Family Life

Potty Training in One Week
Oct 21

Is it possible to potty train your child in one week, under the instruction of Gina Ford? The simple answer is ‘no’ unfortunately…well at least that’s been our experience. If only it were such a black and white process; instead we have found it is a far more gradual learning curve.

If you haven’t already, please refer to part one of this post, which documents days one to three of the Gina Ford potty training programme.

By day four, the book claims “the majority of toddlers are regularly using their potty without prompting, with just the occasional accident occurring”. I know of some children who have got to this stage very quickly on their own, when they have initiated potty training by themselves; but when the training has been initiated by the parent as Gina Ford encourages, this seems like such a high expectation. This is precisely why I didn’t get on with Gina Ford’s baby advice as I’m a firm believer in attachment parenting, and by this point in the programme her advice was really jarring with my parenting approach.  But we’d set out to finish the week-long training plan, and so we agreed to stick with it.

The core advice for days four to seven is:

  • Never put your toddler back in nappies, aside from at sleep time
  • Gradually move the potty nearer to the bathroom, so that it eventually ends up in there permanently
  • Encourage your child to use the big toilet, using a toddler seat attachment. This apparently avoids the child being fearful of the big toilet later on, and it can be positioned as a reward for doing so well with the potty (we have found this to be a useful approach as it now means that when we are out and about Little I is very happy to use public toilets, and it also makes it easier to get into a good routine of hand washing at the sink afterwards)

Throughout the book Gina Ford continually makes the point that it’s important your child doesn’t become too reliant on you for being reminded to use the toilet. She suggests it’s better to allow your child to take the lead and have a few accidents, than to be in a situation where she needs you to tell her when to go to the toilet. This is the part of potty training that we have found most difficult. If the self-initiation part doesn’t come easily, it’s not really something that can be taught. We have tried many times to explain to Little I that we’d like her to try and use the potty on her own when she feels that she needs it, but her desire to do this has been very intermittent. While she seems to love wearing knickers and is proud to be out of nappies, and I think she is capable of knowing when she needs the toilet, she’s also been a bit lazy about getting to the toilet in time.

One suggestion that Gina Ford makes is to start allowing your child to take a little bit of responsibility for accidents, by asking them to help you clean up the mess, particularly if they are nearer the age of three. We have only tried this properly on a couple of occasions, and I have to say I felt a bit uncomfortable doing so. Possibly this is a method that we could return to.

In conclusion, the book claims “the majority of toddlers are dry most of the time by the end of the first week, with only the occasional accident”. While this has been the case for us on some days, it isn’t yet consistently the case but we are getting there. We are certainly having more success with wees, and less success with number two’s!

As a parent, you always want to do what is best for your child. There are lessons in life that it’s your responsibility to teach to them, and I had felt under pressure to help my daughter with learning how to use a potty. I’m pretty sure a certain element of this was family and peer pressure.

Apologies to parent readers who were hoping for a miracle solution to potty training – now that I’m a little wiser, I seriously doubt there will ever be a one-size-fits-all approach. Every child is different and you really have to go at your child’s own pace, which I guess is true of everything in life.

If I can attempt to pass on the useful lessons that I have learned as a result of this process they would be:

  • Make sure you as a parent are as much ready for potty training as you feel your child is – in our case the process has been hard work and taken a lot of patience
  • Once you decide to go for it, agree with yourself and your partner that you will ditch the nappies for at least one week (aside from at sleep times) and not be tempted to stick on a nappy when you’re going out, for example
  • Make sure you have the time to devote to potty training – if you are a working mum, wait until you have a week off work, and don’t have too many activities planned
  • Buy at least 15 pairs of pants, as some will end up in the bin!
  • Be prepared with a bucket filled with soap solution to chuck soiled garments into as soon as an accident happens
  • Decide on the approach that you are going to take with rewards (if at all), explain it to your child, and then stick with it. If your child is anything like mine, she will try and negotiate more treats and the reward system will then become meaningless
  • My Health Visitor advised “don’t be embarrassed of accidents and tell carers in particular you are comfortable with it”, and I think this is really sound advice. It happens to all parents, even those who don’t talk about it, and so try not to feel embarrassed if your child has an accident in public – it will only make things more stressful for both of you. If someone else has a problem with your child having an accident, let that be their problem

Ultimately, would I recommend another parent to purchase the Gina Ford book and try out the one week programme? I’d probably say buy one copy and share it between your friends, use it for motivation to go for potty training 100% once you and your child are ready…but don’t expect your toddler to be text book and follow the programme perfectly.

If you have any advice to share, or questions to ask of other readers, please feel free to use the comments section below. Thank you for sticking with this rather long, two-part blog post…I promise others won’t be this long!

About the Author

Wendy McAuliffe

Social media & online PR consultant and trainer, and ex-journalist. Founder and Director of Populate Digital and Mum of two. Living by the sea in Bournemouth. @wendymcauliffe.

  • Jess

    Thanks for sharing wendy…I am potty training a reluctant three year old…and though I worry she’s way too old for me to be training’s true I had to wait till we were both ready. Found the tips useful!

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  • wendymcauliffe

    I’m so pleased you’ve found this useful Jess. A few people have said to me since “don’t worry, she won’t be wearing a nappy when she walks down the aisle”, so I guess they’ll both get there in the end. Please feel free to share any other tips that work for you and your little girl.

  • Helen

    Hi Wendy
    It was really interesting reading these articles as I have been through it with my little girl but still have my little boy to go. Emma was an absolute breeze to toilet train and we didn’t seem to have any of the issues lots of my friends had…but I firmly believe this was only because she was ready to do it and wanted to do it. We had the potty around for ages and it was used as a hat, a toy box, a potty for teddies etc and we thought that was great. We talked about us going to the toilet and what ‘big girls’ do but with no expectattions that she did. She then chose ‘no kinickers today’ or ‘knickers on now mummy’ and that was fine. One day, they just didn’t go back on. Having said all that, we could relax because all this happened at the ‘expected age’. I don’t know if I would have been so chilled out if she was older. As for my little boy, we are planning to take the same route and the potty is out again. I’m trying to ignore the helpful ‘boys are harder’ comments and we’ll just see what happens….wish me luck!!
    On a final note, with regards to expecting your Little 1 to clear up any accidents – I wouldn’t have considered this as the start as I wouldn’t have wanted my girl to think making mistakes when you’re learning anything is wrong. I firmly believe we learn by making mistakes and learning to use a toilet is no different. However, we do use that strategy now when she wets on purpose or because she doesn’t want to go upstairs and wees on the lounge floor beacause at 3 and a half that IS naughty!!

  • wendymcauliffe

    Thanks Helen, agree that introducing the potty early on is a sensible thing to do – my Mum gave us a potty when my daughter was three days old, so it’s been around for a while ;) From my experience, you’ve hit the nail on the head with the importance of ‘no expectations’ – I’ve noticed that as soon as I shown signs of expecting Little I to use the potty, she backs off. Fingers crossed your little boy takes to potty training quickly too – I’m sure genetics must play a part in all of this.

    Also, really sage advice regarding the cleaning up of accidents, once they are potty trained!

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