Mom Helping Son         My oldest grandchild is 6 yrs. old and my daughter started toilet training him at 2 ½ yrs. Toilet training a toddler is one of the most interesting and challenging experiences for both the child and parent. There are numerous guides, videos and techniques on this subject and I am posting some procedures and practices that might help you. Understanding how to use the toilet is a major event in a young child’s life. Because potty training is a complex process, there are many issues parents must consider before and during the process of toilet training so that it is a successful experience for the whole family. Toilet training is easiest when children are physically and emotionally ready, which happens between age 2 and 3 years. This is the same time that they will be experiencing what many parents call “the terrible two’s“-a time when the youngsters are having their first experiences using the word “No!” and with exerting their own will and making their own opinions known. As wonderful and funny as two-year-old might be, their willfulness and independence might make toilet training a real trial for their parents. Girls usually gain physical control over their bowel and bladder muscles before boys do. On the average, most girls are potty-trained by age 2-1/2 and most of boys about age 3. Don’t be alarmed if a child doesn’t follow this pattern closely; individual children mature physically at different rates.

Exactly what can parents do to survive toilet training? To begin with is to realize that everyone becomes potty trained eventually! Your son or daughter will, too. Your child will be ready when he or she is developmentally ready, and this may be different than the child next door or your child’s brother or sister. If you try to pressure your child into toilet training before he or she is ready, this might result in a stressful situation for both of you. I hope the information I have listed below will help you as a parent decide if your child is ready for toilet training. You may want to try this program I recently found to help you toilet train your child  within three days, Click here. Good Luck! And yes, my grandson is toilet trained.

How to tell if a child is ready? The Child:

  • Follows simple directions
  • Remains dry for at least 2 hours at a time during the day.
  • Dry after nap time.
  • Regular and predictable bowel movements. ( some may have bowel movements every day and some may go 2-3 days)
  • Walks to and from the bathroom, pulls down own pants and pulls them up again.
  • Seems uncomfortable with soiled or wet diapers
  • Seems interested in the toilet.
  • Has asked to wear grown-up underwear.

If the child has most of these skills, then they are probably ready to start toilet training. If they do not have most of these skills or have a negative reaction to toilet training, wait a few weeks or months until most of the skills are checked off. Starting too soon can actually delay the process and cause tears and frustration. Toilet training is much easier when the child is ready.

Toilet Training Techniques:

  • Relax! A calm, easygoing approach to toilet training works best. Learning to use the toilet takes time, and each child is different. You will find that one child learns to use the toilet at age 2 and another learns at age 3-1/2. This is normal.
  • Borrow or purchase a potty chair or a potty attachment for the toilet. If you purchase a potty attachment, be sure to get one with a footrest. This will allow a child to sit more comfortable and make it easier to push during the bowel movement. You may want to let the child get used to the idea by sitting on the potty while fully clothed.
  • Toilet training involves many steps (discussing, undressing, going, wiping, dressing, flushing, hand washing) reinforce the child’s success at each step.
  • Help children recognize when they are urinating or have a bowel movement. They must be aware of what they are doing before they can do anything about it.
  • Children should be shown how to use the toilet by watching other children who are trained or discussing each step and practicing each step with out actually using the toilet. (Example: have child sit on toilet dressed, flushing toilet).
  • Parents should include toilet training into the daily routine such as reading books, songs and games that reinforce the skills needed to toilet train.
  • Parents should purchase training pants and easy-to-remove clothing. Just getting to the potty on time is a major task for most children. Avoid buttons, zippers, and belts. Some parents prefer to use diapers at first and switch to training diapers or pants when their child is urinating in the potty several times a day.
  • When a child is giving the signs of having to use the toilet or tells you they have to use the toilet, take the child in and help undress them and on to the toilet. Sit by the child for a few minutes. Try not to push for immediate results. After a few minutes, help the child with the rest of the routine and give praise for the effort or any successes they had. (give a reward such as a sticker of their favorite character)
  • Never force a child to sit on the toilet against their will or for long periods of time if they do not want to. This could set up a power struggle and negative feeling toward the toilet training.
  • Never punish for accidents. Occasional accidents are normal. Clean and change the child immediately. Be positive and reassuring, using a soothing voice, that they will be successful. Punishment does not make the process go faster and may delay it.
  • Wipe the child carefully. Wipe girls from front to back to prevent infection. Teach children to always wash hands with soap and water after using the potty. Set a good example by washing your own hands.


Portions were reprinted with permission from the National Network for Child Care – NNCC. Oesterreich, L. (1995). Guidance and discipline. In L. Oesterreich, B. Holt, & S. Karas, Iowa family child care handbook [Pm 1541] (pp. 242-245). Ames, IA: Iowa State University Extension