Toilet Training Steps

How do I teach my child to use the toilet?

  1. Choose a day to begin. It is important to be consistent and follow the same toileting routine every day when you begin toilet training. To start toilet training, set aside half of a day when you will be home and choose a time when your family is relaxed.
  2. Explain how to use the toilet. Tell your child the steps to toilet training. They may include:
    o Tell Mommy or Daddy that you need to use the toilet
    o Go into the bathroom
    o Take off your pants and underwear
    o Sit on the potty
    o Try to do a pee or a poo (use whatever words mean something to your child).
    o Ask for help to wipe
    o Flush the potty
    o Wash your hands
  3. Give your child plenty to drink. On the first day of training giving your child more to drink helps to increase the chance that you child will want to use the bathroom, but do not force your child to drink. Also make sure that your child’s diet has plenty of fruits and fibers to keep bowel movements soft.
  4. Ask your child if they need to use the toilet. Ask your child from time to time if they need to use the toilet. Look for signs like holding themselves or straining to pass a bowel movement.
  5. Encourage your child to sit on the toilet. When you think your child may need to go, sit them on the toilet for 3 to 5 minutes. You can do this if you see signs that you child needs to use the toilet, after waking in the morning, after meals, before going out, or when returning home. Do not force your child to sit on the potty or toilet.
  6. Praise and Reward your child for trying to use the toilet. If your child is relaxed and encouraged, they will eventually do something in the toilet. When they do praise them for their success and allow time for your child to admire what they have done. Remind them to flush the toilet. Wait at least two hours before taking them back to the toilet, unless they ask. If your child sits on the toilet for 3 to 5 minutes, but is unsuccessful, praise them for sitting and then let them get back to playing.
  7. Teach your child to wash their hands. Praise their cooperation for washing their hands.
  8. Encourage desirable behavior. Praise your child for any steps that they follow, any progress they make, and when they are successful at using the toilet. Tell your child what they have done well—”Billy, well done for telling me when you need to go to the bathroom.” You may like to reward your child with a special activity, such as a story, or stickers.
  9. After your child has learned to toilet train. Once your child learns to toilet train, you can stop giving rewards for successful use of the potty and instead praise your child from time to time for following toileting steps.

Accidents can and will happen

Toilet training is a learning process, and there are times when children will stay have accidents. Do not become discouraged. Children may also accidentally wet or soil their pants when they are sick or their usual routine has been disrupted. If this happens, take a break from toilet training. Start the training again with sitting on the potty or toilet when everything has returned to normal.

What should I do if my child has an accident?

  • Stay calm if your child accidentally wets or soils. Calmly say something like, “Oops, you’re wet. Let’s change.” Go to the bathroom and help your child clean up. Do not punish your child and do not talk a lot or make cleaning up a fun time for your child. A few minutes after changing remind your child of the toileting steps.
  • Check to make sure the following things are in place to help prevent accidents.
    o Make sure your child can easily reach the potty or the toilet
    o During long play periods or before going out, ask your child if they need to use the potty
    o Encourage your child to go to the bathroom on outings
    o Keep diapers on at night until your child usually stays dry until morning
    o Ask your child to sit on the toilet before going to bed

Article by W. Douglas Tynan, PhD
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