Potty training: getting it right


​It’s the wonder of genes and nature that every toddler is different. There is no magic age when a whistle blows and a child is ready for potty training. There’s also no particular rush and certainly no prize for the child who attempts it first. Indeed, it’s worth taking on board – just to get anatomical for a moment – that the muscles controlling a toddler’s rectum and bladder are not sufficiently developed until they’re at least 18 months, so trying any earlier could be stressful and messy for all concerned.


Girls tend to be ready earlier than boys – on average at 2-2.5 years, compared to 2.5-3 years for boys – but parents know best when their child is likely to be receptive to the potty. Never feel pressurised by friends and relatives to whip off the nappy, or by stories that little Johnnie or Jenny was dry at 20 months. They probably weren’t. You know your own child’s behaviour and can spot for any changes in their ways and bodily functions which might suggest they could entertain the thought of a potty.


Changes in your child that suggest they’re ready:

your toddler might start hiding away to fill their nappy, standing behind the sofa for example.

they might tell you when they’ve done something in a nappy.

you might notice you are changing nappies less often.

the occasional dry nappy shows that your toddler can go a couple of hours without urinating.

dirty nappies might start coming at a similar time each day.

they might start using words for “wee” and “poo”.

they seem keen to please you and get excited when you praise them.

they complain about their dirty nappy and ask you to change it.


Hold fire on potty training if there are other changes going on, such as:

Mum is about to give birth.

a new sibling has just arrived.

you are moving to a new house.

you’re in the middle of another celebration, for example Christmas or Ramadan.

your toddler is being weaned from a dummy or a bottle.

your toddler is moving from a cot to a bed.

they’ve suddenly become frightened of something, for example the dark, thunderstorms, spiders.


Take things slow

Don’t suddenly produce a potty one day with a big” Tahdah!” and expect them to be dry within a week or two. That’s asking a lot. If the signs are there that they’re ready to try, then introduce them to big boy/big girl pants first, then gently introduce the potty. If you don’t, you could be setting up for a battle of wills from the very start. Let your child know that potty training is a team effort and that Mum and nursery staff are all there to help.


Once they’re trying out life without nappies in the day, accidents can happen. Here’s what to do:

as far as nursery is concerned, children might get anxious and flustered about using the potties or toilets in the bathrooms. Show them the facilities yourself.

get into the habit of them going to the loo before leaving the house and before leaving nursery. Dress your child in clothes that are easy to pull up and down, and pack spare clothes and pull-up pants so changing after accidents is quick and not distressing.


It may not be a one-way road to success, so be prepared for set-backs.

Occasional accidents are normal and can be caused by a child being excited about something, being engrossed in a game or by a deep sleep. All such incidences are normal. If, however, once your child has mastered the art of staying completely dry, they then start wetting again on a more regular basis, pop to the doctor to have a chat. Stress or physical illness can cause this.


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