Potty Training

Most children learn to use the toilet between two and a half and three years of age. Disabled children may not master toilet training until much later.

When children become toilet trained

  • In general, kids can control their pooping before their peeing.
  • Daytime training occurs before night time training.
  • Girls usually are toilet trained before boys. For girls, successful training starts around 18 months or later, for boys around 22 months or later.

There are three major steps involved in toilet learning

  1. Decide if the child is ready
  2. Preparing the child
  3. Changing from diapers during the day to pants and using the toilet all the time

Signs of Readiness

  • Does the child pee a lot at one time as opposed to dribbling throughout the day?
  • Does the child stay dry for several hours during the day?
  • Does the child seem to realize that he/she is about to pee?
  • Can the child understand and use words for pee pee and tu tu?
  • Does the child show an interest in wearing "real" underwear?
  • Does the child complain when wet or dirty?
  • Can the child walk steadily from room to room?
  • Can the child squat and sit on a stool without losing her balance?
  • Can the child partially pull training pants down and up?

* Children with disabilities may never show all signs of readiness but still be able to master training.

Prepare the child

  • Teach the child words needed for example, "pee pee and tu tu" to use for bathroom functions.
  • Provide a pot or potty chair for training.
  • Let the child sit on his potty chair with his clothes on.
  • Read a children's book about toilet training.
  • Let the child observe others using the toilet and explain what it is for.
  • Talk to the child about how he will start using the potty all the time when he is bigger and will wear underwear like a "big boy."
  • Colorful underwear may be motivating.
  • Allow the child to practice using the potty on request while they are still wearing diapers.
  • Help the child learn to take his clothes off and put them back on.

Using the toilet all the time

Tu Tu on the pot

As soon as you see signs of concentration and pushing, take the child and help him or her finish in the pot, latrine or toilet. The next day, take the child to the toilet to "try" at the predicted regular time. Be consistent and supportive until they recognize the need and take themselves.

Pee Pee on the pot

Begin in the bathroom with a very simple explanation to your child like "Tomorrow, I am going to help you learn to use the toilet. Here is the toilet or pot you will use. I will help you by reminding you to go. We will do it together." Use words that are simple but realistic, such as "Go potty" or "Go to the toilet." Continue to provide drinks to the child on a regular basis.

The next day, start by taking the child to the toilet as soon as he gets up. Be relaxed and supportive. Encourage him to "try."
After a few minutes, even if they haven't peed, help them get dressed. Start a regular pattern of toileting; when the child wakes, before and after meals, before bed.

Offer the toilet regularly, every two hours in the beginning.

If the child is peeing four to five times a day in the pot or toilet, start lengthening the time between scheduled trips to the pot. On a two-hour schedule, if the child averages less than one accident a day, start giving him more freedom to decide if he needs to toilet.

Once a child has achieved bowel and daytime bladder training, do not worry about night-time training. Keep diapers on at night. Children may continue to wet at night until they are 4 or 5 years old.

Other suggestions

  • Use praise (hand clapping, positive words) and rewards (books to read while sitting, playing potty with a doll).
  • Monitor the amount the child drinks, especially at bedtime.
  • Wait to begin training if the child does not seem to catch on or does not seem interested.
  • Stay calm and patient.
  • Expect accidents. Do not harshly punish accidents.
  • Do not blame or threaten the child.
  • Do not make a child remain on a potty seat longer than 5 to 7 minutes.
  • If the child seems more interested in the large toilet than the small potty chair, follow this cue.
  • If the child has an accident, remain calm, saying "Sometimes accidents happen." Let them take part in the clean up by placing soiled clothing in the sink, wiping the floor with a towel, or wiping with a washcloth.
  • Storing clean underwear near the toilet may be beneficial.