Find My Doctor

Check to see if your provider is available through UH Personal Health Record.

Find your doctor now.
How to find your doctor.

How to Guide Your Child Toward Potty Training Success

Posted 7/19/2018 by UHBlog

When should you start potty training your child? Talk to us about strategies and timing that can help minimize yours, and your child's, stress.

18-month-old toddler baby boy child sitting on potty and reading book with young dad in living room at home

After years of changing dirty diapers, it’s likely the idea of your child finally using the toilet sounds pretty appealing. But when it comes to successful potty training, your timing and approach is everything.

Most parents start training their toddlers between the ages of 18 and 24 months, says pediatrician Eliane Malek, MD.

“But really, the ideal age is to start whenever the child is ready,” Dr. Malek says.

Is Your Child Ready?

Every child develops differently – even siblings within the same family.

“I always tell parents not to compare their child to anyone else’s,” she says. “If they get anxious and start the process before their child is ready, potty training is going to be really hard for everyone.”

Here are six signs that may indicate your child is ready to ditch the diapers:

  1. Staying dry for two or more hours
  2. Irritation with their diaper or pulling at it when it’s wet or soiled
  3. Regular, predictable bowel habits
  4. Showing interest in the potty
  5. Understanding directions
  6. Asking to wear underpants

8 Tips for Toilet Training Success

While there are many different approaches to potty training, Dr. Malek recommends a child-oriented approach that works in stages. In this method, you offer gentle guidance, but train at your child’s pace. Your child controls when and how to use the toilet.

Dr. Malek outlines eight steps that can help guide your child toward potty-training success. These follow the child-oriented method recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics:

  1. Get your child comfortable on the toilet. “Have them sit on the potty with their clothes on, so they get used to the feel of it,” she says.

    It’s important to either invest in a child-sized toilet or have a smaller seat that goes over an adult-sized toilet, along with a step stool, when your child is being potty trained, Dr. Malek says.

    “They need to feel comfortable,” Dr. Malek says. “They’re not going to feel comfortable or be able to push if their feet and legs are dangling.”

  2. Encourage your child to accompany you to the bathroom. “Kids can learn a lot while watching their parents use the toilet,” Dr. Malek says.

  3. Suggest your child sit on the toilet without a diaper. “Consider reading them a story while they’re on the potty to get used to it,” she says.

    Never force your child to sit on the toilet. This can backfire, Dr. Malek says, and result in your child associating the toilet with fear.

  4. Plan potty time around your child’s schedule. Your child is more likely to have success and feel better about toilet training when attempts to use the toilet correspond to his or her urination and defecation schedule.

  5. Use incentives and rewards. “It’s helpful to have small snacks or treats to hand out to your child when they’re successful,” she says.

  6. Never shame or demean your child if an accident occurs. “You shouldn’t punish your child for something they don’t yet know how to do,” Dr. Malek says. “If your kid feels shame, they may not want to try any more.”

    If your child does have an accident, encourage them to take charge of cleaning up themselves. Have them empty the waste from their underpants into the toilet themselves and encourage them to change their own soiled clothes and underpants. According to Dr. Malek, this teaches independence and can motivate them to remember to use the toilet next time on their own.

  7. Remind your child to think about how their body feels. Sometimes kids need prompting to remember to check in with their bodies.

  8. Be patient. Some kids master using the toilet in a week, while others may take months.

    “The good news is that, at the end of the day, all developmentally normal children are going to be potty-trained,” Dr. Malek says.

Dr. Malek has a special piece of advice for the parents of boys: Initially, teach your son to urinate while sitting on the toilet seat.

“When they stand up, they not only have to worry about peeing, but also about holding their penis and their aim, which can be difficult,” Dr. Malek says.

It may be easier to learn how to urinate while standing, after your son has mastered using the toilet when he needs to go, she says.

Be Realistic – and Patient

While this can be a trying period for parents and toddlers, Dr. Malek says it’s helpful to be realistic with your goals.

“Set reasonable expectations,” she says. “If you think that after one week, your child is going to be completely dry and out of diapers, everyone is going to feel bad when that doesn't happen.”

Instead, embrace small goals, like your child learning how to get underwear on and off or heading toward the bathroom at the right time.

Eliane Malek, MD is a pediatrician at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital. You can request an appointment with Dr. Malek or any other doctor online.

Posted in

"Better Living" Health & Wellness

Do you know which foods aren't as healthy as you think? Ever wonder what to look for in a running shoe? Do you know the warning signs of stroke? The answer to these questions and many others are contained in our monthly "Better Living" e-newsletters. For a FREE subscription, visit our Sign Up page.

Sign Up Now