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Toddler Clinic


Potty training setbacks

Identifying the problems you might encounter when moving to a potty or toilet, and tips on how to overcome your child’s ups and downs when leaving behind nappies.


It’s important to identify the signs when your toddler is ready to potty-train, as this can happen as early as 18 months, but most commonly between 2 and 3 years. Some are not ready to leave nappies behind until a little later. For more about this, go to How to start potty training.

Potty training setbacks


Your toddler is self-conscious

It’s understandable that we go to the loo in one place in the home, yet for spontaneity’s sake, we may have left the potty in the kitchen or lounge. Try: making sure your child understands you are happy to have the potty where she chooses – in the bathroom, in a quiet corner of the lounge or hallway. You and other people in your home should respect your child’s privacy when she sits down.

Your toddler hates the mess

Especially if there is an older child in the home, it might seem fun to make a big deal of what’s just landed in the bowl. Try: not making a big deal of it yourself. As soon as your child is done and you have used a wipe to tidy her up, put the wipe on top of what’s in the potty and flush it away before she has a chance to dwell on it.

Your toddler hates to poo on the potty

Let’s not mince words – pooing is a very different sensation to weeing and can feel far more alarming an act than when it used to slip out and remain in her nappy. Try: sitting down in front of her and let her hold your hands for reassurance when she poos. Or let your child get used to urinating in her potty for a while first, keeping her pull-on nappy up for poos until she feels a little more ready.

Your toddler wets the bed

If you decide to try dry nights at the same time as daytime potty-training, you may have a few wet bed incidents. Try: letting your child become a confident potty or toilet person by day and leave on nappies for nighttimes, even for many more months yet. Go for pull-up nappies so your child still feels she is growing up.

Your toddler loses interest

Don’t put pressure on your toddler to continue to use the potty for every episode if she is reluctant. She may be self-conscious that her new challenge has become your main topic of conversation. Try: inviting your child to use the potty for her own dolly or teddy ‘go to the loo’ on. Keep some little books to hand so she can read if she wants to take her time.

Accidents on the carpet

If your toddler is now out of nappies an accident can be embarrassing for her. Try: not over-reacting. Be understanding and clear up the mess without fuss. Don’t be tempted to go back into nappies as she may see this as a failure to be a ‘big girl’.

Playing with the results

Some children are so pleased with their achievement they like to stick their hands in. Try: staying calm and cleaning it up, explaining it could give her a bad tummy ache if she plays with it. Get a really fun liquid soap to encourage hand-washing straight after the potty instead. If she’s ready, it might be time to switch to the toilet.

Toilet training setbacks

Once your toddler feels ready, you can move from the potty to the toilet. (Some children go straight from nappies to the toilet.)

Your child fears falling into the toilet

Try: holding her hand while she sits on the loo. Or invest in a small seat that fits into the main toilet seat when she wants to go.

Your child hates the noisy flush

Many children don’t like the sound and rush of water when they have been to the toilet. Try: waiting until they are well away from the toilet before flushing. Gradually flush within their earshot but while they are still out of the bathroom and then eventually they will be used to it.

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