Potty Training

Article by Kate Barlow, The Parent Consultancy


Many parents put off potty training for a variety of reasons. They are worried about accidents, unsure what it involves or how to do it, they think that there child is too young, think that it is easier to train an older child or because they have big event or a holiday on the horizon. So they end up waiting and not taking their child’s first cue as many toddlers around the age of 20 months start to take off their nappy and show signs of wanting to be toilet trained.

I have found that parent’s who ignore their child’s cues for potty-training often find that they have missed the boat and when ‘they’ decide to train their child their child isn’t as motivated. By waiting until later, (aware of his wee’s and poo’s for some time and used to using his nappy) this habit can be harder to break, than a younger child who has only just become aware and can then associate the urge with going to the toilet. A child of 3-4 years’ play becomes involved and elaborate and they enjoy setting up games and will play for some time, by learning a skill which takes them away from this play can aggravate them.

I have successfully potty trained children as young as 20 months and at this age toddlers are often more adaptable and eager to please than a child of 2.5 -3 years. Under 2 years, toddlers are only just becoming aware of poo’s and wee’s and rarely exhibit any embarrassment. By getting them used to using the toilet at this young age they associate using the potty with poo’s and wee’s. Rather than getting used to going in a nappy.

Pull- ups and nappies

I do not recommend putting your child in pull-ups as they look and feel like nappies and only lead to confusion. They are fine to use for naps or using until your child is dry at night. Some children do not like to go back to nappies even at night time so pull-ups are a good compromise but contrary to the name, I have never seen a toddler pull them up with ease. Use a nappy for nap times in the beginning but always get into the habit of removing it when he wakes up as a child left in a nappy for too long after waking is likely to use it. Get him into the habit of using the loo before nap time and when he wakes up. If your child protests at having a nappy on when going for a nap and has been dry when he has woken previously, be brave and let them go without.

It is vital that when potty training to really dedicate a week to make sure that your child has got the hang of it. Many parents think that they have potty trained their child but omit to say that he will not poo on the loo. If this is the case you need to spend more time and complete the potty-training. You might need to help him relax and encourage him to spend a bit longer on the toilet as many children are in a rush to get on with next task.


Accidents are to be expected in the beginning so don’t be cross or punish your child. Getting the balance right is really important, don’t say “oh it’s ok, it doesn’t matter” because it does matter and you want to be clear and consistant in your approach. By saying “Oh no, not on the floor, now we will have to clean it up” will work better. Get him to help you clean up, pass you the cloth or get new clothes from his room. When you have both cleaned up, remind him where to go next time and move on.

Don’t be frightened of your child having an accident, it is unpleasant but if you are prepared it will be cleaned up in no time. Please do not revert back to nappies because you think that your child ‘might’ have an accident when out of the house. This sends the wrong message to your child and only confuses the issue. Carry a portable potty and make sure your child has used the toilet before leaving the house and keep a mental note of when your child last went to the toilet. Children like to explore toilets when out and about so be patient and carry wipes and hand gel! The novelty will soon wear off.

A child that has been successfully potty trained will ask to use the toilet whilst at home or when out and about. He will use the toilet freely whether he needs a poo or wee. By continually asking your child if they need a wee will not encourage them to think about when they feel the urge. They are likely to get fed up with being asked or just rely on you to tell them when to go. Wait for natural breaks in his play as he is more likely to be willing to ‘go’ when moving from one activity to the next rather than taking him away from a much loved game.

Potty training requires hard work and patience and will need you to devote at least a week to learning this new skill but will be worth it. Stay at home so you can both really focus on the new skill, have the shopping delivered and enjoy sometime with your child with no interruptions for at least the first few days. If you think that everything is going well and you can both stay focused take small trips out or have friends to play but only if you are confident that you and your child are ready!

For tips and advice on potty-training please read www.theparentconsultancy.com/potty-training-tips


About The Parent Consultancy

Kate Barlow NNEB and founder of The Parent Consultancy, has been working with children and their families for over 20 years. The Aim of The Parent Consultancy is to offer parents practical support, advice and solutions that they can implement themselves. This is done via e-mail or in person. Sometimes issues can really get parents down and they feel that waiting for a child to ‘grow out of it’ isn’t an option. By talking about the issue in depth and having the support and guidance of Kate can rectify the problem. Kate develops personalised step by step plans to parents on various subjects including; sleeping, eating potty training and behavioural problems. For more information, blogs and advice please visit www.theparentconsultancy.com


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