Toilet training
Many parents become anxious when teaching their toddler to use the toilet, a situation not helped by comments from friends who've "been there, done that". Here are some impartial tips on when and how to introduce your child to a potty.

The right time

On average, most children begin learning to use a potty by around their second birthday, but as with everything in children's development, each child is different. Up to the age of 20 months, toddlers' bladders empty often, making it difficult for them to master holding on for the loo.
Follow your child's lead - when he's ready to use a potty he'll let you know. Don't worry if a friend proudly states, "Oh, my daughter was out of nappies by now" or your grandmother recalls teaching your mother to use the potty when she was only a few months old.
Some parents find it easier to toilet train their children in summer, when toddlers can run around with fewer clothes on. If this isn't the right time for your child, however, don't worry. Always go with your toddler's readiness.
It might take longer for boys to learn, especially as they also have to master weeing while standing up. Most boys learn sitting down first. Dads or older brothers can then show how to do it the other way.

Is your child ready?
Your child may be ready to start trying to use the toilet if he:

  • stays dry for a couple of hours each day
  • takes an interest when you, your partner or older siblings go to the toilet
  • has bowel movements at regular times of the day, eg after breakfast
  • can demonstrate when a bowel movement is taking place, by squatting or making a grunting sound for example
  • lets you know he wants to be changed when his nappy is soiled

Top tips

  • Be positive and upbeat - show the change as something exciting.
  • Give lots of praise whenever your child manages to do a poo on the potty. Stress how grown up and clever he is.
  • Don't rush things. Sometimes if you start teaching later, it takes less time. Toddlers over two-and-a-half may learn almost overnight.
  • Expect setbacks on the way to success. Learning to use the toilet is just like other skills your toddler learns - you expect a lot of falls before walking comes easily.
  • Give your toddler clothes that can be pulled down easily, so no fiddly buttons. You may also want him to wear training pants at first, to cope with those inevitable accidents.
  • Never force your child to sit on the potty. This will only upset him and won't make the process any faster.
  • Some toddlers enjoy picking out their own potty and toilet seat.
  • Many toddlers are afraid of the sound of the toilet flushing or don't like to see the poo being flushed away. If your child feels like this, just wait until he has run off to play, then flush.
  • It always takes longer for a child to learn to stay dry at night. When he starts having the occasional dry nappy in the morning, it's a good sign that the time is right to try going without a nappy.
  • Do your best not to be angry with your child if he has an accident. Just say, cheerfully, "Never mind, you'll get there next time. Let's get you some dry pants."