Tackling Toilet Training: 5 Tips for Parents

Strategies for toilet training your toddler

Posted May 21, 2013

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (1999), readiness for toilet training depends on the individual child, but generally occurs between ages 18 to 30 months. Many parents often are quick to get their child out of diapers but often this transition to “big boy or big girl” pants is not easy. Some signs of readiness for toilet training include: 

  • Your child begins to put things where they belong.
  • Your child can demonstrate independence by saying “no.”
  • Your child can express interest in toilet training (e.g., following you to the bathroom).
  • Your child can walk and is ready to sit down.
  • Your child can indicate first when he is “going” (urinating or defecating) and then when he needs to “go.”
  • Your child is able to pull clothes up and down (on and off).

If your child has met these milestones, it may be time to work on toilet training. I hope to increase your success with these suggestions. Although these are general guidelines, if you find that these tips are not successful, keep in mind that no child is the same and you may want to seek help from a behavioral therapist or licensed psychologist who is trained to treat early childhood concerns. 

Avoid holding your child to others expectations

Toilet training can vary developmentally. Try to avoid holding your child to the same standard as your friend’s child or your other children. Age milestones do not dictate when a child should be able to use the toilet independently. If you have concerns with toilet training beyond age four or five, consult your pediatrician. It may be appropriate to rule out a number of reasons why your child is having difficulties. You want to also be sure there are not medical reasons that impact success.

Put away the diapers

One of the first steps to successful toilet training is having your child wear underwear. If you want to teach your child to use the toilet, be prepared to go without diapers (at least in the daytime). In order for a child to become aware of being wet or dry, they must be able to feel the moisture on their skin. Diapers tend to prevent this because they soak up moisture.   

Scheduling is important

To be successful with toilet training, it is important to have a general idea of when your child typically voids (goes to the bathroom). Learn your child’s natural pattern and incorporate scheduled times to use the toilet during your typical routine. For example, some children tend to have the urge to use the bathroom after waking up in the morning or after meals. Establish a schedule to regularly have your child sit on the toilet.

Be positive and avoid negative comments

No one likes a negative boss! Avoid yelling at your child and using harsh comments when your child has an accident. Most children don’t wet their pants just because they want to. Encourage your child to try their best to stay dry. It may also be helpful to reward them for staying dry and/or using the toilet.

Make toilet training fun

There are a lot of ways to make toilet training fun. First, it is okay to reward your child for staying dry and for successfully using the toilet. Rewards can be special treats (e.g., candy) or stickers. Second, you can add food coloring inside the bowl and have them make it change color. Another strategy is to sing with your child or have them read their favorite book while sitting.

Copyright 2013 Erlanger A. Turner, Ph.D. 

You can follow Dr. Turner on Twitter @DrEarlTurner for daily post on psychology, mental health, and parenting. Feel free to join his Facebook group, “Get Psych’d with Dr. T” to discuss today's blog, or to ask further questions about this posting.