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Ages & Stages

Toilet Training: 12 Tips to Keep the Process Positive

Toilet training is a big step in your child's development. Being supportive and positive throughout the potty-training process is key. Here are some tips that can help.

  1. Choose your words wisely. Choose positive words your family will use to describe body parts, urine and bowel movements. Avoid words that are negative, like dirty, naughty or stinky.

  2. Pick a potty-chair. A potty-chair is a child-sized seat with an opening in the seat and a removable container underneath to collect pee and poop. Children's feet should be able to reach the floor. Books or toys for "potty time" may help make this time more fun.

  3. Be a role model. Let your children see you use the toilet and wash your hands afterward.

  4. Know the signs. When your children feel the urge to poop, you might notice grunting, squatting or freezing. Children's faces may turn red while pooping. Explain briefly to your children that these signs mean a poop is about to come. If your children tell you about a wet diaper, praise them for "using their words." It may take longer for children to notice the need to pee than the need to poop.

  5. Think of toilet training as toilet mastery. Invite your child to take over their toileting. Talk with them about how they will now be in charge of their pee and poop. Read children's books about using the toilet to help the process make sense and seem inviting and exciting. When you start the process, try to turn as much of the care of toileting as possible over to your child. Remember, if parents are in charge, there is less room for children to step in and take charge.

  6. Make trips to the potty-chair a routine. Routines are important, and practicing the steps is helpful. Make a habit of seating your children onto the potty-chair first thing in the morning. Boys can urinate by sitting down first and can stand up to urinate when better at it.

  7. Expect hesitancy. Taking over toileting is a big step. Many children want their parents to take care of their pee and poop and may seek ways to keep parents involved, such as peeing and pooping into their pants. Gently help them overcome their hesitation. Then help them stay in charge by having them be in charge of the cleanup.

  8. When toilet training starts, switch to big-kid underwear. Talk with your children about taking control and toileting into the toilet and not their underwear. Some parents may use cloth training pants, which are a little thicker, to protect children's clothing. (Diapers and disposable training pants send a message to children that they are not taking over and do not need to learn to use the toilet.)

  9. Teach your children proper hygiene habits. Show your children how to wipe carefully. Girls should spread their legs apart when wiping. They should wipe thoroughly from front to back. This helps prevent bringing germs from their rectum to their vagina or bladder. Make sure both boys and girls learn to wash their hands well after using the toilet.

  10. Be precise with praise. Taking over toileting is something all healthy children do. Achieving mastery is the best reward for toilet training success. Avoid treats and punishments. Because this is an adventure for your children—a reach for new responsibility—treats and punishments distract rather than encourage. When your children succeed, be specific about why you are proud—"I am so proud you are able to use the toilet so well," for example.

  11. Avoid a power struggle. Children at toilet training ages are becoming aware of their individuality. They look for ways to test their limits. Some children may do so by holding back bowel movements. Try to stay calm about toilet training. Remember that children control when and where they pee and poop. So power struggles, begging, pleading, rewarding, and punishing keep children from managing their own toileting.

  12. Understand their fear. Some children believe that their pee and poop are part of their bodies. They may be scared the toilet will flush parts of them away. Some may also fear they will be sucked into the toilet if it is flushed while they are sitting on it. To give your children a feeling of control, let them flush the toilet.


Toilet training is a learning experience. Follow your child's cues, and remember that they'll get the hang of it at their own pace. Don't hesitate to talk with your child's pediatrician about any questions or concerns you have during your child's potty-training process.

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Adapted from Toilet Training (Copyright © 2022 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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