Flush Away Potty Problems: Toilet Training Tips for Parents

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Children take to toilet training in their own individual ways. There are no hard and fast rules as to when you should begin and how long it should take to transition them successfully. When I first became a mother, I read in a book that I should begin toilet training my son by the age of 24 months. The book showed the steps but also reminded me to exercise patience because, typically, boys are harder to toilet train than girls.

It said there are two reasons:

1: Boys’ brains develop differently and therefore, learn differently as they need constant repetition and reminding.

2: Boys and girls have different anatomies. Boys have the harder job of learning to stand and aim.

My personal experience

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Having understood these instructions, I prepared to put in the time and found to my great surprise, that toilet training my son was a cinch. Everything went like clock work – he did not make a single mistake and was fully transitioned to the potty in a matter of weeks. He also remained dry throughout the night and we never encountered any setbacks.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t as smooth-sailing with my daughter. I can’t say it was due to her learning process. I was a busier mum by then, and I delayed toilet training until she was almost three and was not as consistent as I was with my son. She did complete her transition rather quickly but then had a bout of bedwetting after she was toilet trained.

Possible Problems

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The thing about toilet training is that it doesn’t always go by the book. Often, you may hit a snag or be presented with problems that you never anticipated. Here are some unexpected hitches you may encounter during the toilet training journey and what you can do to resolve them.

1. Your child is not ready to learn a new skill

Learning to use the potty is indeed a new skill. Your child has to learn to remove their pants, sit on a new contraption and then only poo and pee. These are a series of intricate moves which the child may find too complicated to attempt at one go and then may indicate that they are not interested to try when training day arrives.


Always begin slowly in a step-by-step fashion. Begin by talking to them and showing them picture books about using the potty. Allow them to ask all the questions they want. You can also go potty shopping with your child and ask them to pick out the design they likes. But even if they seem enthusiastic at first, they may balk at the last moment.

To break all the steps down, you could leave the potty out near where they play to get them used to seeing it. After a while, teach your child to sit on the potty fully clothed so that they can have a feel. At this point, they may still not want to try. Their resistance may be due to the fact that they are simply not not aware of the need to poop and pee, and thus, are not able to indicate when they need to go.

In this case, you should wait a few months before trying again. Some signs of toilet readiness include: being able to tell you that they need to go, that they have soiled their diapers and want a change, they are able to stay dry for at least two hours in a day, they poop on a predictable schedule and are able to sit down on and get up from their potty chair.

2. Your child has accidents

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This is common. A child who has successfully gone off diapers for days or weeks might suddenly start to regress. It could be that they were so engrossed in play that they forgot, or weren’t aware they needed to go until it was too late.


Refrain from punishing or scolding your child. Punishments often backfire and may prolong the toilet training process. Instead, step up the frequency of reminders.

Ask them at hourly or two hourly intervals if they would like to go. If they don’t, you could encourage them to pee by bringing them to the potty or go back to the schedule you had before, for sitting on the potty. If your child produces nothing, allow them  to get up and repeat the process an hour or two later. Remember to stay calm at all times, clean up without showing your frustration and use lots of praise whenever they succeed.

3. Your child is bedwetting

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Bedwetting can sometimes occur when the child is asleep at night. It is also called night time incontinence or nocturnal enuresis. Some children may be completely toilet trained during the day but struggle to stay dry throughout the night.

Bedwetting usually occurs when they are first being toilet trained ─ but that’s to be expected as accidents will occur. It only gets to be a surprise or concern if they suddenly start to wet the bed again after months of staying dry. Generally speaking, bedwetting before the age of seven isn’t a concern, because at this age, it is all a part and parcel of a child’s development and they may still be developing nighttime bladder control.


If your child has just begun toilet training, it would be wiser to let them put on a diaper at night during the first few weeks. Only if they remain dry consistently, should you begin to let them go to bed without a diaper. Other things you could do to stop bedwetting would be to reduce your child’s fluid consumption by the evening. They should also not be consuming chocolate, carbonated drinks or citrus by late afternoon, as these foods have a diuretic effect and can stimulate the body to expel water.

Encourage your child to pee 15 minutes before bedtime and right before going to bed and make sure they get a good night’s sleep by removing electronics and other distracting elements from their room.

Most bedwetting incidences will go away on their own unless a child complains of painful urination, or has unusual thirst, bloody urine, hard stools and snoring. Never scold or punish a child for these night time accidents. They didn’t do this on purpose, and punishment will only increase their stress and feelings of shame.

4. Your child will only poop in a diaper

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Your child may be able to urinate successfully in a potty or in the toilet bowl but will refuse to poop without wearing a diaper. Children may feel uncomfortable with the sensation of a bowel movement falling away from them, or they simply do not like the idea of having to sit on a potty and wait for the poop to come out.


If the problem is the former, it could be that your child isn’t physically ready to be toilet trained – but the fact that they can tell you that they want to poop is a good sign that they are aware of bodily sensations. If they ask for a diaper or a pull-up before they can poop, it is alright to let them carry on as they wish until their bodies mature enough to accept going in a potty. The most important thing is to not let them hold their poop in to avoid going to the potty, as it could lead to painful hard stools and constipation.

If the problem is the latter, where your child just doesn’t want to sit and wait, then the issue could be due to their attention span. You could hand them some toys or sit next to them to read a book together while they wait. This will help cut away their boredom and they will also enjoy the attention you are giving them for mastering a new skill.

5. Your child has fear of the adult toilet bowl and flushing

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After successful training on the little potty, transitioning to an adult toilet bowl may be intimidating to a small child. From his or her perspective, it’s huge and tall, and the noise and motion of flushing could really scare a child. They may fear seeing their poop ─ which they associate with being a part of themselves ─ being sucked away in the torrent of water or that they too will be sucked down the toilet. Sometimes, their anxiety may be compounded by the fear of falling in.


When transitioning to an adult toilet bowl, begin by providing the child with a child potty seat. This will allay their fears of falling into the toilet. Also provide them with a footstool, so they can step up to sit on the toilet bowl.

If your child doesn’t like the sound of the flushing, you can distract them with happy music or with something they can touch and feel or play with, so that they don’t have to listen to or look at the water while it’s going down. You could also try desensitising your child to the sound of flushing by flushing the toilet casually while you and they are talking, playing and singing. Additionally, you can set up the bathroom with toys, stickers and happy fixtures so that it looks like a happy, safe and welcoming environment.

Remember to celebrate success every time your child completes his duties while using the toilet, #makchicmumsquad – good luck!

By Helena Hon

Helena is a mum of two grown up kids. She’s happy to report she has emerged relatively unscathed from their toddler days and teenage years but still remembers all those little details only a mum would remember. “Once a mum, always a mum,” as she always says. She loves sharing her experience whenever she can through her writings.

From our team of purposeful, multi-faceted mummies. For editorial or general enquiries, email to us at hello@makchic.com.