Tips for Potty Training

Potty training: it’s an extremely popular topic in most every parent’s life at some point and also in nearly every general pediatrician’s career.ss_35834041_boy_toddler_potty_training

There is really no one specific right way to potty train your child. Grandmother’s advice probably has sage elements. Every book, column, and blog on it probably has some accurate elements. Most good advice usually shares some basic fundamentals.

  1. Recognize that different types of training occur at an uneven pace – this allows for unpredictability and then, in turn, for parental frustration.
  2. Children are often “…extremely proud of the product that their bodies have created-expecting praise and admiration, not displeasure—and are reluctant or even anxious at the thought of letting these products go.” ( AAP). I decided to provide this direct quote, especially since you may not believe me on this one! But really, start to talk to a toddler about their stool in as objective a manner as you can muster and you will be truly amazed at the variety of response regarding how it’s made, how it comes out and where it goes when you flush the toilet.
  3. Keep bladder and bowel training separate at night. Nighttime bowel training occurs more naturally and easily; bladder control occurs much later, often years after daytime continence is achieved. Setting appropriate expectations reduces parental frustration.
  4. Toilet training has been likened to mastering how to drive a car with manual transmission. Really. First you have to locate the parts. Then learn how to feel when it is time to shift gears. Then do this smoothly while releasing on the clutch pedal up and down. Your toddler needs to master a task just as complex.
  5. When making a plan, recognize some key developmental milestones. Increase your child’s body awareness at a leisurely pace. Recognize if your child can make plans and then carry them out. For instance, between her 2nd and 3rd birthday, you may see how she plans to solve problems such as how to get a shovel from another child at the sandbox, or how to get an extra piece of candy from you. If she can plan how to get her object of desire, maybe she can plan how to stay dry without diapers and go to the potty chair. Bottom line: is your child ready? There are perils in potty training children when they are not ready- it may delay the overall timeline. So, ask if your toddler is interested in the potty chair, can undress or dress herself a bit, can follow simple instructions and wants to wear big-kid underwear.
  6. Be positive. A general pediatricians’ mantra here: Avoid all negativity and all actions that even remotely resemble punishment. Rather: praise, praise, praise.
  7. Be consistent in your plans, your rewards and your overall reactions. Yet, at the same time, reevaluate as needed to see if your plan from two weeks ago still applies as your child enters another developmental stage.

Talk to your pediatrician if upcoming predictable stressors such as a baby on the way or an anticipated move will make potty training more difficult. Also, discuss if your child has medical problems, including constipation that may often interfere with parental expectation of the potty training timeline.

Hopefully, these tips will help you in your parental trek. And for those who have completed this parental milestone- Congratulations!

If you’ve completed this parenting milestone, what potty training tips worked for your child?






  • I have completed this wonderful milestone twice with my little boys. It was a great journey that got easier with the second one. My biggest advise is that it will only happen when the child is ready!!
    I was so set on the fact that my 2 year old was going to be potty trained with no accidents ever within a week….ha! guess again. Stickers treats and prizes are fun but it takes a child to be ready to stick with it! We waited until summer for both our boys and that was easier for us because they were able to use the outside tree facilities and they thought that was neat!
    Above all that, BE PATIENT!

  • Don’t let other people, as well meaning as they may be, try to tell you their kids were potty trained at 18 months. I doubt that was true for most people, but I found that older neighbors, parents, grandparents seemed to proudly share this falsehood. Yes, my son would sit on the potty and occasionally go at that age; I had the froggy potty in the bathroom to spark an interest, but I never forced it and he was not potty trained. It’s not a competition with other parents to see how young you can potty train! I bought him underwear around 2 1/2, and he was not interested. About a month before his 3rd birthday he told me he wanted his big boy underwear. There have been accidents….yes, I had to throw out a pair of his underwear at Target, but within two weeks he was able to say “I need to go potty” and rush to the bathroom. We don’t always make it on time yet, but I’m so proud of him, and I’m happy with my laid back approach. I waited until he was really ready, and I didn’t worry about what other kids his age were doing.

  • Thanks for sharing this blog with us of kids potty training .

  • Great article and advice. I’ve found (for me at least) the hardest part is CONSISTENCY. It’s difficult to balance the idea that it might take some time of seeing no outward results yet your child is adjusting – and tomorrow might be the day where the light bulb “turns on”.


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