How to Get a Toddler to Use the Potty: Effective Training Techniques

Potty training can be a challenging experience for parents and toddlers alike. The process requires patience, understanding, and consistency to help young children transition from diapers to using the toilet. As children develop at different rates, it’s essential to recognize the signs of readiness for potty training and employ effective strategies to guide them through this important milestone.

One of the primary steps in potty training involves introducing your child to the potty chair. To start, you can place the potty chair in the bathroom or wherever your child spends most of their time, helping them become familiar with it. Encourage them to sit on the potty clothed initially and use simple, positive terms when discussing the toilet’s purpose Mayo Clinic.

Incorporate potty training as part of your child’s daily routine and reinforce positive behaviors. Use neutral, observational phrases when acknowledging your child’s progress or mishaps. For example, say things like “You peed in the toilet; that’s where pee belongs!” or “You peed on the floor; help me clean it up” Verywell Family. Remember, building your child’s confidence in using the potty sets the foundation for a smoother potty training experience.

Understanding Potty Training Readiness

Developmental Milestones

Potty training is a major milestone in a child’s development and involves both physical and emotional readiness. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children are usually ready to start potty training between 18 and 24 months of age. However, it’s essential to keep in mind that every child is unique, and their readiness may vary.

Signs of Readiness

To determine if your child is ready for potty training, look for the following signs:

  • Tells you when they need to go to the bathroom or shows physical signs such as squatting or crossing legs.
  • Has a regular bowel movement schedule and can predict when they need to go.
  • Can undress themselves and pull up and down their pants independently.
  • Can sit on the potty or toilet for a short period without assistance.
  • Can follow simple instructions (source).
  • Demonstrates interest in using the toilet or wearing underwear.

It’s also important to consider your child’s emotional readiness. They should:

  • Be motivated to please you and themselves.
  • Enjoy the feeling of accomplishment.
  • Be able to express emotions, such as pride or fear, linked to potty training.

Age Considerations

Most children develop control over their bowel and bladder by 18 months, and signs of physical readiness usually appear between 24 and 36 months (source). However, age shouldn’t be the sole factor in determining potty training readiness. Each child’s development is different, and it’s crucial to focus on their individual signs of readiness and not compare them to others.

In conclusion, understanding potty training readiness is essential to ensure your child’s success. By focusing on developmental milestones, signs of readiness, and their emotional state, you can provide the support and encouragement needed to help your child master this crucial skill.

Potty Training Methods

Three-Day Method

The Three-Day Method is an intensive approach to potty training that aims to help your child be successful in a short period of time. Begin by familiarizing your child with the potty and the concept of using it. Next, plan to spend three full days engaging in potty training activities, including taking your child to the bathroom at regular intervals, offering praise when they use the potty, and using neutral, behavioral observations when accidents occur. To make it part of their daily routine, incorporate potty breaks in regular activities, such as before bedtime or after a meal.

Weekend Approach

The Weekend Approach involves dedicating a weekend to focus solely on potty training. Begin by observing signs that your child is developmentally ready, such as the ability to pull up and down their pants and express a need to use the toilet. Throughout the weekend, encourage your child to sit on the potty chair or seat, show them how the process works, and communicate the benefits of using the potty with consistent language. This method is ideal for parents who have limited time to dedicate but want to give potty training their full attention.

Bare-Bottomed Technique

The Bare-Bottomed Technique involves letting your child go diaper-free for a few days, which can help them become more aware of their need to use the potty. Start by preparing your home with easy-to-clean surfaces, potty chairs or seats, and plenty of cleaning supplies. Over the course of a few days, allow your child to roam the house without diapers or pants. Keep a close eye on them, and encourage them to use the potty whenever they show signs of needing to go. It is essential to maintain a positive and neutral tone when discussing accidents or successes during this process. The Bare-Bottomed Technique may be particularly effective for children who are more sensitive to the sensation of wetness, thus encouraging them to seek out the potty when needed in their daily routine.

Creating a Positive Potty Training Environment

Selecting the Right Potty

When introducing your child to potty training, it’s important to choose a comfortable and accessible potty chair. You may opt for one that sits on the floor or a smaller seat that attaches to your regular toilet. Encourage your child to sit on the potty chair fully clothed to help build familiarity with it, making sure their feet rest on the floor or a stool for stability (Mayo Clinic).

Scheduled Bathroom Breaks

Having a consistent routine is crucial during potty training. Schedule regular bathroom breaks throughout the day to help your child understand the importance of using the potty. This allows them to develop comfort with the process and gradually learn to recognize their body’s signals (ZERO TO THREE).

