How To Potty Train Your Child The Gentle Way

Potty training marks the beginning of a whole new phase and it comes with a host of uncertainties and anxieties for the parent and the child.

Potty training your child is a really huge milestone. Up until now, it’s been nappies galore and your baby has been completely reliant on you for their sanitary needs. Potty training marks the beginning of a whole new phase and it comes with a host of uncertainties and anxieties for the parent and the child in question.

There is something profoundly grown up about a child using a potty or toilet. In so many ways they may still feel like your baby but the end of nappies feels like you are closing a chapter. A chapter you might not be ready to close at all. In the meantime, your child might be ready to rock and this could be the perfect time.

Some children make the decision for their parents. They go on nappy strike, show a keen interest in using the toilet and eventually it seems like the logical thing to do. This can be particularly common when a child has older siblings who they see using the toilet. They want to mimic the behaviour of the brother or sister they look up to in every other way. 
Many children grow to detest the sensation of going to the toilet in their nappy. Once they have done their business they panic, become upset and will not relax until it has been dealt with by a parent or guardian. In some cases, they will simply remove the nappy and that is not a huge amount of fun for the parent involved.

Other children require a lot of persuasions when it comes to toilet training. My own son would fall into this category. He had no interest in using the potty or toilet and was quite content to remain in nappies. Unfortunately the pre-school he would soon be attending dictated the time we chose to toilet train but when I look back now I see it as a blessing in disguise. I’m not sure when we would have felt brave enough to begin the process if we didn’t feel we had to. In the end, he was out of nappies a month before his third birthday and all is well that ends well. He was able to start pre-school a couple of weeks later without too much trouble.

Timing can be a really big factor for a lot of children. Quite often parents will begin the process, take a couple of days off work to complete the mission and eventually submit to the fact that it just wasn’t the right time and the child was not ready. If time is on your side the advice in this situation might be to simply park it for a couple of weeks or months and try again at a later date. This is really common. Your older children may have potty trained at a young age but every child is different.
Toilet issues can often reflect a child’s emotional state. At times of great change or worry they may refuse to use any other toilet but the one in their home for example. Holding in poo is also a very distressing reality for a lot of children and their parents and can take quite some time to deal with.
Having a gentle approach to potty training has so much to offer. Here are 10 tips for a positive toilet training experience, the gentle way.
  • Don’t be in a hurry to start. If possible try to let this be a child led experience where you feel the child is ready.
  • Begin by reading some books about potty training. This can be a gentle way of introducing the idea at a “safe” time such as the comfort of bedtime stories.
  • Talk about what you are doing in the bathroom and answer any questions they might have.
  • Quite often children want to mimic what their older siblings or cousins are doing. If an older sibling is comfortable with it, allow the child to see them using the toilet to normalise the experience.
  • Make small goals. Simply encouraging your child to sit on a potty can be a victory. Even if they are fully clothed. This is a whole new experience, remember.
  • You can never praise a child enough for using the potty. Reward that positive behaviour however you see fit but give it tonnes of attention so they associate it as being a hugely positive thing.
  • Let your child become involved with choosing underwear. It can be a special day out where they choose their own. Independence is a great confidence boost for them.
  • It is important to be very aware of the signs that your child needs to use the toilet so ask regularly and watch them closely so you can learn together.
  • Having a potty in every major room in the house can be very helpful. It creates normality around the experience as well as reminding your child to think about whether they need to go or not.
  • 10. Do not panic if they have an accident or regress. This may increase their anxiety. Simply take a deep breath, clean it up, explain what we do when we need to use the toilet and move on from it. It is to be expected. Remember this is not bad behaviour and this brand new skill takes time to learn. Expressing disappointment will set your child back.
Tracey is a happy mammy to four-year-old Billy. She is a breastfeeder, gentle parent and has recently lost five stone so healthy family eating is her passion! You can find her at

Tracey Quinn

Proud mum of two who got married on Don't Tell The Bride and had an accidental home-birth (loves a good story). She's passionate about breastfeeding, positive thinking & all things cosy.

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