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Toilet Training Process

Toilet training is a process, so use what works best for your family. Think of this time together as helping your child reach an important milestone.

Some children train right away, while others find it more difficult and take longer. Some may be fully trained as early as 2 1/2 years old, others may be training when they are 4, and others may need night protection when they are 5. Some children do very well with going pee right away but have more trouble with going poop.

Each child is different, and different tips work for different children:

  1. Don’t hurry your child. If you start before she is ready, you will spend more time and feel more frustrated than if you just wait to start.
  2. Know the signs. Your child may grunt, make other noises, squat, or stop playing for a moment. When pushing, his face may turn red. Explain briefly to your child that these signs mean a bowel movement is about to come. If your child waits to tell you about a wet diaper, praise her for telling you at all. Suggest that “next time” she let you know in advance. It may take longer for a child to notice the need to urinate than the need to move bowels.
  3. Be a role model. Talk with your child about how to use the toilet. (“Everyone poops!”)
  4. Pick a potty-training chair and have your child help.
  5. Make trips to the potty a routine, such as after meals and drinks.
  6. Set a “pee-pee timer” for every 30 minutes to remind your child to try to go.
  7. Teach your child proper hygiene habits, wiping front to back and hand washing.
  8. Praise your child for attempts.
  9. Avoid a power struggle. Children at toilet training ages are becoming aware of their individuality. They look for ways to test their limits. Some children may do this by holding back bowel movements. Stay as calm as you can about toilet training. Remember that no one can control when and where a child urinates or has a bowel movement except the child.
  10. Understand their fear. Some children believe that their bowel movements and urine are part of their bodies. They may be scared of the toilet flushing parts of them away. Some also fear they will be sucked into the toilet if it is flushed while they are sitting on it. To give your child a feeling of control, let him flush the toilet.
  11. Get a potty-training kit together before you start, with a sticker chart, juice boxes, their big kid underwear, and a potty-training movie.
  12. Make up a song containing all the steps of using the bathroom to any melody to help her remember all the steps.
  13. Make a progress chart of times they’re successful. Let them put a sticker up when they use the toilet.
  14. Celebrate successes. Celebrate when your child sits on the potty on her own, when she goes “one” and when she goes “two.” Start out with big celebrations (lots of excitement, hugs, or songs) and gradually decrease. For some children, rewards (such as a sticker or extra play time) may help.
  15. Have him help with clean up if he has an accident.
  16. You don’t necessarily have to spend money on special training diapers. You can keep using your regular diapers until your child remains dry during the day for 2 weeks. This can help decrease frustration over accidents and use up any diapers you still have. You may still need to provide protection at night for a while.
  17. Be patient. It may seem like you’ll never get through this time. But you will!


For a list of helpful books about potty training and more tips, visit Parents and Healthy Children.


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