Potty Training – My Top Potty Training Tips

Little boy sitting on the toilet for potty training online course

Are you starting to think about potty training? Is your child ready to potty train? How will you know when to start potting? I will go through a number of these key topics in the following article.

However, I would like to start with helping you know know when your child is ready, as child readiness is the most critical part of having potty training success. For example, can your child sit on a toilet and then stand up? Can they pull their pants up and down? I will go through these readiness signs in more detail throughout this article.

WHEN SHOULD I START POTTY TRAINING?

Typically your child will be ready to start potty training between the age of 20 months and 3 years old. Much like all stages of child development, each child is different and they will start in their own time.

Learning the skill of potty training or toilet training is quite complex. The length of time a child takes to toilet train also varies and is dependent on a number of readiness factors. Again, I must emphasise these signs of readiness occur at different times depending on the child. Never be afraid to pause potty training and return to it when you feel your child is showing more readiness.

Little boy sitting on the toilet smiling

HOW TO POTTY TRAIN A 2 YEAR OLD?

This is the most common age where parents really start thinking about potty training their child. Whilst I will go through some key steps throughout this article, my online toilet training course; this is a great resource and will give you a very structured, day by day training programme to help you not only identify that your child is ready, but how to implement the signficiant change you are making.

My course is more focused on toilet training than potty training because I believe it’s the best method for toilet success as it takes out a key step of being potty trained and then having to transition to the toilet as another step. But don’t worry, it still refers to the potty training process and what to do when you are out of the house during the training programme.

WHERE DO I START WITH POTTY TRAINING?

It really is all about child readiness; if your child isn’t ready for potty training, it won’t be a success, regardless of how much time, effort and commitment you put into it. And child readiness really does vary from child to child.

WHAT ARE A CHILD’S READINESS SIGNS FOR POTTY TRAINING SUCCESS?

Below are the main readiness signs that a child will show which suggest they may be ready for starting potty training. Your child can:

  • Show bladder control by staying dry for 2 hours at a time, or during a nap. Or can recognise bowel movements that are coming.

  • Ask to be changed, or showing ‘dissatisfaction’ with a dirty nappy (i.e. they want to stay clean, and feel distressed by soiled or wet nappies).

  • Ask to use the toilet, or expressing an interest in toilet training (e.g. following you into the bathroom).

  • Have regular poos at consistent times of the day.

  • Ask to be wearing underwear.

  • Respond to directions, questions or explanations and follow simple instructions, e.g. ‘do you need to go?’.

  • Can communicate to let you know when they are doing the toilet in their nappy, or when they are about to go.

  • Can pull their pants up and down.

  • Are physically able to walk, sit on a toilet themselves and stand up when they’ve finished.

It’s also important for the conditions to be right. For example, I would always recommend waiting to start until these three conditions are in place if possible:

  • healthy (no upset tummy, diarrhoea or constipation);

  • relaxed (times of big upheaval in your little one’s life should be avoided as starting points for toilet training. Examples include starting preschool or nursery, moving house or the arrival of a younger sibling)

  • strong co-operation (happy to engage in the process and showing interest is key. Avoid starting if your little one is going through a rebellious phase).

WHY ARE A CHILD’S READINESS SIGNS IMPORTANT TO THE SUCCESS OF POTTY TRAINING?

You might wonder why these signs of readiness specifically are so important. Research has shown time and time again that children’s feelings associated with toilet training are a particularly important indicator of training success. The more positive associations built during training, the more successful the outcomes.

Little boy being shown the toilet whilst in his nappy

Children can become quite resistant to the toilet training process if they develop negative associations with it. If a child is not relaxed and amenable at the start of the process, they can link toilet training with emotional distress or fighting and it becomes a battle of wills. Pick a time to start training when your child is amenable with you and wishes to engage with you. Also, at a time when your child wishes to imitate important people in their life is a really good time to start.

If you’re panicking slightly and wondering when your child will decide to achieve this huge milestone or perhaps when they’ll ever not be going through a rebellious stage, please don’t.

There are lots and lots you can do to help move this along in the right direction. Before starting to potty train officially, there is lots of preparative groundwork you can do to help prepare your child and make it as easy a transition for your child and for you as parents as you possibly can.

HOW TO PREPARE FOR STARTING POTTY TRAINING?

Apart from your child’s readiness signs, there are other steps you need to take to ensure they are physically ready for starting potty training.

Develop positive associations

​Reading potty training books can be really helpful for some children. There are some great books on the market that talk about why we need to use the toilet, what the flush sounds like when we use the toilet and also that its ok to have an occasional accident.

Children’s books with lots of pictures and sounds are a safe way for little ones to explore the world of ditching their nappy. Wearing a nappy is all they have ever known until this point, so seeing pictures of other children having success (and failing) at it is helpful. They also won’t know what questions to ask, and the books might give them insight you didn’t think of.

