Toilet-training tips – plus how to solve common problems!

Children’s behaviour expert, Amanda Jenner, provides her top tips for helping every child succeed at potty-training

Is toilet-training driving you potty? This complete guide fro­m Potty-Training Magic author, Amanda Jenner, tells you everything you need to know to make the process simple.

From identifying when your child is ready, to knowing what to do if things don’t go to plan, Amanda’s practical and friendly advice will help your child learn to use the toilet with confidence.

Spotting the signs your child is ready to start potty-training

  • Can your child communicate and understand basic instructions?
  • Are you noticing that nappies are dryer during the day?
  • Does your child remove their nappy after having a wee?
  • Does your child tell you when they are actually doing a wee or a poo?
  • Are they showing signs of independence, for example, dressing and undressing themselves?

These signs all show your child is moving on to their next key stage of development, and that they might be ready to start potty training.

Tips for success!

Now, you’re ready to start, follow these practical tips to introduce potty training with confidence.

Make it fun!
When you’ve checked your child is showing signs of readiness, I’m a great believer in getting them involved in the whole process. Taking them to choose their own potty and knickers or underpants really makes the whole adventure exciting. Why not get them a pair with a favourite character on them?

Offer a reward
Every child loves to feel special – especially when it comes to potty-training. Using rewards is a great way to encourage your child to sit on the potty or the toilet. This can be a reward chart and stickers, or even a magical box that you drop sequins or stars into. It is important to reward even if they try and do not perform. It can sometimes be difficult to get them sitting on the potty or the toilet, so this needs a little extra encouragement. Toddlers relate best to facial expressions, so show them your happy face when they’ve done something that pleases you.

Keep it consistent
Getting everyone involved once you start is so important. Speak to your childcare setting or any other carers so you all stick to the same routine.

Remember every child is unique
Try not to compare your child to anyone else. Sometimes it takes a little bit of patience – every child learns this life skill at a different rate.

When not to potty-train

  • If you’ve just moved house.
  • If your child has a new sibling. This can be very distracting and can even make your child revert back to baby behaviour to seek attention.
  • If your child has just started a new childcare setting. This can unsettle a child and change their routine.
  • If your child has suffered a recent illness.

Solving common problems 

The toilet-training journey often presents problems. Here are some common ones and the best way to tackle them.

1) My child has lots of accidents

If your child is having lots of accidents they may not be ready to be toilet-trained. Leave it for a month and check to see if they have longer dryer periods in their nappy before trying again.

2) My child holds on to their poo

Try to set up a reward system just for pooing in order to turn it into a positive thing and to further encourage your child. It’s important to make sure they don’t become constipated, so try to increase fibre in their diet and make sure they’re getting lots to drink. You could also try a distraction box. Keep it in the bathroom with things like a bubble wand inside. Blowing bubbles is a really good way of relaxing children – and their muscles!

3) My child is dry in pants but insists on pooing into a nappy

If they are holding on long enough to wait for the nappy, then just go with it. Empty the poo into the potty or toilet in front of them and show them where it goes. Keep repeating encouragements such as “this is where your poo goes, well done, now it’s in the toilet.” Then, immediately after, put their big boy/girl pants back on.

4) My child plays with their poo
If you find your child wants to play with their poo, this is normal toddler experimentation! The best way to deal with this is to explain that poo is for the toilet and not for playing with – but don’t emphasize that it is dirty and disgusting because it can become a problem if they then associate poo with being a disgusting thing.

5) My child is afraid of the toilet
A toilet can be a very daunting place for a toddler as they see it as a big hole that they are going to fall down. I always recommend a toilet trainer seat which reduces the size of the hole and makes them feel safe. Make the bathroom a fun place with a child-friendly hand soap and a little step so they can reach the toilet and sink. A little tip of mine is putting toilet paper down the toilet before they use it so that the cold water doesn’t splash on their bottoms – it works a treat!

6) My child isn’t interested in using the potty at all
Reading your child a potty-training storybook that teaches and shows them what they need to do is a great way of introducing potty-training. Ask questions about the story to check that they are taking it all in. You can also use flashcards. Let them pick their own potty or toilet trainer seat to encourage them to start and use a reward system to encourage them even more.

7) My child was using the potty but now they’re starting to regress
If you notice your child is suddenly having lots of accidents this could be for a number of reasons. Has there been a change in circumstances? Have they been poorly? Or is there something that is bothering them? Look into all of this first to see if there is anything that may have triggered the regression. If they have had an accident, try to keep positive. Introduce a new reward system to add excitement back into the process – this always helps to encourage little ones to get back on track.

8) My child is nearly at school age and isn’t fully potty-trained
It is so important that we stay as patient as possible and try to not go into panic mode! Make sure you set aside time to consistently work with your child a couple of months before they start school – if you don’t leave enough time, it will put a lot of pressure on you all.

Introduce, and stick to, a consistent programme and make sure it is used in and out of the home. Talk to everyone who looks after your child so you are all following the same programme. Try rewarding your child for their achievements. It’s important they become independent, so use prompts to encourage them to go to the toilet by themselves, and teach them to pull their pants up and down, as they will have to do this at school on their own.

Remember, this is a big milestone and some children can take longer than others. You will get there!

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