to the episode

Toilet Teaching without Tears

From Wet to Dry

Toilet learning, also commonly referred to as “potty training”, takes teamwork between a parent, child, and the child care provider. Success depends on patient, understanding adults and a child who is physically, intellectually, and emotionally ready. This podcast will help you evaluate your child’s toilet learning readiness and give you tips to help your child move from diapers to the toilet successfully.

Children usually begin to show signs of readiness between the ages of 18 and 30 months. You can look for the following signs to know if he may be ready to start toilet learning. Signs include:

  • Your child understands and follows simple directions
  • He can undress and dress himself
  • He can run and climb easily
  • Has a dry diaper for at least 2 hours during the day
  • Has a dry diaper after naps
  • Expresses an interest in his bowel movement or in using the toilet
  • Initiates toilet behavior
  • Dislikes staying in a wet or soiled diaper
  • Tells you he is urinating or having a bowel movement

When these signs are present, begin talking to your child about toilet learning. You can start this by teaching your child the words you want her to use regarding toilet use, and the sensations of elimination. You may want to read your child one or more children’s books about using the toilet. You also might want to buy a potty chair, as some children are more comfortable with their feet on the floor, and may be frightened by the water and flushing action of a toilet.

Let your child sit on the toilet or potty chair in her diapers to get used to the idea of going to the potty and the purpose of the toilet.

Formal teaching may begin once your child has shown the signs of readiness and is able to tell you she has soiled her diaper. She is now recognizing that her body has done something different, so you can help your child understand the real purpose of the toilet.

Sit her on the toilet after she has had a bowel movement in her diaper. Unfasten the diaper and drop the contents into the toilet. When she tells you she is wet or had a bowel movement, acknowledge the act, saying: “I’m glad you told me. Let’s try next time to put it in the toilet.”

When your child is able to tell you before he goes, give him training pants to wear and encourage him to use the toilet or potty chair. He will see that you have confidence in his ability to take control of this task and do it without your help.

As many parents know, various difficulties may present themselves while trying to teach a child to use the toilet. Your child may hold bowel movements as a way of fighting back if they’re not quite ready, or regress to imitating baby talk and actions. Toilet learning is a natural development and can’t be rushed, so don’t push it too hard.

Accidents will happen, so treat them with a casual, matter-of-fact manner, saying something like, “Oh, I see your pants are wet. Let’s go get some dry ones.” You might add: “Sometimes it’s hard to remember when you are playing so hard. Would you like me to remind you?” For many children, day and night bladder control may not be achieved until age five.

Other outside factors may interrupt the learning process and cause your child to forget what he has learned. These could include: the birth of a new baby, entering a new child care setting, moving, an adult leaving the home, illness, or death of a loved one, including a pet. A child needs extra patience and positive reminders during these more difficult times.

To achieve the best success with toilet training, try these additional tips:

  • Acknowledge all progress with a hug, a kiss, and a few words of praise – but don’t overdo it
  • Never criticize or punish when a child is unsuccessful
  • Maintain a good-humored, casual attitude
  • Remember this is the child’s task to accomplish; don’t engage in power struggles
  • If needed, accompany the child while they use the bathroom
  • Offer books to read while using the bathroom.

Remember, toilet learning is not a race or contest. In a crowded room of adults, no one will know or care who learned to use the toilet first. It is just one step a child takes toward acquiring important life skills. His accomplishment will give him confidence that he can achieve success in other aspects of his development.

To download our “Toilet Teaching without Tears” brochure, and to access other brochures and podcasts about important parenting topics, please visit Children’s Home Society of California’s website at www.chs-ca.org

Sign up for CHS updates
Areas of Interest


Children’s Home Society of California’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Service have changed. Click here to learn more.