Amanda Jenner

All your toilet training questions answered

Amanda Jenner took to Mumsnet to answer all your questions about toilet training – from how to keep them on the toilet to dealing with untidy teenagers. We have collected the best questions from that session here.

Click on the topics below to jump to the questions you are interested in

Getting them to go
Older Children
Doing poos on the potty
Staying dry at night
Going at school or in public
Moving from potties to toilets
Dealing with constipation


Q: How do you encourage your child to wipe themselves if they don't want to, while also making sure they do a good job?

A: Guide them with your hand and praise them once it’s done, even though you have helped them. Then get them to have a go, and praise even if it’s not all clean - practice makes perfect. It can take until they are six years old to reach properly. But keep encouraging them daily, it will happen. Lots of praise when they try. 

Q: My ten-year-old (autistic) child is confident when it comes to toilet stuff usually. But they still want me to wipe their bottom when they’ve done a poo. How can I encourage them to do it themselves?

A: It can take time to build confidence. Set up a reward system to encourage them to try. This will make them feel proud of themselves. Even if they only, still reward them as little steps make all the difference. 

Q: How do you encourage a child not to use quite as much toilet paper when they go to the loo? 

A: Limit the toilet roll - so tear a certain amount off and leave it where the paper is normally. Also, explain the impact this has on the environment to older kids, and the cost that it involves. Sometimes, teenagers just need that little reminder about certain things. 

Q: My little one doesn't clean their bottom properly, and at school they just pull their pants up and leave it. Any tips?

A: This is hugely common. Set up a chart and explain that if they wipe their bottom, you’ll be super proud and they will get a star. The same for school if they come home clean. If they achieve five stars, they get a reward. But don't expect super clean when they’ve just started school, as they tend to rush at school.

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Getting them to go

Q: My five-year-old still never goes to the toilet of their own accord. Left to themselves, they just won't go and are happy to have an accident. How can we get them to take responsibility?

A: I would recommend you set up a reward system to try and encourage them. Keep prompting and reminding that they will get one star for a wee and two for a poo. The stars will build up to prizes. This is a more encouraging way of getting them to go independently, but fun at the same time.

Q: What do you suggest for a two year old who is perfectly capable of using the toilet, but who sometimes chooses to wet themselves and just ignore it? 

A: This could be that the bladder still isn't fully developed and not strong enough to hold it in. You will still need to prompt them, as they are very busy at this age and will forget or leave it until it's too late. If you find they are still having constant accidents after a week, stop training and start again in a few weeks. 

Q: How do you get your child to use the toilet when needed and not leave it too late?

A: Try using an egg timer that you both set together - this gets your little one involved and it's fun. Also, you will still need to be prompting them, as little ones do still need that little voice to remind them.

Q: Is there such a thing as leaving it too late to start toilet training?

A: When your little one is showing signs, they are ready it’s a good time to start - no matter what the season. If they’re showing interest in toilet training, go with it - don’t delay as you can miss the boat. But if they are a school starter in September, you must encourage this in the spring as some take longer than others.

Q: How do you encourage a very hyper five year old to sit on the toilet until they finish, rather than rush through and then go straight back to the toilet?

A: A distraction box works wonders. This will help them to relax more and not rush off before they have finished. Fill it with things that you know they would like, and keep this just for toilet time. About three objects is fine - bubbles are always a hit. 

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Older children

Q: When do teenagers finally start to leave the toilet looking as clean as they found it? 

A: This is very common; I would recommend a monetary reward system, as they are older. Get a clear jar and at the end of the week if the toilet has been left clean, they will get some coins in the jar.
It also never harms to show them how to clean it, and explain the importance of good hygiene in the bathroom. Incentives help for older children pick something you know will encourage your child. 

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Doing poos on the potty

Q: My three-year-old does wees on the toilet and is dry at night - but still does all their poos in their nappy and refuses to do them on the toilet. Any advice? 

A: I’d suggest you empty the poo into the toilet and get them to help you - praise them for the help and get them to flush it away. Set a reward system for poos and make sure they can visually see the rewards. Prompt them throughout the day, reminding them they have a reward waiting when you see the poo in the toilet. 

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Staying dry at night

Q: Any tips for trying to get a five-year-old to be dry over night?

A: Reducing liquids and fruit at least one hour before bedtime is very important. Also, make sure during the day they’re having regular visits to the toilet, and not rushed ones so they are emptying their bladder fully. Encourage a nice relaxed toilet visit before bedtime and try and get them to sit for at least five minutes.

