Advice from Canpol's experienced mothers.

Potty training

Saying goodbye to nappies is a real challenge for all toddlers. Before you start potty training, make sure your child is able to recognize when he needs to pee. Girls become aware of it at around 18 months old, boys a bit later, at around 22 months. Parents who start potty training immediately when the toddler learns to sit on a potty make a huge mistake - child is still unable to control his bowel movements, whereas a premature inititation of potty training may end with a failure, after which the child will be discouraged to try again.

Before you start potty training

It's best to start potty training when you're able to devote your child more time. If you're going through a busy period at work, you've just had another baby or you're moving to a new place, it's better to postpone potty training until you'll be able to effectively help the toddler move from nappies to pants. However, this doesn't mean that piling duties should postpone the training forever. Try not to wait too long if your child wants to start wearing pants and feels the need for a change.

Before you start the training, it's a good idea to take your toddler shopping. When I took my son, Michal, to the shop, I asked the shop assistant to show us some potties with a higher front side (it's safer for boys). I let my son choose the colour of his potty. He was so proud of his choice and felt clearly that the potty was his.

I don't recommend buying musical pottys or pottys with non-standard shapes in the beginning. The potty is for peeing and not for playing - the toddler should know from the start, what the potty is for. It should be comfortable, without sharp edges.

If your child is firmly against using the potty, try a training seat. Show him how to correctly use the toilet and then apply the training seat and a step-up stool that enables the child to reach the toilet seat.

How to know if my child is ready?

I noticed my son's readiness from the following symptoms:

1. He would often hide under the kitchen table before peeing and pooing.
2. His face was red and strained before and during pooing. The concentrated look on his face let me know that he was aware of what was happening. At 18 months toddlers already have regular and formed bowel movements, thanks to which they are more able to control them.
3. My son started to take his nappy off by himself and check its insides. He was often complaining about having a wet and dirty nappy. He was able to drop and put his pants on his own.
4. When I bought him a potty, he was able to sit on it comfortably. In the beginning, he would put the potty on his head, but after I showed him how to use it properly by putting a doll on the potty and by kneeling beside the potty myself, my son soon wanted to try it himself.
5. He was very interested in how I used the toilet. He would follow me and keenly observe.
6. He would wake up from his afternoon nap with a dry nappy..

First attempts

We bought two pottys: one for my son's room and one for the toilet. First we would go to the toilet together. I would sit on the toilet and explain to my son what I was doing and encouraging him to follow my example on the potty. He likes to imitate me, so this wasn't a problem for him.

In the beginning we would go to the toilet together once every 45 minutes, then we would lengthen the intervals. Whenever he managed to do something in the potty, I praised him. If he didn't do anything, I just said that it obviously wasn't the right time and that we would try again later.

When we went for walks, I would take extra pants, socks, trousers and the potty with us. We would also go to the toilet before we went out. If we were planning a longer trip, I would use training pants.

When potty training, it's good to use comfortable clothes - leggings with feet and trousers with elastic waistband instead of zippers and buttons. My son was able to take his clothes off easily whenever he wanted to pee.

Dry at night

As my son grew and got rid of nappies during daytime, I started to train him to use the potty in the night. I noticed that he would wake up more and more often with a dry nappy. He had also begun to wake up in the night and tell me that he had to pee. He also felt uncomfortable with nappies and didn't want to put them on before going to sleep. It was a good moment to start night-time potty training.
1. I prepared his bed for possible accidents. I bought him a bed mat.
2. I kept an extra sheet and pyjamas by my bed.
3. I encouraged my son to pee in the potty before he went to sleep.
4. I didn't give him too much to drink before sleeping (I didn't want to go to extremes, however - if he asked for water, I would give him some).

Most common mistakes

1. You put the toddler on the potty and command him to sit on it as long as he does something.

There is nothing more discouraging than making potty sitting a "punishment". The child's bottom will start aching, he will get bored or stressed. Forcing the child will usually end up with him not being able to do anything in the potty, but he will wet his pants as soon as he puts them back on - when the stress goes away, he feels relieved that he doesn't have to sit on the potty anymore and relaxes his sphincters.

2. You don't have enough patience.

You lose control of your nerves and let the child see your anger and frustration when he's not able to pee in the potty, and wets his pants right after.Getting angry at the toddler will discourage him and make him try to control his bowel movements all the time, which in turn will lead to him pooing and peeing at the least expected moments. It takes time before the child learns how to control his sphincters. It's stressful for him. Let him know that accidents happen. Don't compare him with other children. Don't punish him for failures, but instead praise him for every success. In time there will be less and less accidents.

3. You talk about sitting on the potty all the time. You ask the child every five minutes if he needs to pee.

You keep telling him, how important it is that he learns to sit on the potty. Such behaviour creates unncessary tension. Peeing stops being natural for the child. Keep observing him instead of constantly asking him about peeing and pooing. If you notice that he's acting uneasy or strained, suggest going to the potty.

4. You begin to restrict your child's drinking.

Toddlers must take in a plenty of fluids in order to prevent constipation, which would make potty training harder. Besides, the more the child uses the potty, the faster he learns how to anticipate his needs and use the potty independently.

What about setbacks?

Sometimes constant attempts to use the potty end up with failure. Should this happen, it's better to postpone potty training for a while and try again later. If the problem occurs again, consult the doctor - your toddler may have problems with his bladder and needs to be examined.The doctor can also refer you to a psychologist who will assess if your child is ready to ditch the nappy.

Keep in mind that all children develop differently and that the readiness for potty training is connected with emotions and biology rather than skills and intelligence. If your friends boast about their children's potty successes, don't worry - your toddler will learn it too, in his own time.


Mum of 18 year old Magda, 15 year old Wojtek and 10 year old Michaś, 15 years of professional experience

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