Potty training problems solved by experts

Refusing to poo, still not using the potty - sound familiar? We've got expert answers to your most common issues

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“After 6 weeks, my son is still not potty trained”
If you’ve been trying for 6 weeks with no progress, it may be time for a break,” says Health Visitor Annette Maloney. “Keep encouraging him to go to the loo with you so he can see what goes on, but leave his own potty training for now, until he’s more interested.

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“Ask yourself: does he seem aware he needs a nappy change – hiding when he’s done or needs a poo, for example? Does he use the right words to talk about wee and poo, so he can let you know when he’s ready to go? Does he show an interest in what others do in the toilet and want to look and see? Can he help with dressing and manage to pull his pants up and down? When the answers are yes, get the potty out again.”

“My son keeps weeing in his nappy pants”
“Our policy at the nursery is to encourage the children to go straight to proper pants, so that they get to know the sensation of what happens when they wet themselves,” says nursery manager Vicky Hodson. “Nappy pants or pull-ons can be confusing, as they feel just like a nappy.”

“She won’t poo in the potty”
“This is very common, and you can often encourage a compromise by putting the nappy in the potty,” says potty training expert Heather Welford.

“Even if she sits with the nappy on at first, it’s progress. Proceed gradually, unfastening one side, then two, then having the nappy in the bottom of the potty, eventually swapping that for kitchen paper or loo roll. Give lots of praise at every step!”

“My 2-year-old son is the only one of his friends who’s not potty trained”
Just like all other areas of development, children vary in their readiness and willingness to use the potty,” explains Health Visitor Annette Maloney. “On average this can be any time between 18 months and 3 years old, so your little one is well within the typical age range.

“When he’s getting nearer to being ready you may notice him becoming aware of when he does a wee, and will go quiet or stop what he’s doing. He may ask for a nappy change or even try and do it himself. If you wait until he reaches this stage, and start then his chances of success are greater.

“When the time is right, a relaxed approach will ensure your son gains confidence quickly in using the potty. You must learn to ignore the accidents and praise the triumphs, and in the meantime, don’t worry about what other children are doing but use their experiences to help guide you when his time comes.”

“My 2-year-old refuses to use anyone else’s potty or loo”
“We tend to just go with this one. If necessary, we ask parents to bring their potty in from home,” says Vicky Hodson. “Once the whole experience is less new and strange, children usually become happy to wee wherever and whenever they need to.”

“My son will only poo in the nappy we put on him at bedtime”
“This is a common problem for many toddlers,” says Health Visitor Annette Maloney. “Maybe he’s got used to the sensation of doing a poo in the nappy and going in the potty feels strange. Try sitting him on the potty with the nappy on if necessary and let him poo then. Always keep him relaxed while on the potty by singing a song or reading a quick story.

“Encourage him to rock back and forwards while singing “Row, row, row the boat” as it’s good for encouraging easier bowel movements. Also, keep some party blowers in the bathroom and get him to blow on one when he’s trying to poo, as it’s impossible to keep in a stool while blowing out! Finally remember this is a normal learning curve and your toddler will pass it when he’s ready.”

“My 4 year old still needs nappies at night”
“It’s not unusual for some children to take longer to be reliably dry at night – most doctors don’t see it as a problem until around 7 years old,” advises Health Visitor Annette Maloney.

“You just need to try and be patient. Don’t be tempted to restrict evening drinks (except fizzy ones). When you start to notice more dry nappies in the morning, and there aren’t any other major changes planned, try leaving the nappy off, and see how it goes.“Make sure you have bed protectors and plenty of spare pyjamas and bed linen. During the day make sure you offer regular opportunities to use the loo, praise every success and don’t over-fuss when there is an accident so he doesn’t feel like he’s ‘failed’ to make the toilet.”

Mum’s story – “It took a bit longer than 7 days”

“I followed Gina Ford’s pointers from her book Potty Training in One Week. It tells you the signs to look out for that indicate your child is ready. There are also tips on how to prepare the way, and a structured step-by-step guide on exactly what to do each day. I found the case studies and troubleshooting tips helpful, too.

“Our tricky little boy certainly wasn’t ‘trained’ by day 7, but we kept going back to the book for tips and advice, and most of it was practical and helpful. One case study in particular really rang true for us, and we used the approach recommended – getting Conor to take responsibility for needing a wee himself instead of constantly asking him – and it worked well. I’ll use this technique again with Aidan, but with slightly lower expectations of how long it will take!”

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Sally, 32, mum to Conor, 3, and Aidan, 1

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