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Health & Parenting

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Toilet Training - How to Help Your Child

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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.


Eventually, your child will show an interest in using the toilet. When this happens, follow your child's lead and start the process. General suggestions that can make this process go more smoothly are to:

  • Dress your child in clothing that is easy for him or her to remove. Clothes that have elastic waistbands or easy-to-open fasteners (such as Velcro) work best. Pull-on diapers also work well during toilet training. Bib overalls and one-piece outfits are hard for a child to take off.
  • Help your child feel comfortable and safe on the toilet. Assure your child that he or she will not fall in. Some children feel more comfortable sitting backward, facing the toilet tank.
  • Teach your boy how to urinate as he sits on the toilet. (Some boys may need to push down on their penis so that the urine stream goes into the bowl and not over the front of the toilet seat.) As he grows taller, he can learn to urinate from a standing position. A small step stool may help him reach the toilet bowl and improve his accuracy. A step stool also supports the feet and allows your child to push his or her feet against the stool during a bowel movement.
  • Teach your child to wipe properly. Show him or her how to remove toilet paper from the roll, wipe, and throw the used toilet paper in the toilet. Instruct girls to wipe from front to back, which helps avoid infection caused by getting stool near the urethra or the vagina. Many children need help to wipe effectively, especially after a bowel movement, until about age 4 or 5. You may want to keep diaper wipes near the toilet to help remove residue without chafing your child's skin.
  • Help your child flush the toilet. Some children are afraid of the sucking mechanism of the toilet. If your child has this fear, it is fine for you to flush the toilet after he or she leaves the room. Eventually, your child will be able to flush the toilet without a problem.
  • Teach your child how to wash his or her hands after using the toilet.
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