It Takes A Village To Raise A Child – And A Village To Potty Train One

"Every time I pick him up from nursery, there’s a key worker lurking at the door waiting to ask me how I’m getting on with it."

There’s an old African proverb that says it takes a village to raise a child – and if you ask me, the same can be said for potty training.

Believe me when I say this: potty training is not a one-man job. It’s a group effort, a stage in your baby’s development that parents and carers may not readily admit is damn hard. And damn messy.

The reason I talk with so much authority on this topic is because my grandson has now reached the next stage in his tender years, where he’s coming off the nappies and being introduced to big boy pants. And seeing as I live with him and his dad – I’m going through it all again.

Potty training holds no mysteries for me, and it’s the one area of baby training that I cannot wait to see the back of. It’s smelly and yields no short-term rewards. It’s a long game. And watching a baby doing a poo in pot is simply not my idea of fun.


I had been trying to put off potty training my two-year-old grandson Clay for ages, often giving out lame excuses to anyone who would listen as to why we weren’t yet training full-time at home. “He still has a full pack of nappies I don’t want to waste,” I’d say. “He’s actually scared of the size of the toilet and screams every time we try to seat him on it,” I would add.

But now, the pressure is on. Every time I go to pick up Clay from nursery, there’s a key worker lurking at the door waiting to ask me how I’m getting on with it. They unsubtly hint that me not doing my bit is hindering his potty training at nursery. It’s getting so bad, I’m beginning to avoid making eye contact with some of them just in case they bring up the subject again.

The first time around with my son, now 28, was quite an easy process. He loved feeling like a big boy, shouting with excitement every few minutes that he needed to wee. There were no major accidents, and he settled into a routine quite quickly.

This time seems like a different story. Clay is a boisterous toddler who gets bored very easily, and everybody is involved in the process of helping him to pee on the potty: me, his dad, Clay’s extended family members, the nursery. It’s a proper team effort with varying methods on what’s the best way to do it successfully.

There have been some unsavoury incidents so far, which I’m sure I’m not alone in. We’ve given Clay a few free-range and unstructured moments and let him run around nappy-free – he decided the stairs and the floor next to the toilet were perfectly good places to move his bowels and empty his bladder.

“He decided the stairs and the floor next to the toilet were perfectly good places to move his bowels and empty his bladder."”

This resulted in me, on my hands and knees, with a bucket of bleach-infused water, wearing rubber gloves, scraping up s**t and furiously scrubbing the carpet. Then there was the time he wanted to be like daddy in the bathroom and stood directly next to the toilet to pee – cue me again, cleaning up his mess. Clay found both times hilarious, pointing proudly at his puddle and attempting to kick his s**t down the stairs.

But the general consensus from friends, his key workers at the nursery, and the health visitors was that this was, apparently, a good thing as he was now “aware” of the whole potty training process and ready for the next step.

When I was cornered at the nursery recently, I asked them what the prime age was to start potty training, and who was better at it, boys or girls? They said girls tend to train better – and they usually start when the child is two and a half. Seeing as Clay is fast approaching that age, I know I’m going to have to get a move on with him – rubber gloves, mop and bucket on standby for the foreseeable future.

There is one thing I could do to make the process easier, the internet tells me. Tips online suggest dropping food colouring in Clay’s wee to let him marvel at the different colours. If you ask me, toddlers acquire enough bad habits during their lifetime – playing in colourful pee is one I definitely do not want him to say he inherited from his glam-ma.