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Toilet Training - How to Help Your Child

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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.

What to think about

Praise and encourage your child for success. You can say, "You are sitting on your potty just like mommy (or daddy, or big sister)" or "You are trying really hard to poop (or pee) in your potty." Reward your child for trying to use the toilet. You can use verbal praise and fun activities, such as stickers or special playtime with you.

Accidents happen. Do not scold or punish your child for accidentally wetting or soiling his or her pants. Be matter-of-fact and reassure your child that it's okay and that he or she will get better with practice. Also, remind your child to use the toilet when he or she wakes up in the morning.

If you and your child are not making progress with toilet training, it's okay. It's probably not the right time. Put the potty chair away until your child shows that he or she wants to try again.

The most important things to remember for toilet training are to wait until your child and family are ready and to make it a positive experience. Be patient, and look forward to the days ahead of freedom from diapers.

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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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