Our expert seven-point training plan can help you achieve the positive result everyone wants - a happy child and a nappy-free house.
Potty training your toddler won't all be plain sailing, but you can give yourself an easier ride by following our simple seven-point potty training plan:
1 MAKE SURE SHE'S READY
There is no point trying to train a child who isn't ready, and this can be any time between 21 months and three years. Only you are the best judge of this - not your mother-in-law, not your next-door neighbour or even your best friend.
Don't be bullied into starting anything before she's properly ready, advises training expert Heather Welford. Have confidence in your own ability to judge the right time for your child. If you really don't feel that your toddler's ready to start potty training at two, just leave it.
'Mums should never be made to feel that they've failed if their two-year-old is still wearing nappies. Do what's right for you and your child.'
Physical readiness depends on the development of muscle control. By around 18 months the bladder can usually hold urine for a couple of hours, making potty training at least physically viable. Any earlier than this and you're likely to be spending most of your day in the loo.
It may sound obvious, but it's also vital that your toddler is capable of understanding what you want of her, able to communicate her own needs (not necessarily using words), and physically able to get on and off the potty, ideally pulling her own pants and trousers up and down.
Children often let you know when they are ready to start toilet training - some start pointing at their nappies and others just tell you if they're wet. One of the main advantages of leaving toilet training until later is that your child will have better bladder control.
Stay positive If your child is not interested at first, don't panic. Girls are often dry quicker than boys and no one really know why. The important thing is not to worry about it - just remember that your child won't still be in nappies by the time she's 12.
2 INTRODUCE THE POTTY
Get her used to sitting on a potty or child's loo seat, explaining to her what it's used for.
Remember Try to keep your voice calm, neutral and unemotional as you talk to her about it - she'll pick up any anxiety in your voice. Then encourage your toddler to sit on the potty. This may sound simple, but it's where many parents tend to go wrong. If you take your child's nappy off and just expect him to sit happily on his potty for several minutes right from the start, you'll both end up feeling frustrated. It's not a good idea to suddenly plonk his bare bottom on an alien potty - let your toddler sit on it with his clothes or just a nappy on at first to get used to it, and make it as brief as he likes.
Stay positive She may only want to sit on the potty for a few seconds at a time to start with - don't worry, this is entirely normal. If she doesn't want to sit on it at all, leave it for a few days and then try again. It's important that your toddler feels relaxed.
3 ESTABLISH A ROUTINE
Once she's happily sitting on the potty without a nappy, it's time to establish a routine.
Remember The more regularly your toddler sits on the potty, the quicker she'll get used to it. Encourage her to sit on it several times a day for longer and longer periods each time. Never make her stay there if she really doesn't want to, as it will be counterproductive.
Take the nappy off in the morning and at night, and then lead your child to the potty suggesting that she gives it a go. Gradually up the frequency to after meals, particularly if there's a chance of you catching' something. Make it a happy place, reading to her or letting her watch TV while she's on the potty.
Stay positive Don't worry about setting bad precedents - at this stage the most important thing is that she feels comfortable with the idea. Once potty training is established, it's relatively easy to move her onto the loo. It's also a good idea to use friends' trained children to show your toddler how it's done and help convince her that it is the normal and big girl' thing to do. In the absence of older siblings, this can be a very powerful tool. Even if she claims indifference, you can be sure she's taking it all in. If she doesn't want to try, don't force her. Leave it and come back to it another day.
4 REWARD RESULTS, IGNORE MISHAPS
Use encouraging suggestions and flattery to get them to try - use a wall chart, which rewards successes with fun stick-on characters or stars. Never show any disapproval of failure.
Remember If you do see results, then praise her by telling her how clever and grown up she is and she'll soon get the message.
Stay positive She will probably have quite a few accidents before she's finished. When things go wrong it's essential to keep your cool and wipe away puddles without complaining, reminding your child that it would be better to do it in the potty next time. If you get cross when she does it in her pants when you know she's capable of using the potty, you can jeopardise any progress.
Don't get in a state about it,' says Heather Welford, it's not worth it. If she knows how to do it, but chooses not to, then she's realised the whole business gives her power over you.' Just pretend it doesn't matter.
5 MAKE SURE SHE DRINKS PLENTY
Increasing your toddler's fluid intake when you're planning a quiet day at home will give her plenty of potty practice.
Remember Toddlers learn by repetition and routine', says Heather Welford. It's easier if you give them lots of water, which passes through the system so quickly that the sensation of needing the loo comes every hour rather than twice a day.' Potentially it's messy, yes, but practice does make perfect.
Stay positive You may not be keen on the idea of training pants, but they can be useful in bridging the gap between nappies and pants, particularly if you're going to adopt the above method. They help make your child feel more grown up for pulling up her own pants while being an added security against any little accidents.
Alternatively, extend the period each day when your child plays without a nappy, or even any clothes at all, so that she can get more easy-access practice.
6 TIME FOR PANTS
This is it, you're ready to take the plunge and let your child go without a nappy.
Remember There are going to be accidents, and probably lots of them, so be prepared both physically and mentally. Gather lots of pairs of pants and trousers and expect to get out the disinfectant on a regular basis. Accidents usually happen for at least a year.
Prepare her by explaining that she can wear big girls' pants now and take her with you to buy some. Remind her to tell you when she needs to use the potty. Make sure she - and you - know where it is!
Stay positive Your toddler might not seem to need the loo very often. Resist the temptation to pester her about whether she needs to go every ten minutes. Once you've got to this stage he shouldn't really need to use the potty more frequently than every hour to hour-and-a-half, and continually asking her will drive you both up the wall.
7 GO FOR GREATER INDEPENDENCE
As soon as the habit is well-established, start to encourage your toddler to pull her own pants and trousers down and up, and to take aim' herself, so that you work towards greater independence.
Remember To introduce the toilet as soon as potty training is going smoothly.
Stay positive She may be reluctant to use the loo away from home, but try to get her used to different potties and toilets. Whatever you do, don't moan about her failures to your friends while she's listening. At best this will upset her if she is genuinely struggling, and at worst let her know how important an issue it is. Just keep it in mind that accidents are relatively rare over the age of five.
Remember the golden rule:
There's no guaranteed right' way to potty train your toddler - just go with whatever makes sense to you, keep the process as casual as possible and expect the odd setback. Never show you're cross when she refuses to use the potty. Wait, remain calm and your patience will eventually be rewarded.
For more help contact ERIC, a charity which offers advice to potty-training parents. Call the helpline on 0117 960 3060 or visit www.eric.org.uk