Toilet Training Your Child

Jun 29, 2020, 10:49 AM by Dr. Snidga Bhatia and Trish Beach, MD


Toilet training a toddler can be a test of time and patience. It is important to understand the developmental expectations for a child of that age, and to set the bar accordingly.

Always remember, the process is probably as stressful for your child as it is for you!

Here are some tips on how to set realistic expectations and make this an important, pleasant milestone for your child:

When to start toilet training Children less than 2 years old are too young to potty train. Starting earlier than 2 years of age can result in a lot of frustration for all parties involved and become a long drawn out process. To learn how to potty train, a child needs to be able to voice his need to go to the bathroom and feel the need to go!

Set the stage  Get a potty chair or a secured toilet seat ring, and be sure to support your child’s feet so they do not dangle from the edge of the toilet. Provide a stool/step if needed. If you have a portable potty chair, place it in a quiet area where your child feels comfortable and not distracted.

Celebrate success Help your child understand that this is a big deal!  But don’t over-do it.  No one ought to lavish expensive gives on a child each time he has a bowel movement in the proper spot!

Minimize stressors and distractions  Understand that toilet training may not be successful if there are stressors in the home environment. Try not to blame your child for any delay in learning the skills, especially if the child is sensing outside anxieties or conflicts. A new baby in the home may rock her boat for a while, and everyone seems to celebrate when new babies get dirty diapers, so how is a toddler to understand the double standard? If you achieve no success, wait for a week or two and try again!

Don’t let your frustration get the best of you! More inflicted injuries occur to children when they are toilet training than other times. The process itself can be nerve-wracking, and the “feeling of failure” for the parent, and frequent accidents have been seen to escalate to non-accidental injuries very quickly. Punishment goes a long way in making stool withholding worse! Never punish your child for accidents or lack of progress.  Simple express some disappointment and together look forward to future success.

Babysitters  Make sure that any caretaker or babysitter also understands where the child is on his journey and can be trusted to be supportive rather than punitive. Many children have regressed or been harmed by well-intentioned punishment from adults who lack understanding of normal child behavior.

Toilet training is one of the biggest challenges of parenting a young child!  These suggestions are to make the process less stressful.  Consider the process your opportunity to become more patient! Remember, the age or length of toilet training does not equate to your child’s intelligence and does not reflect on your parenting skills. When you assess that your child is ready to be trained, take a moment to ready yourself too! Use this time to discover how to work with your child and understand how they learn best! And use this process to build their self-esteem!  And continue to take joy in your child’s other accomplishments and delightful behaviors. Good luck.

By Snidga Bhatia, MD
Resident, UTMB Department of Pediatrics

Trish Beach, MD
Director & Professor of UTMB Primary Care Pediatrics


Also see:

The AAP Parenting Website
UTMB Health Primary Care Pediatrics

Texas Child Protective Services (CPS) - DFPS Child Protection Home Page

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