Potty training - your problem solver

Potty training not going as planned? If your toddler is using the potty solely to bathe their toys and leaving damp patches (or worse) all over your home, try our tips to get them to sit, stay and do their stuff!

Potty training: your questions answered

So your toddler is ready for potty training, you’ve cleared your schedule so you can give the process the attention it deserves and they've chosen the potty of their dreams. What do you do when they just won’t co-operate?

Q: If I forget to sit my daughter on the potty she wees or poos wherever she’s sitting. When will she learn to go to the potty herself?

You may be expecting too much too soon. Don’t forget, your toddler has spent the last couple of years just going when she needed to in her nappy and it’ll take time for her to connect the urge to go with the need to get to the potty. Remind her but don’t overdo it, as she needs to learn to recognise the urge herself. After a few weeks she will begin to go herself – giving her a sticker for her reward chart every time she takes the initiative can help. Bear in mind, though, that even when she does make that link there will be times when accidents occur – for example, when she’s engrossed in play or tired she’s more likely to miss her body’s signals.

Q: My son is happy to wee in the potty but he refuses to poo and gets very upset if I try to encourage him. What can I do?

Since he’s pooing quite happily in his nappy it doesn’t sound like your son is constipated (this can make children hang on for fear of it hurting them). Young children can get very emotionally invested in the act of pooing – they see the poo as part of their body and can’t understand what’s happening when it comes out. It can help to give a very simple explanation of how their body throws out the food it doesn’t need just like you do the rubbish, that it comes out as poo and that it’s fine to let it come. Ease him in gently to the idea of doing it in the potty by letting him sit on the potty wearing his nappy to poo, and then letting him empty the poo into the potty, before gradually moving on to laying a nappy in the potty so he can poo on top of it. You can then use scissors to cut a nappy into progressively smaller pieces for him to poo on top of until it doesn’t have to be there at all.

Toddler toilet phobia can stem from the fear of falling off or falling in. If it’s causing problems, try sitting your child on it backwards so she can hold onto the tank to steady herself, or place a step in front of the toilet so she has something to rest her feet on.

Q: My daughter overshot the potty when sitting down on it and hurt herself. Now she won’t sit down on it at all – how can I restore her confidence?

Try sitting behind the potty with your legs on either side of it so she can be reassured by your presence. Once she sits, read a story to her to distract her from any concerns she may have, or have some bubbles handy so she can focus on blowing them while she sits on the potty. Don’t wait until she needs to poo to do this – try for a few minutes a couple of times a day so she doesn’t feel afraid to sit on it when she does need to poo.

Q: My son keeps leaving it until the last minute to sit on the potty and pooing on the floor beside it instead. How can I stop him from doing this?

It’s bound to be frustrating if every poo is a near-miss and you’re constantly having to clean up the mess. But try not to get annoyed with your child – after all, the fact he’s nearly getting there means it won’t be long before he’s successful. Instead, praise him for recognising that he needed to go and trying his best to sit on the potty on time – it’s the best way of encouraging him to react a little faster the next time he feels the urge!

Q: How can I get my son to use public toilets? I keep having to put nappies on him for trips out.

Young children can get really attached to their own potty and it’s common for them to be nervous when it comes to using public toilets, especially when they’re aware there are other people in the surrounding stalls. If your child is accustomed to using a potty or a soft child's toilet seat, it may be the thought of falling into the toilet that’s upsetting him. Automatic flushers that may not wait until your child gets off the toilet, and the noise from hand driers, can be scary too. Help him get used to the idea of sitting on a different toilet by taking him to use the one at a friend or family member's house. If he’s still nervous, think about investing in a portable toilet seat cover you can use in public toilets.

Q: When will my toddler be dry overnight?

Just because a child is dry during the day doesn’t mean she’ll automatically be dry overnight. During the day she has you to remind her to go to the potty, and eventually she’ll learn to recognise the signs that she needs to pee. But most young children take a while to go through the night without wetting at some point because their bladders are too small to hold on and they may be sleeping so soundly they don’t feel the urge. So by all means, ditch the daytime nappies – but buy a pack of pull-ups for overnight use unless you want to be getting up every night to change bedsheets!

Q: My daughter loves her potty but she pees so frequently it’s causing problems when we go out. Is it OK to put a nappy on her when we go out?

If your daughter is happy to use her potty and isn’t having accidents at home you’re well on the way to total potty training success. With that in mind, switching back and forth between the potty and nappies isn’t a good idea, as it will confuse her. You need to be consistent – and get into the habit of sitting her on her potty before you go out and taking her to the toilet once you arrive at your destination or keeping a portable potty in your car.

Q: How can I encourage my son to pee standing up? He keeps insisting I heave him up onto the toilet!

Most boys learn to pee standing up by watching an older brother or their dad do it. If you’re a single mum and don’t have a trusted relative or friend who can demonstrate the technique, try making the practice of upright peeing a fun activity for your little boy. Spray shaving foam into the bowl, or tear up pieces of toilet tissue and see if he can hit them when he pees. Another good trick is to float a pingpong ball on the water for him to aim at.

Related links

Elizabeth Pantley's Potty Training Q and As - part one...Finding potty training a challenge? Much needed help is here in the form of parenting expert Elizabeth Pantley. Read the first part of our brilliant Potty Training Q and A here.

Elizabeth Pantley’s Potty Training Tips - part two: Poo problems! Is your little one happy to wee in the toilet, but not so happy to do anything else? Expert Elizabeth Pantley may just have the answer....

Elizabeth Pantley’s Potty Training Tips, part 3, dribbles, accidents and how long should it all take?!
Expert Elizabeth Pantley answers your questions.....

Potty Training Practical Tips: Does the very mention of potty training fill you with dread? Have you tried and failed to potty train your child, leaving you reluctant to try again? Supernanny Expert My Wee Friend has years of practice at helping kids come to grips it all.

Top tips for fuss-free potty training: Supernanny expert Stacy DeBroff shares her quick tips for potty-training success…

Discuss potty training, ask other parents your problems and offer them your help on our forum.

Getting Toddlers to Stay in Bed: The Stay in Bed Technique is a method used in the Supernanny show to help families get an uninterrupted evening and a good night's sleep…

Bedwetting: Try to be patient – bedwetting is not her fault (or yours, for that matter!), and try to treat it as a challenge you work on together rather than a problem.

Find out more

  •  ©My Wee Friend ™ is a black sticker, stuck to the bottom of the potty, on which a smiley face appears when the child has done a wee. A great tool for you and terrific fun for the kids: they practically train themselves!
  • Once Upon a Potty by Alona Frankel. There’s a boy and a girl version of this book. Cute illustrations and text which focuses on the rewards of potty training.
  • I Want My Potty by Tony Ross. Terrific because it doesn’t patronise, just points out that sitting in a pooey nappy is, well, ‘yuuech’
  • Zoe’s Potty by Dori Butler. Includes a reward chart, stickers and a booklet!

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