The Mum Edit With Helen Whitaker: Going To Pot

The Mum Edit With Helen Whitaker: Going To Pot

Writer, interviewer and editor Helen Whitaker knows the real struggle of being a parent – in fact, she has written a book about it. Here, in her column for SheerLuxe, she talks about the woes of potty training and how to get your child out of nappies once and for all.

And so to potty training. Deep sigh As everything so far for us has been hard won (see: sleep), we were braced for potty training to be a complete nightmare.

Which is why we put it off.

He turned two and a friend, whose daughter was born on the same day as my son, turned up for a play date, and breezily took her to the toilet, declaring they’d ‘done’ potty training that weekend, and that she pretty much skipped the potty stage and went straight to using the loo. 

We put it off. 

The kids in his room at pre-school started wearing pants, and his key worker told us the summer was a good time to try if he was ready. 

He wasn’t. We put it off. 

And then he turned three and suddenly showed interest in the multi-pack of blue pants (because despite being an advocate for busting gender stereotypes, yep, my son’s favourite colour is blue) I’d optimistically bought the year before. They were age 2-3 and I wasn’t sure if they’d even fit him. 

So we cleared a weekend and ditched the pull-ups. Thirty minutes later – after begging him to just ‘try’ sitting on the potty – I tried to get him back in the pull-ups. But the damage was done: pull-ups were for babies; he wanted to wear pants. But he also categorically did not want to sit on the potty. We began to measure our days in trousers. I bought more pants because there weren’t enough in our house (maybe even the world) to cope with the volume of laundry, and we spent a good proportion of our waking hours negotiating (pleading) with him about sitting on the potty. Then a few days in, my son said, “I want to watch trains”, AKA train videos on the YouTube kids app. 

“Letting him watch videos on the potty sets a terrible precedent,” said my husband firmly. As a rough estimate, I’d wager that 99% of people look at their phone in the loo, so I felt this was somewhat hypocritical, but what is parenting if not having to present a united front over arbitrary rules? 

“OK,” I replied, “We will stand firm. But by the way I’m going to yoga so you’ll have to stand firm by yourself for a couple of hours.”

I returned from yoga and my son was sitting on the potty watching trains.

But he still wasn’t actually going to the toilet on there. More days, more accidents, more trousers. 

Until. It was the run up to Easter, so there were ungodly amounts of Mini Eggs coming into the house (before you judge no, we don’t fill our child up with sugar, these were for us to eat secretly when he was in bed). But one day he caught sight of a bag and of course he wanted in. “Tell you what,” I told him conspiratorially, if you sit on the potty and actually do a wee” (I’m not a fool) “Then you can have a Mini Egg.” 

Number of accidents once we began the Mini Egg Regime? None.

We can gloss over the number of Mini Eggs he consumed during that time (I am) because after three weeks he’d forgotten to keep asking for them. Win/win, not least because they’re near on impossible to find this side of Easter. 

So while I’m not sure you’ll find it in any child-rearing guide, it worked for us. Yes, bribery. I intend to use the Mini Eggs reward system for as long as possible. With a bit of luck, it will see us through the revision for his GCSEs.
You can follow Helen on Instagram and Twitter at @itshelenwhitaker and @helbobwhitaker respectively. Helen’s debut novel, The School Run, about the comic lengths parents will go to for a school place, is out on 22 August and available to pre-order now.

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