Communication

Talk to them about toilet training, giving your child the language and words that will help them talk about using the toilet or potty. Tell them about toilet paper and what it’s used for. Explain the steps for going to the toilet,, e.g. we come into the toilet and pull down our pants etc.

Mum chatting with child in the toilet

Introduce your child to potty training skills and concepts

Children learn predominantly through imitation and exposure to experiences. This preparation can be so important for some children who find potty training a little daunting. Taking this time to develop these skills helps build confidence in their independence and abilities. That way, when you do begin potty training, your child will have achieved lots of surrounding skills already and the process will not feel unfamiliar.

It’s a really good idea to actively introduce your child to potty training skills and concepts such as changing your child’s nappy in the bathroom, showing them a potty seat or toilet for exploring before you start, and if you are comfortable, let them start coming to the toilet with you so they can watch you do it and hear the flushing sound for example.

SETTING UP THE ENVIRONMENT TO START POTTY TRAINING

Setting up your little one’s environment for success can be hugely helpful to the training process. As a preference, I would attempt to train on the toilet using a seat adjustment and step.

However, if your child really does not like the toilet initially or you would prefer to use a potty to start with, place the potty in the bathroom closest to your living area. If an accident occurs, do all changes in the bathroom. Also change in the bathroom following a nap or wake up in the morning where your child may still be wearing a nappy.

little girl smiling on the toilet

Ensure all necessities are accessible for your child in the bathroom, e.g. toilet paper, soap, and the hand towel are all at an appropriate height. If you decide to use a reward or sticker chart, again have these easily accessible just outside the bathroom door. All these little adaptions to your environment will help make the whole process go a lot smoother.

HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU PUT YOUR CHILD ON THE POTTY?

Once you take off your child’s nappy when they wake up in the morning, set a timer and plan to take your little one to the bathroom every 30 minutes. One of the main causes of daytime potty training accidents is because the child is having too much fun and forgets about needing the toilet.

You would them on their potty for a few minutes and if they don’t do the toilet, take them off the potty chair and continue with playing. Keep them hydrated during this period.

You should provide lots of encouragement and positive reinforcement whenever they are on the toilet or potty chair.

Toddler sitting on potty in bathroom

WHY SHOULD I USE POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT DURING POTTY TRAINING?

Positive reinforcement is all about keeping potty training as positive an experience as possible, and a source of pride and achievement for your little one. Their success is so often linked with their feelings about the process, and their co-operation is vital so let’s keep it as fun as we can.

We are actively teaching them the skill of noticing the difference between wet and dry, and positively reinforcing dry pants regularly. Remember, your child will first learn the control of how to keep dry before they learn how to release it in the toilet. Have lots and lots of praise for both of these skills throughout the day. Feel free to use sticker reward charts if your child likes this, or an activity that they particularly enjoy.

Some children simply love the praise and recognition, e.g. ‘amazing look you have dry pants, you are such a grown up boy/girl and I am so proud of you’. When praising, always include explicating what it is your happy to see. Another example might be, ‘well done trying to do your wee. I like the way you sat up on the toilet by yourself. Great try! We’ll try again in a little while’. Making a big deal of it is so important at the beginning, though you can reduce the praise over time.

WHAT TO DO WHEN POTTY TRAINING IS NOT WORKING?

You may find that your potty training or toilet training isn’t working simply because your child isn’t ready. It may be that they aren’t showing enough of the key readiness signs and aren’t developmentally ready; or it can often come down to nervousness in the whole process. If there is pressure around potty training or perhaps it was started at a time when your child was unwell, going through a time of change or perhaps when they were resistant to starting, this can create negative associations with it, and sometimes fear. The best way of approaching this is to change the goal temporarily for your child to relax and engage with the process.

little girl playing with toilet paper

Below are some suggestions to help make it a fun, relaxing experience while also helping to encourage release:

  • Blowing bubbles while sitting on the toilet or potty seat.

  • Blowing a balloon while sitting on the toilet bowl or potty seat.

  • Distracting your child with a book or favoured toy on the toilet or potty.

  • Avoid the use of screens in the bathroom if you can. Often, parents can find screens to be very helpful in distracting their child and helping them to relax enough to release their wee. However, they can in fact be so distracting that your child may be completely unaware that they’ve gone to the toilet at all. Better to avoid if you can.

  • With your child, decorating the top of your toilet with some stickers.

Additionally, if your child becomes fearful of releasing their poo (which can be a daunting experience for some). If your child is experiencing this and is having some success with urinating in the toilet, speak to them about it initially.

Ask them to tell you when they need to go so you can put their nappy back on for them. I would suggest this if it’s an ongoing issue and not a once off. We don’t want your little one to become constipated if we can avoid it.

