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Mother and Baby

7 Potty Training Rules You Need To Know

Ditching nappies is a rite of passage for all toddlers, but what are the best ways to go about potty training your tot?

1 Pick your moment

There is a window of ‘readiness’, which it is possible to miss if you wait too long. ‘Your toddler may become more headstrong and unwilling to try,’ says Diane Titterton, co-author of How To Potty Train, (£8.95, Brewin Books). The average age to potty train is usually between 18 months and three years. Read on for how to spot your toddler’s ‘ready’ signs…

2 Do the two-hour spot-check

Look out for at least three of the following signs of readiness. ‘If your child stays dry for two hours or more at a time, indicates that his wet nappy is uncomfortable, can follow and understand simple instructions, asks to use the potty or underwear, or can remove clothing unaided, he could be ready,’ says psychologist and potty-training expert Emma Kenny.

'Don’t feel pressured by others, even if your mother-in-law is adamant her children were potty trained by two'

3 Wait until you are both ready?

Yes, your toddler needs to be ready, but if you’re feeling unsettled for any reason, that could impact on your focus and your toddler may well pick up on the signs and be unsettled himself. ‘That means holding off if you’re about to have a new baby or have a very young newborn, are moving house or going through any kind of emotional upheaval like a divorce or illness,’ says Diane.


And don’t feel unduly pressured by others, even if your mother-in-law is adamant her children were potty trained by two. Every child – and situation – is different.

4 Get them excited

‘Let your toddler pick out the potty he wants to use and the pants he’ll wear,’ says Jayne Miller from continence charity ERIC. ‘Anything that hands a bit of control back to your child will help with training.’ And a potty shaped like a car, or littered with princess stickers is always going to get them more interested.

5 Don’t expect a quick fix

While some US-based experts claim to be able to train a toddler in two days, Diane recommends caution on promises such as this. ‘They might be able to teach him how to sit on a potty, but learning the cues of when he needs to go can take longer, and shouldn’t be forced.’ The only way he can learn is through trial and (plenty of) error(s) and that takes time – sometimes up to three months.

'The only way he can learn is through trial and error'

6 Embrace a few treats

As far as your toddler is concerned, the move from nappies to pants doesn’t make sense. Why should he change something he’s been doing since birth and that has no obvious benefit to him? ‘That’s why he needs some kind of reward,’ says Jayne. ‘Sticker charts, sweets, books or quality time with you, all make good rewards.’ And don’t just offer a treat for a pee in the potty or dry pants. ‘If your toddler helps you clean up an accident, that should get a reward, too,’ adds Jayne.


7 Be consistent

If your toddler goes to nursery or spends time with family or friends on a regular basis, make sure the training is uniform. ‘That means ensuring the carers know the kind of language you and your toddler use for the toilet so it feels similar, and your child knows where to go when he’s there,’ says Diane. Being consistent in the potty-training approach will make your tot feel more confident.

For more features about potty training, subscribe to Mother&Baby magazine here

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