Children are able to control their bladder and bowels when they’re physically ready, and when they want to be dry and clean. Every child is different, so it’s best not to compare your child to others.
Most children can control their bowel before their bladder.
By the age of two, some children will be dry during the day, however this is still quite early.
By the age of three, nine out of 10 children are dry most days. Even then, all children have the odd accident, especially when they’re excited, upset or absorbed in something else.
By the age of four most children are reliably dry.
It usually takes a little longer to learn to stay dry throughout the night. Although most children learn this between the ages of three and five, it is estimated that a quarter of three-year-olds and one in six five-year-olds wet the bed.
When to start potty training
It helps to remember that you can’t force your child to use a potty. If they’re not ready, you won’t be able to make them. In time they will want to use it; your child won’t want to go to school in nappies any more than you would want them to. In the meantime, the best thing you can do is to encourage the behaviour you want.
Most parents start thinking about potty training when their child is around 18 to 24 months old, but there’s no perfect time. It’s probably easier to start in the summer, when washed nappies dry more quickly and there are fewer clothes to take off. Do it over a period of time when there are no great disruptions or changes to your child’s or your family’s routine.
You can try to work out when your child is ready. There are a number of signs that your child is starting to develop bladder control:
They know when they’ve got a wet or dirty nappy.
They get to know when they’re passing urine, and may tell you they’re doing it.
The gap between wetting is at least an hour. (If it’s less, potty training may fail and at the very least will be extremely hard work for you.)
They know when they need to pee, and may say so in advance.
Potty training is usually fastest if your child is at the last stage before you start the training. If you start earlier, be prepared for a lot of accidents as your child learns.
How to start potty training
Leave a potty where your child can see it and can get to know what it’s for. If you’ve got an older child, your younger child may see them using it, which will be a great help. It helps to let your child see you using the toilet and explain what you’re doing.
If your child regularly has a bowel movement at the same time each day, leave their nappy off and suggest that they go in the potty. If your child is even the slightest bit upset by the idea, just put the nappy back on and leave it a few more weeks before trying again.
As soon as you see that your child knows when they’re going to pee, encourage them to use their potty. If your child slips up, just mop it up and wait for next time. It takes a while to get the hang of it. If you don’t make a fuss when they have an accident then they won’t feel anxious and worried and are more likely to be successful the next time.
Your child will be delighted when he or she succeeds. A little praise from you will help a lot. It can be quite tricky to get the balance right between giving praise and making a big deal out of it, which you don’t want to do. Don’t give sweets as a reward, as that can end up causing more problems. When the time is right, your child will want to use the potty and they will just be happy to get it right.
Dealing with potty training problems