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Going at school or in public

Q: How do I encourage my five-year-old to poo at school?

A: Speak to them and find out why they don’t want to go at school. It could be they don’t want to go in front of their friends, which is the most common one. Speak privately to the teacher and ask them if they can arrange a private visit to the toilet for them - teachers are normally very accommodating. I also use a technique where you put a little shiny star in their pocket and if they do a poo at school, they can have a treat out of the jar that you set up for her. 

Q: I worry about my child not using the toilet all day, as they don’t want to use the ones in comprehensive school. Will this cause health problems later on?

A: This is something teenagers can go through. I would always sit down and explain the importance of us using the toilet on a regular basis. It can be just a bit of reassurance is what is needed. 

Q: My child is now eight and won't poo at school, and at home still needs us to wipe. I'm not quite sure how to go about changing this habit?

A: I would suggest you keep showing them. Sometimes, it’s about turning a negative into a positive - and all children love to please and be rewarded. Try to use positive language and not be saying “Don’t worry” as this will highlight the problem. Using language such as “You can do this”, or “I am so proud of you” is almost pre-empting that they will do it.

Q: My little one is worried about germs in public toilets. They are quite happy digging in the muck, so aren’t worried about germs in general.  Any ideas on how to help them feel more comfortable using public/school toilets?

A: I think there is so much talk about germs in this current situation - and children listen to everything. I would suggest you explain about germs and how the school is super clean - like at home - to reassure them. This could be a little phase that I often come across. Public toilets are not a place many children like to use, so I wouldn’t be too concerned. 

Q: My three year old withholds their wee when they are at nursery. When they come home, they go straight to the potty and the wee is dark.

A: This appears to me they’re not drinking enough in the day, which will result in their urine being a dark colour. You will need to discuss this with your nursery and get them to encourage more fluids throughout the day. I would suggest cutting out some stars with your little one and put them into a clear bag with their name on it - get them to take them into nursery and they gets rewarded a star when they do a wee. They can bring the stars home and for a prize depending on the number of stars. The bladder and the bowel are linked, so withholding wee can also promote constipation. 

Q: My six year old will not go to the toilet in any public bathroom, as they are afraid of the hand dryers. Can you help?

A: I always recommend ear defenders for children afraid of hand dryers. So many children don’t like them, so take these with you when you’re out and about. Explain these are for when you’re outside, so they can go into the toilet and hear nothing. Before your first outing, test them at home first so they feel confident they can’t hear anything. 

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Moving from potty to toilets

Q: We found going from potty to toilet training a surprisingly difficult step. How can we make it seem less intimidating for little ones to start using the toilet instead of potty?

A: Potty to toilet can be a huge step. Obviously, a toilet is a bigger and they can be afraid of using it. A good stool and sturdy toilet trainer seat will make them feel more secure. Get them involved by letting them choose their own, as this makes it more exciting. Choose a child-friendly hand soap, as children love to play with water. Also, a reward star reward for using the big toilet works a treat.

Q: My little one sits on the toilet for wees - and my husband thinks it’s mean I don’t let him stand. When should we transition to standing up wees and how can I help? 

A: I always say to parents, standing for a boy is not a race. He will naturally pick this up at school in his own time. It's not good to put pressure on them, as this can cause regression due aiming in the wrong place. 

Q: My two year old is now terrified of the toilet because it once was flushed while they were on it. Any tips to get their confidence back?

A: I would suggest a distraction box next to the toilet - this will help them to relax and take their mind of the situation. This can be filled with a book, bubbles or small toys.  

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Dealing with constipation

Q: My seven year old has chronic constipation. Any tips or helps on how to address it? 

A: Fluids and foods are the most important factors when trying to combat constipation. Increasing fluids and fibre into their diet. Homemade smoothies are a great source of fruits and fibre, and you can hide many things in a smoothie. Foods such as broccoli, spinach, greens, wholegrain breads, fruits, avocado and oily fish all help. Try to cut down all the white based foods such as pasta and white bread, and fried foods or too much diary. Exercise daily will also keep the bladder and bowel moving, which also helps. 

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Q: I've had a real battle to ensure my three-year-old washes their hands afterwards. Can you help?

A: I would fill a star jar up and have another empty one - every time they wash their hands, they can be awarded a star. Count them at the end of the week and give them a reward that you choose. This is a great way of encouraging them to want to do it. 

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