Q: My son is 18 months old and is walking well and making good progress with his speech. I think he is both bright and strong enough to start potty training. But my mum is telling me he is too young. Should I get going or leave it a while? And how do I actually do it?
A: Potty training typically begins at around two years of age. By then, most children have the cognitive skills and physical maturity required.
However, all children are different. Some will be ready from around 18 months, while others may not be ready until they are three or even four. And boys tend to start later than girls as they have to master both standing up and sitting down!
So really it is best to take the lead from your son rather than anyone else. Fortunately there are some signs that will help you with this. If he is able to stay dry for around two hours at a time; understands simple instructions; indicates that he has filled his nappy and wants it changed; has words for wees and poos; or simply takes a real interest in seeing other people pop to the loo, then it is probably a good time to give it a try.
The first thing to do is pop him on the potty when you believe he is going to need it. If he doesn't want to sit there or gets upset, don't force him, leave it for two or three weeks and try again.
If he is happy, let him stay there for as long as he likes. Talk to him and explain what the potty is for, and what you'd love to see him do. He may do something or nothing at all, but offer praise all the same. Build up this potty routine, but always start by putting him on it at the same time every day.
Eventually your son will understand that this is a routine he needs to follow whenever he wants the toilet. Of course you may have moments where you know an accident is about to happen, so keep the potty close by and encourage your son to use it, but only if there is enough time.
If he does have an accident – and he will have them - the key is not to make an issue of it, simply mop it up and put it down to experience.