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Toilet Training - How to Help Your Child

There are many different strategies and approaches to toilet training. The methods that work best use positive reinforcement and begin intensive training only when a child is physically and emotionally ready. Introduce the basic concepts of toilet use gradually and repetitively to your child. As your child gains the necessary skills, he or she will show a sincere interest in using the toilet.

Get ready

Before you decide to start toilet training, make sure the household environment is stable and that all family members are prepared to help in the process. Trying to start potty training soon after having another child, while remodeling your home, while having a succession of household guests, right before going on vacation, or during a time of relationship problems will likely not be as successful as during a calm period when the family can focus on helping your young child reach this important developmental milestone.

Talk with your child about having a bowel movement and about urinating. Your child may be more comfortable saying "poop" and "pee." It is fine to use these words, but use the proper terms as well so that your child learns what they mean.

Start to talk with your child about how to use the toilet. Explain how the toilet works and how your child will be able to use it when he or she is ready. Be enthusiastic and always speak positively about your child's using the potty. Talk about how he or she will no longer need to wear diapers, will get to wear underpants that are more comfortable, and can go just like a big boy or girl.

You can also use books and DVDs to help prepare your child. Ask your doctor or a librarian for more information.

Get set

Take your child with you to select a potty camera.gif that is sturdy and comfortable. Be patient and give your child time to get used to and comfortable with it. Some ways to do this are by:

  • Letting your child move a portable potty into his or her room or other play area to get used to having it around.
  • Helping make the potty special by personalizing it, such as painting it or writing your child's name on it.
  • Letting your child sit on it and read a book or sit on it with his or her diaper on while having a stool or urinating. You can say, "This is your special chair for you to go pee-pee and poop in. Soon you will use it just like grownups use the toilet."

Your child may want to join you when you use the toilet. If you feel comfortable with an audience, allow him or her to join you. Talk with your child about what you are doing.

Toilet training is usually more successful if you are relaxed and patient with your child.

  • Do not try to begin toilet training before your child is physically and emotionally ready. Trying to toilet train your child before this time creates frustration for both of you.
  • Avoid power struggles, which will only make toilet training more stressful and last longer. All experiences and associations with toilet training should be positive. Do not scold, punish, or embarrass your child for failing to use the toilet.
  • Do not verbally or physically force your child to sit on a potty. Allow your child to sit on the potty only for 5 minutes at a time unless he or she is beginning to pass stool or urine.
  • Tell your child that it is up to him or her to decide when to use the toilet.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 18, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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