Positive Parenting: Give the Job of ‘Toilet Learning’ to Your Child

New-Lesley-Iwinski-photoBy: Lesley Iwinski

This may come as a huge surprise – and a relief – to know: You don’t need to toilet train your child. What?!?

   That’s right. In fact, the most important thing you can do is to take this stressful job off your plate and give it to your little one.


The name “toilet learning” is more accurate. When a child is developmentally ready, a child will learn:


– How to pull their pants on and off independently

– That someday they will be using the toilet

– What it feels like when they will need to pass urine

– How their body knows it’s time to pass stool

– That this is a job for them to do, with their parents’ and caregivers’ support.


Since the age of toileting often overlaps with developmentally appropriate power struggles, it is important that a child know that learning to use the toilet is her job.

The more invested parents are in their child using the toilet, the more likely there will be a battle of wills, bad feelings, and a more difficult and prolonged path.

Here’s how to support your child as she learns to toilet herself:


– Watch for signs of readiness (curiosity, able to put pants on and off, etc.)

– Put a potty chair in the bathroom or play area; keep toilet paper in easy reach

– Read books about using the potty, answer questions about it

– Let children watch you and other family members use the bathroom

– When your child is successful, admire her good work. Have a parade to the toilet to flush it together and wave goodbye.

– Be prepared for “misses” by having paper towels, carpet cleaner, etc. available. Accidents WILL happen, so respond in a helpful way

– Be un-invested and supportive: “Whoops! You missed! Never mind, let’s clean it up. You can try again. I know you will get it!”

– It’s fine to celebrate with a special song or dance, but be wary of using bribery to manipulate your child into using the potty

– Be patient and trust in the process.


One of the key ingredients for success is a relaxed parent.

If you are already stressed and frustrated because your child is still in diapers, encourage yourself with the certainty that your child will learn how to use the toilet.

Visit these helpful websites for more information and ideas: www.ahaparenting.com, and www.janetlansbury.com



Dr. Lesley Iwinski is the mother of three grown children, a family physician and Executive Director of The Parent and Family Enrichment Center, Inc. and owner of  Growing Peaceful Families, LLC.

She offers classes, workshops and seminars.

Info:  (859) 333-3053 or www.enrichingfamilies.org.