Once the nappy is on, bring them into the bathroom and encourage them to go in their nappy in there. Offer loads of praise for doing their poo in the bathroom.

Once they are comfortable with this, move them onto the toilet or potty with their nappy on and encourage them to go while sitting there. Again, lots and lots of praise and encouragement.

The next step would be removing one strap of the nappy; the finally, tolerating going to the toilet with no nappy at all.

WHERE TO PUT THE POTTY WHEN STARTING?

I would recommend you socialise and play in a room closest to the bathroom when you start potty training. The potty would be in that bathroom rather than in the play area so that they understand that when they need the toilet, they will have to go to the bathroom, whether that is to use the toilet or the potty.

WHAT TO DO WHEN GOING OUT OF THE HOUSE DURING POTTY TRAINING?

For the first 3 days of starting potty training, I would recommend you stay at home to really cement the process. Once they are potty trained better, and there are less accidents, you can venture out but it might be worth taking an spare pair of clothes. There also some really good travel potty chairs available to buy which can be very useful for when you start going out. 

CAN POTTY TRAINING CAUSE CONSTIPATION?

Constipation is extremely common in young children going through potty training and is defined as difficulty passing a stool. It typically starts out when a child is in the learning process and gets into a habit of holding their poos to avoid either having an accident, or indeed going to the toilet. Sometimes this habit can start after your child has a negative experience using the toilet (e.g. a pain of some kind). Once the physical constipation is treated, it is important to address the emotional aspect of the difficulty.

There are some risk factors associated with constipation including:

  • Low fluid intake or limited diet.

  • Not enough exercise.

  • Certain medications (including, but not limited to, Cough medicines and anticonvulsants).

  • A negative experience using the toilet (e.g. a pain of some kind).

Constipation can be physically treated using the following methods. This should be addressed before attempting to address the emotional factors:

  • Disimpaction: consult with your doctor and they will help you with a treatment pathway for this. We are in no way recommending this approach and you should only be guided by a medical professional.

  • Increase fluid and fibre in your child’s diet. Tips for this include adding linseed to breakfast cereals or yoghurt, choosing wholemeal bread, pasta and rice in their diet, and increasing their intake of fruit, vegetables and pulses.

  • Include at least 60 minutes of physical activity in your child’s day. Exercise stimulates bowel function.

NIGHT TIME POTTY TRAINING

With my approach to nighttime training, I believe that you should continue with nappies at night until you have seen at least 5 consecutive nights of your child being able to stay dry. Many children can do this within a few weeks but some do take longer and you shouldn’t rush that change.

CAN POTTY TRAINING DISRUPT SLEEP?

Sleep regressions are typical when a child hits a significant development milestone and learning to use the potty or toilet is an example of this. It’s such a significant change for a toddler, and sleep is often one thing to a visible impact, as well as their mood and increase of tantrums. If your sleep has suffered, my online sleep courses for 2 to 4 year olds can get you back on track relatively quickly.

POTTY TRAINING OR TOILET TRAINING

Potty training vs toilet training – which approach is best? As you will have seen throughout this article, I switch between potty training and toilet training often in my language. Many parents will use the potty to help their child transition from nappies and using the potty isn’t a bad thing at all (we did it with our first child). However, as I learned about potty training, I felt that bypassing the potty and going straight to toilet training was a better approach.

little girl on toilet talking to Mum

Why? I believe it’s just easier to toilet train a child without having to teach them how to use the potty and then teach them to use the toilet. When a child can use the toilet, generally most children will adapt to the toilet much more easily. Whereas, adjusting to the height of a toilet with it being bigger can be another big learning step even after they are potty trained.

It is also easier in my opinion to then transition to being out and about, and being required to use a variety of different toilets. You want to avoid an aversion or fear to the toilet and different bathrooms if possible.

WHAT ARE THE BEST POTTY TRAINING TIPS?

Here are some of my key potty training tips:

  • Make sure your child is showing the majority of the readiness signs before you start.

  • When you do start, encourage them to sit on the potty every 30 minutes when you start potty training.

  • Every bowel movement or pee on the potty or toilet should be made a big deal – they are doing amazing with such a big change.

  • Separate daytime potty training and night time potty training.

  • If you are not using a course to help you, write out your own potty training plan.

  • Invest in some training pants and a waterproof sheet for your child’s mattress; this is useful for when you take away the nappies at night.

  • Sometimes you see improvements in a few days; sometimes you will see it in a few weeks time. However long it takes, don’t lose hope.

ARE THERE POTTY TRAINING COURSES?

Yes there are many out there. However, if you want to use my toilet training approach, with my 10 day toilet training programme, you can buy it here for instant access.

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Images by Estelle Thompson Photography

Company Name: The Daddy Sleep Consultant Ltd

Company Number: 13226982

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chris@thedaddysleepconsultant.com

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