Articles and Topics
Potty Training Tips for Toddlers

Are you ready to toilet train your child? Before you start, make sure that everything is relatively calm in you're his or her life. If you're moving, having another baby or starting your child in a new school, put off the process until things have stabilized. If you add potty training to a list of upheavals in your child's life, the experience may be forever linked in your child's mind with a sense of being out of control and unsure rather than with confident, happy feelings.

As a parent, your number one job in toilet training is to avoid feeling pressured to train your child ASAP. Even if you have time limitations or caregiver considerations, resist the pressure. Your anxiety about toilet training can create anxiety in your child. Toilet training is not a competition. Your role is to encourage your child by fostering independence, and to allow your child to master each step at a reasonable pace. You must be prepared to devote some of your own time and emotional energy to providing direction, motivation and reinforcement on a daily basis. If the preschool you've been checking out won't take children until they're toilet trained, for instance, then you may just have to find another preschool. It's that important to let your child go a pace that's comfortable.

Additional tips to keep in mind:
  • Take care of your child's skin. The tender bottom area is just as likely to get a rash due to wetness or exposure to stool now as it did when your child was an infant. Keep your toddler dry by changing regularly.
  • Don't leave your child in soiled clothing as a toilet training method. Letting your child sit in wet or soiled underwear, training pants or diapers will only make the skin on the bottom sore and tender to passing urine, increasing the chance that your child will resist going. Help your toddler change pants quickly.
  • Make sure to coordinate your toilet training plans with whomever is with your child during the day. It's important that your toddler receives the same message whether or not you're there.
  • Feed your child high-fiber foods and lots of water, which will contribute to keeping your child's stool soft—making bowel movements easier to pass.
  • Expect accidents. All parents have to cope with an occasional mess; try not to display any anger or impatience when your child has an accident.
  • Consider your child's temperament and style of behavior. Your toddler's pace and general level of activity will dictate the potty progression. Think about your child's moods—at what time of day is your little one most approachable and cooperative? That's the time to introduce toilet training. If your toddler is generally shy and a bit withdrawn, successful toilet training may take more encouragement and support than if your toddler is outgoing.
  • Work with your child's attention span—plan for distractions that will keep your child comfortable on the potty, such as a book, song, or puppet show.
  • Don't forget to take your child's frustration level into account. Reassure your toddler that accomplishment will occur in your child's own time. Your patience and encouragement will help this process along immeasurably. Expressing your support and love in what can be a tough time is key.
  • If you're training a boy, have him initially sit down to urinate. If he starts out standing up, he may not understand why he has to sit down again to have a bowel movement. In time, he'll learn to urinate standing up by watching dad.
Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics in Child Development and Education