Cut you and your toddler some slack. Potty training is stressful. So, it’s hardly surprising there’s the odd hiccup on the way. We went in search of answers to some of the main stumbling blocks.
The best potty training solutions to some of your toughest problems
1. Lack of interest in potty training
You’re all set up, the potty is in position and the books are out, but your child is just not interested. “If the signs aren’t there, your child might not be ready to start potty training, and that’s fine too,” says childcare professional Julia Perry.
“Take a breath and take a break. Forcing them could make them more anxious and less successful in the long run. Also never feel under pressure to carry on just because a friend or family member is encouraging you to. Children are on their own unique schedule.”
2. Potty training regression and refusal
Many toddlers are thrilled about the idea of becoming a big kid and actively want to leave nappies behind. That said, it’s easy for them to lose confidence and start to regress if they keep having accidents. Perseverance and encouragement are the watchwords here. As Kids Inc senior nursery manager Jeni Sutton says, “Praise is the biggest thing.”
“Every child loves to be praised,” says Jeni. “Some children are motivated by stickers, star charts or hand stamps. Some just like to be told, ‘Well done!’ So, keep the focus on successes and don’t get cross if your child has a mishap.”
For those who have toddlers who just love to shout “No!” (that’s most of us then), Alison Jandu, a top US potty training expert, suggests: “Instead of asking, prompt or give a choice. Say, ‘Would you like to use the potty before or after you brush your teeth?’ Allow him to feel in control, but still keep the idea fresh in his mind.”
3. Not speaking up in time
Another common frustration is your toddler either not telling you or telling you too late that they need to use the loo. It takes time for children to learn to anticipate the need to go (as anyone who’s set off on a car journey with a toddler will tell you). The advice is to keep the lines of communication open, have set times when you put them on the potty and frequently suggest they may want to use it.
4. Potty training accidents away from home
Fellow parents have plenty of horror stories to share. Mum of three, Rebecca told us: “The first time out of the house without a nappy and my daughter pooped on my friends brand new cream carpet!” It’s not surprising going to the loo outside of familiar territory is likely to be a bit anxiety-provoking.
Remind your child to let you or their care provider know when they need to go and try not to make a big deal of it if it comes at an awkward time.
5. Fear of the toilet
A dislike or fear of the toilet, in particular of having a poo, is a common issue. Patience, reassurance and persistence are key here. Julia Perry says, “I have known children to be nervous and get upset about potty training, mainly because they don’t know what is going to happen. Talk to your child and tell them everything so nothing comes as a surprise.” Read more about this in Too scared to Poo?
6. Forgetting to use the potty
If your child tends to forget to use the potty, try to stick to a routine of putting them on the potty at certain times of the day – first thing in the morning, last thing at night and after meals as digestion may stimulate the urge to go. Huggies® Pull-Ups® will also help them recognise the feeling of being wet rather than dry. Julia Perry comments that some children don’t want to stop playing to use the potty as playing is so much more fun.
“In this situation,” she advises, “I would take the potty to them, so they don’t have to leave their game/toy, or I’d press an imaginary ‘pause’ button so everything has to stop.”
7. When life gets in the way
Experts suggest avoiding trying to potty train if there are major changes going on in a child’s life, like loss, illness, the arrival of a new baby or moving home.
Gwen, mum of one, was going through a break-up and house move while her son was potty-training age. “With all the upheaval and the stress this was causing all of us, it seemed best to wait and we didn’t even attempt it until we were more settled,” she says.
General advice is not to try and crack dry nights at the same time as potty-training. Becoming dry at night will almost always take longer to get the hang of.
Children’s nervous systems need to mature to the point where they will wake up when they need to go, and there can be quite a lag between this and being able to go happily nappy-free during the day. Although the majority learn between the ages of three and five, up to one in five children aged five sometimes still wet the bed. Huggies® DryNites® discreet pyjama pants can help. They provide night-time protection and feel like real underwear. You can find out more here.