Potty training can be one of the most stressful stages of being a parent but a new, beautifully illustrated and easy to use book, ‘How to Potty Train’,  by Judith Hough and Diane Titterton, aims to make it simple and even enjoyable for parents and children.

Judith and Diane gained their potty training knowledge after their own experiences led them to create the award-winning potty training pads, Dry Like Me. Over the last few years, speaking to hundreds of health visitors, continence experts and parents, they realised that there are times when parents just do not know where to turn for help and information, and so set about writing a common sense book to guide parents through their five stages of potty training – from preparing to potty train, right through to getting dry at night. The book contains lots of ‘read together’ sections to parents and children can learn together, as well as stickers to reward progress.

Here, Judith and Diane share some of their potty training advice from the book, and explain why children are getting potty trained so much later than in the past. Parents are often blamed for potty training happening later and lasting longer. But we, and many health professionals, believe that one of the main reasons this is happening is because of the over-use of disposable nappies.  While they are great, they are so absorbent and dry that they mask the signs that children are ready to start potty training. This means that children wear them beyond the age of two, which is the best time to potty train. In fact, if potty training is started much later, it can be more difficult and take longer because children find it more convenient to let a parent clear up the mess than have their play disrupted to go to the toilet.

Potty training isn’t something children will do by themselves; it has to be taught, like brushing teeth and preparing for potty training is an important first stage.

Parents can start preparation from when the child is around 18 months. There are a number of ways to do this, including starting to change the nappy in the bathroom as this is where grown-ups go, and saying when a nappy is wet and when it is dry to help them learn.

IS MY CHILD READY? The question we get asked most is ‘how do I know when my child is ready to start?’ There are a number of things to look out for, including the child doing fewer larger wees, rather than lots of little ones, as this is a sign they are learning to hold on. Being able to follow simple instructions and ask for things, like a drink, is a good sign. Many children also show signs that they know they are doing a wee or a poo – look out for the ‘potty dance’!  These, combined with being around the age of two, usually mean children are ready to start.

GO FOR IT! When parents decide to go for it, they need to take the nappy off and not be tempted to put it back on during the day.  It can confuse children when they are just starting out, and it can also make them believe that they have a choice. If the leap is too great, use Dry Like Me pads in ordinary pants to help to capture the mess and remove the temptation to put the nappy back on. It’s extremely difficult to potty train in a nappy, so parents must make the leap into own pants.

ACCIDENTS ARE KEY TO LEARNING: Parents shouldn’t see accidents as a sign of failure. They are a key part of learning as children may not have felt the difference between wet and dry in their nappy. In fact, young children can only feel that they need the toilet when their bladder is about ¾ full, and so accidents are likely to be large and there will be less time to react. Children get better at predicting and holding on as their bladder and their brains connect and mature.

Although potty training can be stressful, it’s important to try not to get frustrated. If the child doesn’t appear to be succeeding, focus praise on effort in trying – and the parts of potty training that are going well, such as washing hands. A good tip is to aim any frustration at the naughty wee or poo, and get the child to join in. We also recommend instant rewards that are small and inexpensive, like stickers, for maximum impact.

After a week or two focusing on potty training children are likely to be making progress but it’s after this time, when life gets back to normal and there are more trips out that parents can start to think things are not working, and be tempted to put the nappy back on.

KEEP GOING: There are lots of ways to help with this ‘keeping going’ stage. For example, on first trips out, be prepared – take changes of clothes, a potty in a carrier bag, and make first trips short and achievable. Expect accidents with play dates, or at school. Children are learning an additional skill – to listen to their bodies while they are busy and distracted. Try to keep positive as children can get frustrated and frightened of failure at this stage, especially after doing so well earlier on.

NIGHT-TIME:  Once children have mastered day time potty training, they are ready to tackle night time potty training and there are simple steps to take to make this more successful, including limiting drinks in the early evening and making sure the potty is by the bed or easily accessible and well lit as some children are frightened to get up go to the toilet at night.

With all potty training, it is a case of following a common sense approach and sticking with it. But we know it’s not always easy to find all the advice you need in one simple guide and that’s what we hope we have achieved with ‘How to Potty Train’.

How to Potty Train is published by Brewin Books and costs around £8.95. It is available from a range of retailers including Amazon and from the Dry Like Me website www.drylikeme.com.

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