Be sure you are ready!
Helping your child learn to use the toilet takes time and patience. Have a potty chair, a child-sized seat that fits the toilet, and a sturdy stepstool on hand. Training can take 3 months or more.
Get your child interested!
- Let her get to know her potty chair or portable toilet seat. Let her sit on it fully clothed, if she wants.
- Check out children’s books about using the potty, and read them with your child [e.g., Everyone Poops by Taro Gomi (1993) and Going to the Potty by Fred Rogers (1986)].
- Let him observe you or other children (if they are willing) using the toilet.
- Show him how the toilet works. Let him flush it if he wants.
- Never leave a toddler alone in a bathroom.
Teach the right words.
Use the terms you want your child to use. You might say in a friendly voice, “I’m changing your diaper because you peed in it.” “You pooped in your diaper, so I’m putting on a clean one.” Use terms that other people will understand.
Watch for signs that your child is ready.
Most children learn to use the toilet between 2 and 3 years of age. Girls show signs of readiness an average of 3 months before boys. Your child may be ready to start toilet training if she shows any of the following signs:
- Knows the diaper is wet or dirty and wants a clean one
- Has bowel movements at regular times
- Stays dry for 2 hours at a time
- Uses facial expressions, sounds, or words to show she is ready to urinate or have a bowel movement
- Understands the terms you use for bladder and bowel functions
- Follows simple directions and likes to put things in the right place
Be aware of signs that your child is not ready.
You may need to wait a little longer if he simply doesn’t want to sit on the toilet or if he is going through any of the following:
- An illness
- A phase of irritability or power struggles with you
- Major life changes such as the birth of a new baby or moving to a new home