Parents can get quite anxious when it's time to move their child on from nappies to the toilet, but potty training could be more straightforward than you think
In a lot of ways, potty training isn't about training your child at all. What you're really doing is helping them gain awareness of their own bodily functions. Eventually, they'll understand that a particular feeling in their body means they need to do a poo or a wee. You can't force this understanding, but you can encourage your child as they work it out for themselves.
Parenting expert Helen Neale of KiddyCharts, which makes educational products, says the most important thing to remember about potty training is to do it when both you and your child are ready. 'You're much more likely to succeed if you're both ready,' she says. 'Some parents go for it when either only they or the child want to do it ¬– and both of you have to be up for it.'
Potty training tips
• Be led by your child. The signs that a child is physically ready to potty train are very clear and could happen at any time between 18 months and three years old. Look for increased dryness and nappies that stay clean for 2-3 hours. Your child should be able to tell you if they've got a dirty nappy.
• Devote time to it, when you don't have to be anywhere in a hurry and can stick close to home for a few days.
• Gather your supplies: a potty for each loo in your house; a supply of knickers/pants; extra wipes.
• Buy underwear with a favourite cartoon character on the front, which your child can take pride in and will want to keep clean.
• Don't be afraid to bribe – stickers, chocolate buttons, whatever works for you.
Why isn't my toddler ready for potty training?
Don't be disheartened if your child is not potty trained when some of their friends are. Your child might be ready later, but the process could then be much faster. A child who becomes dry in two days at the age of three can be easier to manage than the two-year-old who's having accidents for weeks.
It's worth remembering that boys can take a little longer than girls to be ready. 'Don't be surprised if your little boy isn't interested until he's approaching three,' says Neale. 'It's far better to wait until he's ready to reduce both your anxieties. Have the potty around, and keep reading books about it, and it'll come.'
By Joanne Mallon, author of Toddlers: An Instruction Manual