Dustin and Janneke van de Sande live in the Netherlands with their three children, Jasmijn, 10, Sebas, nine and Morris, seven. They founded Potty Training Box in 2018 and have since sold over 20,000 boxes, helping parents all over the world potty train their children in a week. Clodagh Borrett chats with Dustin to find out what their style of potty training is all about and how it can help you.
How did you go about potty training your own children?
When my daughter was two-and-a-half we asked ourselves, ‘when do we do this? How do we do this?’. Janneke read a lot, but there wasn’t much about a hands-on approach around. We didn’t want to potty train for months (where you get a potty and let your child sit on it occasionally), so we agreed upon a timeline. We decided on a week. We liked the idea of a shorter time where you do it intensely and with a lot of attention and devotion.
How did that week go?
She was not getting it, even at day five. There were many accidents and we thought it wasn’t going to work but remembered we agreed on the week and wanted to see how it would go. At the end of day five she really got the message. She improved by day six and by day seven she was potty trained. We were so happy! Our second son was also two-and-a-half and took to it very quickly. By day three he was getting it. Every child is different.
When did you begin to think of sharing your potty training tactics?
Our friends wanted to hear more about our programme. One friend thought it wasn’t going to work, so we coached her through and on day seven she was potty trained. Around this time, we saw on the news that many children were going to school in nappies and teachers were having to change them. That’s when I thought we should do something because many parents struggle with potty training. They don’t know what to do, how to start or what to expect.
How did you bring all your ideas to life?
In 2018 I wrote down everything, every day, when potty training our third child Morris. What we did and how it worked. We then sold it in the Netherlands, and it worked very well. We included a support group on Facebook because our goal is to help parents – we wanted to create a personalised experience, so if you have any questions you can ask. We want to guide you through the potty-training process so you can finish with a good result.
I love the idea of having everything in a box. What does it contain?
Our boxes are £23 and come with a booklet with the potty-training programme, which you should read before you start. There are coaching cards because during the week you won’t want to keep scrolling through the booklet for suggestions. There are daily summary cards with steps and compliments you can give and things you can do to create enthusiasm, along with schedules and sticker cards, to reward the child. A certificate is given to the child when the programme is completed.
So, there is a lot of positive encouragement in your programme?
Parents struggle during potty training. What I say about our box is with the information you also get a positive and realistic mindset. During the first day, you can have 20 accidents but if you don’t know that beforehand you might be tempted to give up. We say don’t stop, continue and you see your child grow in confidence.
What is the daily structure of the week?
Stay at home for the first three days. Do your groceries and errands beforehand and cook when the child is asleep. You must be prepared and available when your child walks around, keeping very close attention to them for the first three days. At day four you move to the big toilet and day 5 is about going outside and making short trips.
Is there an average age for potty training?
I think it depends on the country. In the Netherlands the age is older because the children go to school at age four and in Britain it’s three. Parents are guided by the government lines for the preschool. Our advice is two-and-a-half because they will be ready mentally and physically but if your child is showing interest in the potty, or they see you go to the toilet and are interested, those are signals that you can start. It’s more difficult at two but if you have the extra interest and signals, like them saying their nappy is wet, then their mind is already going towards potty training.
If you’re not getting any signals from your child but they’re older, can you still start?
Our two boys had no interest, so when they were two-and-a-half we just said let’s do it. We made it an adventure, so took them shopping for their new ‘grown up’ underwear, which they chose and found exciting. Get them enthusiastic before they start the programme. You don’t have to push it, but you can teach your child like the way you teach them to ride a bike or brush their teeth. With fun and devotion. You see them developing and growing in the week. Our kids would’ve worn nappies for months if we hadn’t shown them what to do in that week.
Is potty training different for every child?
Not all their children train the same. We have clients where one child didn’t need the box, but the other one did. We have children with learning difficulties, who train much later, respond very well to our boxes and inevitably train with them. One parent was told by a doctor her child would never be potty trained but did with our box. We have to respect every child is different and understand that when taking on something like potty training. And just try and make it fun for them, with encouragement and understanding. They’ll get there in the end.
Dustin’s potty training top tips!
Buy what you need beforehand…
You need 10-15 pairs of underwear to prepare for accidents. Protect your furniture, buys pads for your pram. You’ll need a potty of course and a little seat for the toilet and a step for them because the toilet can be scary.
Keep it calm…
If you’re experiencing change or upheaval like moving or there is a new baby in the house, I’d suggest waiting to train. You need a calm setting and total focus. Anything that distracts you isn’t helpful, so it’s best to do it when you have minimal things going on.
Take turns with your partner. You need to be consistent and follow the exact same instructions. Our programme isn’t set in stone, though. Think about what works best for your child, you can change it to suit.
Don’t see accidents as a failing but a moment your child learnt instead. She felt it, saw it was an accident and in her mind thinks ‘next time when I feel this I have to go’. Keep it positive and encourage learning.
Don’t worry about night times…
When the child is ready, they’ll tell you when they want to sleep without nappies at night. You can’t really train for this, because you can wake children up every time they go. About two months after potty training our kids were dry at night as well but it depends on the child.
You can try the Potty Training Box method for yourself at pottytrainingbox.co.uk