Toilet training may be a messy matter but it is rarely an illness or a disease process that requires treatment. Girls tend to potty train quicker than boys but each individual will come out of nappies at their own rate. A problem should only be considered if a child is still soiling after the age of about four years.

The usual cause of delayed toilet training is because the child does not feel uncomfortable in a wet or soiled nappy. There is very little that can be done about this other than gentle persuasion. Criticism or punishment will only help to delay matters further, be used as an attention-seeking device or cause the child to withhold and become constipated.


Toilet training should start as soon as the child is old enough to understand verbal instructions.

Aim for daytime potty-use initially and then moving on to the toilet thereafter.

Urination should be trained first and defecation afterwards.

Night-time training should follow in reverse order, encouraging the child not to soil the nappy but expecting a wet nappy each morning. When the child is old enough, try to have them pass urine before bed, when the parent goes to bed (which necessitates awakening the child) or if the child awakes in the night.

Thoroughly congratulate the child on successful use of the potty or toilet but never criticize them for failing. Explanation of the situation as the child gets old enough to understand is ample critique.

Bedwetting is usually not a training problem and is discussed in its own section .