Toilet training your toddler

Toilet training troubles

Problems with toilet training can happen for many reasons. 

Starting too soon

This may be because of pressure from relatives or friends, or if parents feel their child should be trained by a certain age.

If the child feels tension and pressure, it can be hard for them to get it right.

It’s common for toddlers to relax and ‘let go’ as soon as they stand to walk away from the potty or toilet.

If this happens a lot, they may not be ready yet for toilet training.

Changes or stress in your child’s life

Changes or stress to your child's life can cause problems with toilet training. For example, a new baby in the family.

If your child asks to wear a nappy again, let them for that day. Ask them the next day if they could manage without one.

This can happen on and off for several weeks until they feel secure again.

Being unwell

If your child is unwell it can lead to temporary loss of control.

How to respond to toddler training problems

If you think your child is not trying to use the potty or toilet you may find yourself becoming angry and even wanting to punish them. 

Don’t punish them. Punishing a child when they are trying to learn this new skill doesn't help.

Instead you can:

  • try again in a few weeks when things are less tense
  • spend extra time making your toddler feel special before you start again.


Although most children poo every day, it’s normal for some children to poo less often.

Signs of constipation can be:

  • it is difficult for your child to poo
  • their poo is dry and hard
  • your child poos less than three times a week
  • your child has tummy aches or ‘holds on’ because it hurts when hard poo comes out
  • there is tearing around your child’s anus.

Causes of constipation can include:

  • the food your child eats - they need plenty of fibre from fruit, vegetables, bread, cereals, beans and lentils
  • not drinking enough fluids - make sure they drink plenty of water throughout the day
  • some medicines
  • not enough active play
  • fear of going to the toilet or being alone in the toilet.

Sometimes the bowel gets used to being full of poo all the time and loses some of the feeling of fullness.

The child will find it hard to know when they need to go to the toilet. 

Medical help can be needed to get it started again.

Talk with your doctor, community nurse or dietitian before using laxatives or other treatments.

Bladder infections

If a young child has a bladder infection they will not be able to stay dry all the time.

You should see your doctor if your child is:

  • weeing very often, or starting to wet their pants again after being toilet trained
  • in pain when doing a wee, or there is blood in the wee
  • wetting frequently during the day after the age of two, or not being toilet trained by the age of four
  • your child’s wee changes in smell.

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Last updated: 11 March 2016

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