before he was ready, because I know that can have the opposite result. Of course, I also didn’t want to not do any potty training; then we would really get nowhere.

Baby steps

When we bought the potty, we tried to make a big deal about it; saying how awesome it was and how exciting it would be (he was not quite two and half). But when he refused to sit on it and got very upset when I tried to put him on it, I slowed things down. We started off just sitting next to the potty and talking about it and how it works. We then moved on to sitting on it, with pants still on, and he was allowed to decorate the potty with stickers. I think both of these methods really helped him to relax and realise it wasn’t so scary after all.


Next was obviously sitting on the potty without pants or nappies. I still let him use stickers, and I also drew up a simple potty chart. It was pretty much a blank table and whenever he sat on the potty he got to put a sticker on the chart (there are so many free printable ones online too!). When he did a wee, he got a sticker and an m&m*. In those first few weeks, he didn’t get any m&m’s, but he was happy to sit on the potty and that was enough for me.

Then my second came along and I got pretty slack with toilet training. It was just so much easier having him in a nappy than trying to find the time to sit him on the potty. That’s my fault and I own that. When we settled finally settled down and got the hang of two children, I decided to jump start the training again. I printed off some character sticker charts this time, I stocked up on more m&m’s and undies with his favourite characters, and I had him sitting on the potty every 15 minutes. Sometimes, I also let him sit on there while watching a show on the tablet.


This worked well until he started sitting on there for up to 45 minutes! So my husband came up with a great idea of using stickers on our big floor clock. At 15 minute intervals was a sticker and then 5 minutes after was a different sticker to say he could hop off. This worked wonders! The clock is huge, so he could see it from the potty and when it was time to sit, I could blame the clock and say the clocks says it’s potty time.

Having a “time limit” as such didn’t always work. Sometimes he would hop off without having done a wee, only to have an accident a few minutes later. It got better when he started to realise when he needed to go and I also made sure to ask him more often if he had to wee.

Flexible routine

It wasn’t long before he got really cranky with sitting on the potty all the time; by the time he finished and we got him dressed again, there was only a few minutes before he had to sit on there again. So I changed it to every 20 minutes (still keeping the five minute limit) but I made sure to talk to him about changing it and said that I was trusting him to tell me if he had to go sooner.

This worked well for a while, and soon I took the stickers off the clock and just let him tell me when he needed to go (with me still asking every 20 minutes or so). He was in undies between breakfast and lunch, a nappy for rest time, then back in undies again until bed time. We had lots of accidents, of course, but soon he was doing really well.

Time to push

My first was about three and half, and still not sitting on the “big potty” (proper toilet). I knew he knew how to use a potty, and he was at the stage of pretty much always staying dry when he was in undies. So one day I just stopped putting him in nappies- he would be in undies all day, and only wear one at night. I explained to him what we were going to do and just started doing it. Not long after that, my sister gave me a seat for the toilet that her son was no longer using. At first he was very apprehensive and we had to start slow like with the little potty. Then one day, I just placed him on the seat, and he realised it wasn’t so bad after all. I even made up a little story about some gnomes who lived in the cistern, who would slide down a water slide and push the wee and poo away when we flushed (the things we tell our kids to cooperate!).

Now we are at the stage of doing short trips out and about in undies. He still has the occasional accident, most of which are poos. But we are working on it; constantly asking and reminding him. Sometimes it’s frustrating, particularly now when he can sit on the big potty by himself. He insists he still needs my help, or that I have to be there because he’s lonely (yea, he knows how to pull on the heart-strings). But I try to think back to even just six months ago and realise how far he has come.

I know going at his pace wasn’t always the “right” way to do it; considering he is nearly four and still not fully toilet trained**. But I’m happy with his progress and I know one day soon he will be completely out of nappies.


How did you go with toilet training? Any tips or tricks you could share with our readers?


* I know some people are against using food (particularly sweet treats) as a form of reward for using the potty- but it worked for us to use a combination of m&m’s and stickers. We are at the stage now where he occasionally remembers and asks for m&m’s, but for the most part he doesn’t need them. I would rather him have a couple of m&m’s during the day, than for us to still be struggling with getting him to sit/use the potty.

** For myself, I consider “fully toilet trained” to be going to the toilet when he needs to without needing help, and staying dry throughout the day. I don’t expect him to be out of nappies for nights just yet, but most mornings he is dry anyway.



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