Potty training is a stage many parents approach with dread, but while the odd mishap is inevitable, there are steps you can take to make the process as stress-free as possible.
1. Buying a potty
This may seem like a simple task, but when an Amazon search for a potty throws up more than 8,000 results, trawling through the possibilities can become overwhelming (not to mention dull)!
There are a few things to consider before making your selection:
* Will it be stable and large enough for your toddler to sit on unaided?
* Would you prefer a lightweight potty that's easily portable? Or is it more important for you to have a potty with removable inserts that make emptying it a less messy job?
* Do you want a potty with a removable top that can be placed directly on the toilet when your child is ready?
* If you're potty training a boy you may want to consider buying a potty with a splash guard to help prevent spills.
2. Pick a time that's right
Trying to potty train a child who is not physically or emotionally ready is a recipe for disaster. Check out our guide to the tell-tale signs that your child is ready to start potty training.
3. Get your child used to the idea of 'going to' the potty
Talk to your child about 'wee' and 'poo' so that she has the vocabulary to let you know when she needs the toilet. (Bear in mind that she is likely to say - or even shout - these words in public, so choose them with care. Silly euphemisms may just end up making you blush!)
Encourage your child to tell you when she's done a wee or poo in her nappy and praise her when she tells you that she's about to do a wee or poo.
Leave the potty out where she can see it and make sure that she understands what it's for.
You could even let her decorate the potty with stickers, to encourage her to take ownership of it and feel proud of it.
You may find it helpful to read stories that involve characters going to the toilet, role playing going to the toilet with a cuddly toy, or allowing her to see you on the toilet so she can learn what it means to 'go to the loo'.
4. Introduce your child to using the potty
If your child regularly poos at the same time every day, leave his nappy off at this time and suggest that he sits on his potty.
Praise him for sitting on the potty, but if he seems even the slightest bit upset by the idea, just put his nappy back on and leave it a few weeks before trying again. Children learn to potty train in their own time, so there's no need to force the matter.
Encourage your child to visit the potty regularly throughout the day. If he knows when he needs to wee, then always encourage him to use his potty - don't worry if he doesn't always make it to the potty on time, it takes a while to get the hang of this.
To get your child into the habit of regularly going to the potty, choose times of the day to have him sit on the potty even if he doesn't need to go. You might want to have him sit on the potty first thing in the morning, before you leave the house, before naps and before bedtime.
5. Nappies off
Your child isn't used to having to think about going to the loo; up until now she's just been able to go whenever she gets the urge, so once the nappy is off don't forget to keep prompting her by regularly asking whether she needs the potty.
Try not to be too uptight about accidents - they are an inevitable part of learning. Getting angry or upset may make your child anxious about using the potty, which is likely to lead to more accidents.
Potty training pants that are designed to help toddlers understand the difference between wet and dry, while containing accidents, can help make the transition easier. Most nappy brands do a range that can be pulled up and down.
* When your child is on the potty, talk to him and give him encouragement so he feels the experience is something he can be proud of.
* But don't overdo it. There's no need to give sweets or toys as rewards - this may lead to tantrums when you expect him to use the toilet without a reward.
* Keep calm. If you don't make a fuss when your child has an accident, she won't feel anxious and is more likely to be successful next time.
* Make a game of it by buying pants or training pants with cartoon characters on them and asking your child to try not to get Peppa Pig wet.
* Be prepared for moments when you don't have easy access to a potty. Keep an on-the-go emergency bag filled with fresh underwear or training pants, a change of clothes, wet wipes and plastic bags (to store dirty clothes).
* If your child was dry for a while, but has started wetting herself again it could be a sign she has a bladder infection, constipation, threadworms or type I diabetes. Speak to your GP to rule out any health conditions. Alternatively there could be an emotional reason for the accidents - disruption, such as moving house, a change of routine or a new baby arriving, can have this effect.
* FOR GIRLS: Remember to teach her to wipe from front to back to avoid infections.
* FOR BOYS: It tends to take longer to potty train boys, so be patient. It's easier to start by teaching him to sit down for both wees and poos. Once he is ready to start standing up, encourage him to aim for the toilet bowl by playing games such as 'sink the cereal' (float a few pieces of cereal in your toilet for him to aim at), or by putting a ping pong ball in the toilet for him to aim at - it will float so won't flush away or block the toilet.
More on Parentdish
Toilet training: Moving from the potty to the loo
Why is talking about bed wetting such a taboo?
Drop the parental guilt (you're doing a brilliant job)