Although most kids look forward to being able to use the toilet on their own, they can easily get frustrated by the inevitable accidents. Navigating that grey area between nappies and underwear can be hard on you too.
Here are some tips that will help make potty-training as easy as possible for everyone.
Wait until your child is ready
Trying to potty-train a child who's not ready can actually extend the process. Try and avoid starting training when there are other big changes in your child's life, such as illness, divorce, a death in the family (even of a pet) or moving to a new home.
Take it one step at a time
To get the process going, you may want to start by leaving a potty on the floor of the bathroom for a few days. Tell your child that the little toilet is for her and the big one is for grown-ups. A few days later, have her sit on the seat (fully clothed is fine). After another few days, start asking your child a number of times every day whether you can take off her nappy so she can sit on her special seat.
Get the right equipment
Child potties should be low enough that both feet can rest firmly on the floor. Skip the urine deflectors (shields that attach to the front of the seat to keep boys' urine inside the toilet). They seem like a great idea but can sometimes hurt boys who don't sit down in exactly the right way, and the last thing you want is to have your child associate going to the toilet with pain.
Don't flush in front of the child, at least at first
While some kids may be fascinated and want to flush over and over and over, others may be terrified, believing that a part of them is being sucked down the toilet.
Minimise or eliminate liquids within an hour of bedtime
This will increase the chances that your child will wake up dry, which will boost his confidence.
Learn to recognise the signs
When you see that knees-together, bouncing-up-and-down dance, find a loo fast.
Be positive, but not too positive
Too much excitement about the contents of a nappy can give a toddler the idea that what he's produced is somehow valuable, which may result in him wanting to keep it for himself (inside his body if necessary).
Make it fun
Boys in the early stages of potty-training are notoriously bad at aiming. Putting some o-shaped cereal or other targets in the water, or adding some blue food colouring (which turns green when the yellow urine hits it), can make urinating more fun for your son and less messy for you.
Don't worry about night training for a while
Wait at least until your child is regularly dry after waking from naps and occasionally dry in the morning. Overnight bladder control doesn't usually come for a year or so after daytime control.
Coordinate your approach with other caregivers
Barring any major life change, once you've started the potty-training process, there should be no going back. Let all teachers and caregivers know what you're doing at home and ask them to do the same.
Avoid making punishment a part of potty-training
It's impossible to force a child to use the toilet if she isn't ready or doesn't want to. Children who feel pressured sometimes try to regain control of the situation by refusing to get out of nappies or by not going to the toilet at all. This can lead to constipation or other conditions that will need to be treated by your paediatrician.
Be consistent and patient: you’ll be surprised at how soon your little one will master this new skill!