Potty training

When it comes to potty training, it's all about timing. Get that right and they'll be dry before you know it.

After a couple of years of buying disposables or washing terry nappies, you probably can’t wait for your little one to be potty trained. But don’t be in too much of a hurry. The secret to success is to wait until your child is physically and emotionally ready. Follow their cues and don’t be fazed if other children learn to use the potty earlier than yours. Many children start at around the age of 2 but each child differs, so stay calm and don’t rush them into it.

Getting started

Starting toilet training is a common source of anxiety. Patience is essential to getting it right. Once you feel your child has got a rough idea of what it’s all about, get a potty or toddler toilet seat and step – whichever you plan to
use – and let them get used to it. At first, they’ll probably use it as a toy.

You can encourage them to find out what it’s really for by playing at putting a doll or a teddy on it. Kids this age love to copy you so let them come with you when you go to the toilet. Talk about what you’re doing in simple
terms and perhaps let them use the flush if they’re not scared by the noise. Avoid words like ‘dirty’ that may cause your child to feel unclean. Be patient and try not to expect too much, too soon.
You may find your tot masters their bladder before their bowels, or the other way around. It will all work out with time.

Potty training without the tears

Here's what to do to avoid toilet tears and tantrums.

Time it right

Pick a period when you have plenty of time. If your tot’s about to start nursery, you’ve just moved house, are going on holiday, have just had another baby or are going through other changes, it’s best to leave it until things are less hectic. Also, be consistent – don’t chop and change from nappies to pants or knickers during the day.

Be prepared

If you live in a house, keep a potty upstairs and one downstairs. Be sure to have a potty with you when you’re out and about. It’s a good idea to keep one in the car too and to take a set of spare clothes out with you.

Don’t hang about

At first, when your tot needs to go they need to go now, so don’t ignore it when the call comes. As they get older they will be able to wait longer. Make it easy on yourself. Bath time is a good time to introduce the potty. Make a note of your child’s pattern of bowel movements so you can pick the best times of day to suggest using it.

Get the clothes right

You don’t want to spend ages changing your toddler’s clothes, so make sure what they’re wearing is easy to remove.

Let them set the pace

If you know when your child is likely to want to use the potty, encourage them to sit down. But make sure they feel it is their choice – you’ll be well aware that toddlers like to feel they are in control!

Be prepared for accidents

Accidents are par for the course during potty training. When it happens, change their clothes straight away and calmly encourage them to have a go on the potty or toilet next time. Do the same thing, even if you thought you had it sorted. They’ll get there in time!

Encourage them with praise

As always, praise is your child’s best teacher. Say something like, ‘You were a big boy/girl to use the potty,’ but don’t make a big deal of it. For example, don’t reward them with food or toys. Ignore the odd lapse and never tell them off for failing to use the potty or having an accident.

Last updated: 7 February 2018
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