How to start potty training

They’re ready, are you? Don’t panic, we found out how to potty train like a pro.

5 min read

How to start potty training

They’re ready, are you? Don’t panic, we found out how to potty train like a pro.

5 min read

You’ve noticed the signs. It looks like they’re good to go. Now, it’s time to choose your battle plan and enter bravely into the fray. We weighed up some of the different potty training approaches to help you decide what’s best for you

Methods for when it’s time to go potty (training)

The most popular potty training methods combine elements of parental prompting alongside following your child’s lead. Where they vary most is in how long they take – those that claim to get the job done in a matter of days, versus those approaches that may take a few months.

The science behind potty training

The science bit worth knowing here is that the vast majority of children are not actually physically able to control their sphincter and bowels before 18 months, so trying any earlier is not generally advised.

Erik Erickson’s theory of child development outlines the importance of creating a perfect balance between safety and autonomy in potty training. So, just like stabilisers when we’re learning to ride a bike, your child needs to feel independent, but safely. This was front of mind in the design of Huggies® Pull-Ups® - all the safety they need as they learn but with the sense of independence that comes from the ‘feel wet’ layer and the ability to pull their pants up and down themselves.

Trying the cold turkey approach

Methods that claim to be able to potty train children in a few days or over a weekend tend to be the strictest and most intense.

Have a Google and you’ll find any number of books that promise results in three days or less. This type of approach is sometimes referred to as the bootcamp method or ‘going cold turkey’. The advantage is getting the whole thing out of the way quickly – short-term pain for long-term gain.

The drawbacks of the cold turkey approach

The disadvantages? Staying in with your child for several days, monitoring them, mopping up the inevitable accidents and sticking to a schedule of putting them on the potty every 15 minutes is unrealistic for most of us. The intense nature of such an approach doesn’t always go down well with your child.

There’s no two ways about it, it’s messy.

Going with the flow (see what we did there?)

Of course, there are more staggered approaches. The NHS advocates a softly-softly approach and advises taking a break if potty training is not going well. This way involves getting your child used to the potty and makes use of Huggies® Pull-Ups® to bridge the gap between nappies and real underwear.

Making potty training fun

Games, books, rewards (the NHS recommends stickers or small tokens rather than sweets), and plenty of encouragement will get your toddler into the potty mindset. There’s more emphasis on making the process fun, allowing for bumps on the road and accepting that it may take weeks or months.

The best potty-training advice we found:

  • Make sure everyone is on the same page

    “Make sure any other parents, relatives and childcare professionals who take care of your child are up to speed with your potty-training action plan.” Jeni Sutton, Senior Manager at Kids Inc Nurseries.

  • Get organised when it comes to potty training

    “Be prepared. Before you start, get everything in place with all the potty training kit you need.” Julia Perry, childcare professional.

  • Make sure there are no surprises

    Prepare the ground by talking to your child about going to the loo and show them around the potty and the toilet. Alison Jandu is one of the US’s leading potty training experts and author of The Poop Puzzle and The Wee Hours.

    She suggests preparing your child for potty training by counting down the days on a calendar, “This helps ease your little one into the idea and allows time for you to build her confidence and empowerment.”

  • Stick with the tried, tested, trusted

    Health visitors and childcare professionals are often fonts of knowledge about potty training, typically having seen many children through this milestone. If you need reassurance, find one and talk to them.

  • Try not to lose your temper

    Whatever route you choose, the more patient you can be, the better. “The calmer I was, the easier my son found it,’ says Lydia, mum to Alfie. ‘His favourite part was when I would dance and sing the words to ‘All In The Potty’ – we still call it the Poo dance (I mean, who even am I?). But it worked.”

  • Don’t feel bad about taking a break

    According to research by Huggies® , 42% of parents say they have taken a break from potty training after they’ve started.

  • Use what’s out there

    There’s no shortage of resources out there to make the job a bit easier. A library of how-to books if anyone has the time (many of you recommended Oh Crap! Potty Training by Jamie Glowacki).

ERIC, the children’s bowel and bladder charity, is dedicated to supporting young people with continence problems and also has a wealth of downloadable resources to help potty train all children. The Institute of Health Visiting is also a good source of professional advice.

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