Parents often launch into potty training with a sense of dread, but it really doesn't need to be as exhausting and frustrating as you might have feared.
It's important to remember that your child will learn to use the potty, and in the same way as walking and talking, they will do it at their own pace. Bear in mind that by the age of three, nine out of ten children are dry most days.
There is a simple five-step process you can follow to make potty training as easy and trauma-free as possible.
Step 1: Talk to your child about potty training in advance
Children generally learn to use the potty when they're between 18 and 24 months. Around their first birthday, start talking to them about the potty. You might want to refer to yourself as needing to use the potty, and it can also help to let them see you or their siblings using the toilet.
If your child is particularly resistant, demonstrate how their favourite toy likes to sit on the potty, or read books where the characters learn to use it. This is part of the process of getting your child used to - and comfortable - with the idea of using a potty.
Step 2: Allow your child to pick their own potty
Make potty buying a fun and exciting trip and allow your child to pick whichever one they want. Once you're home, it's advisable to place the potty in the bathroom and to use it as often as possible, rather than having lots of different potties dotted all over the house.
If you decide on a potty seat, also be sure to buy a step stool so that your child can have their feet flat and pressed down on a surface. This is the only way they can empty their bowels and bladder properly, and it will help them feel safe and secure.
Step 3: Choose the right time
Potty training can be unsettling and stressful for children, so it's important to choose the right time. Bear in mind that children will respond best if they are relaxed and enjoying their regular routine, rather than feeling that they are in the middle of some kind of change or transition.
It's also wise to choose a couple of days when you know you can be based at home. When you do head out, remember to pack all the essentials. Avoid using nappies after you've decided to potty train; this can be very confusing for the child and stop them progressing. Portable potties are available and can be packed into a large bag.
Step 4: Show your child how it's done
Every few hours, get your child into the habit of pulling down their trousers, or lifting up their skirt or dress, lowering their underwear and sitting on the potty. Whether they use it or not, get them to wipe, replace their clothes and flush the toilet and before washing and drying their hands.
Step 5: Give them lots of praise
Accidents can and will happen - it's just a normal part of the process. Try not to scold or be angry with your child, as this can delay their progress and make them reluctant to use the potty. When your child does, be sure to reward and praise them. Clap and perhaps even use a sticker chart so that they can see how well they are doing. There's no need for big presents, but do give them verbal praise and tell them what a big girl or boy they are.