ERIC’s helpline advisor Alina has three children – two boys and a girl. Her youngest, Nella, has just started learning to use the potty. In Part 2 of the potty training diaries, Alina shares how Nella’s getting on with potty training away from home. Read part 1 of the potty diaries here.

Nella and star reward chartReward charts are a great way to encourage potty training

After the first couple of hit and miss weeks with weeing on the potty, Nella seems to have settled into a routine of either going when I suggest (knowing she’s not been for an hour or so) or telling me herself that she needs a wee.

Can she hold on for 10 miles in the car?

Last week’s first challenge cropped up two minutes into a 10 mile journey to her dance class. I’d sat her on the toilet before we set off but she didn’t go and then a mile down the road a little voice piped up from the back “I need a wee mummy!”

I panicked a bit knowing we were running late already and I’d left her potty behind by mistake. I wasn’t sure how long she could hold it and didn’t want her to get upset so I pulled over into the car park of a fast food restaurant but they were shut.

She wasn’t at all keen on squatting on the verge (I have vivid memories of my mum telling us to coupy down over a drain!), so I explained she’d need to hold on for a bit longer and off we went. I needn’t have worried because she managed the journey and half an hour of skipping about in her tutu before she finally agreed to let that wee go.

Using the toilet when out and about

I’ve noticed she’s been getting more and more comfortable using the toilet when we’re out and about as long as we keep away from the hand driers which give her a fright every time.

Being happy to wee and poo outside the home is something lots of little ones get nervous about so it’s good to encourage them to use the toilet in unfamiliar places to combat this.

Despite all the progress Nella was making at home with her wees, going at her childminder Jan’s house was a different story.

On the first day she managed to hold her wee from 8.30am until just before I picked her up at 2pm even though she'd been drinking well and Jan followed all the same things I do with her at home like giving her reminders.

From calls and emails to the ERIC helpline, I know this is quite common but that long term it’s not good for the bladder muscles to be kept waiting and can lead to urinary tract infections.

Jan suggested Nella brought her own potty from home the next day but it didn’t do the trick and she wet herself three times in one hour after a long period of holding on. Neither Jan nor I made a big deal of it but agreed to keep going knowing she would get there eventually.

It can be tempting to go back to nappies or pull ups when this happens, but that gives children a mixed message about what you’re asking them to do. I kept repeating a mantra to reassure myself: accidents are all part of the process, keep calm and carry on!

A little persuasion can go a long way

Nella now knows what a full bladder signal means and has learnt to hold on, but encouraging her to go without me there for reassurance needed a bit of persuading. I hit on the idea of a star chart based on something I know she loves: play doh.

To get her on board, I let her choose the images and stickers she wanted, but was prepared for it not to work straightaway. For some children, however much they want the treat, the fear of going can be more powerful and harder to overcome.

On Monday morning I dropped her off as usual and handed Nella and her chart over to Jan. Mid-morning Jan texted me: “Success! We have a wee in the potty, you’d better buy that play doh!”

Find out how we get on with encouraging Nella to poo on the potty in part 3 of the potty training diaries...

Potty training help from ERIC

If you’re thinking of potty training or are having trouble, download at ERIC’s Guide to Potty Training for practical information or contact the ERIC helpline if you need extra help.