Child-Friendly Underpants and Clothes

When potty training, it is essential to provide your child with easy-to-remove clothes and underpants. This will facilitate their ability to undress and use the potty independently. Consider using pull-up diapers that can be easily removed while they transition from diapers to underpants. Furthermore, using fun and colorful underpants may make the potty training process more exciting for your toddler (KinderCare).

Here is a summary of positive potty training guidelines:

  • Choose a comfortable and accessible potty chair
  • Encourage your child to sit on the potty chair fully clothed
  • Schedule regular bathroom breaks throughout the day
  • Use pull-up diapers during the transition
  • Provide easy-to-remove clothes and fun, colorful underpants

By following these steps, you’ll create a supportive environment that encourages your child to embrace potty training while fostering their independence and confidence.

Tips for Potty Training Success

Using Positive Terms

When teaching your toddler to use the potty, choose words carefully. Use positive terms for bodily functions and avoid phrases that imply negativity, such as “dirty” or “stinky” 1. This encourages a positive attitude about using the potty and helps your child to feel more comfortable in the process.

Rewards and Sticker Charts

To encourage motivation during potty training, introduce a reward system or sticker chart 2. When your child successfully uses the potty, reward them with a sticker to place on a chart or offer a small prize. This helps to reinforce positive behavior and can make the process more enjoyable for both you and your child.

  • Maintain consistency with rewards
  • Avoid using punishment for accidents
  • Keep a variety of stickers or small prizes on hand

Encouraging Independence

Help your child develop the physical skills they need to use the potty independently3. Teach them to walk, pull their pants up and down, and get on and off the potty. Offer guidance and support, but also allow them limited freedom to explore the process on their own.

  • Provide a child-sized potty or potty seat 4
  • Encourage hand-washing after using the potty
  • Stay patient and positive during the process

Modeling and Mimicking

Toddlers often learn best by copying their parents’ behavior3. Allow your child to observe you using the restroom whenever possible and encourage them to mimic your actions. Use toilet training-themed books, videos, songs, and games to help them become more interested and involved in the process 5.

  • Demonstrate the toileting process for your child
  • Use age-appropriate media resources to reinforce learning
  • Offer praise and encouragement throughout training

By following these tips and using a consistent, positive approach, you can help your child achieve potty training success.

Dealing with Challenges and Accidents

Managing Frustration

It’s normal for both parents and toddlers to feel frustration during potty training. To ease this, first, try to identify the cause of your child’s distress. If they’re anxious or scared, provide an environment in which they feel safe and comfortable. You can drown out the sound of a scary toilet flush with applause, for example. Keep in mind that some toddlers may need more time and encouragement. Make sure to provide a positive and relaxing atmosphere.

Maintaining Patience

Patience plays a vital role in potty training. Remember, every child is different and may require a unique approach. Some tips to maintain patience include:

  • Avoid constantly reminding your child about the potty, as this may lead to resistance and a lack of cooperation. Instead, let them feel in control of the process BabyCenter.
  • Praise your child for their efforts and success, even if it’s just a small step towards using the potty.
  • Stay calm and supportive during accidents, and help your child understand that they are a normal part of the learning process.

Handling Bedtime and Nap Time Situations

Bedtime and nap time can be challenging during potty training. To deal with potential accidents during these times, consider the following strategies:

  • Use waterproof mattress covers to protect the bed from accidents
  • Have your child use the potty right before bedtime and nap time
  • Limit fluid intake an hour before sleep
  • Keep a portable potty near the bed for easy access during the night or before naps

Lastly, always remember that potty training is a gradual process that may take time. Stay supportive and empathetic through the challenges, and your child will eventually master this important skill.

When to Consult a Doctor

Pain During Bowel Movements

If your toddler experiences pain during bowel movements, it may indicate an underlying issue that needs medical attention. Some common causes of painful bowel movements include constipation or anal fissures (small tears in the anal opening). If you notice your child is in pain or has difficulty passing stool, consult your pediatrician.

In addition to seeking medical advice, you can help alleviate your child’s discomfort by:

  • Encouraging them to drink plenty of water
  • Offering high-fiber foods, such as fruits and vegetables
  • Developing a regular toilet routine to prevent constipation

Lack of Progress in Toilet Training

Toilet training is a gradual process and it takes time for children to master the skill. Most children show signs of being ready for potty training between ages 18 and 24 months, but some might not be prepared until they’re 3 years old or older 1.

If your child hasn’t shown any progress in toilet training after several months, it’s a good idea to consult a doctor. Factors that could contribute to delayed toilet training include:

  • Constipation or another medical issue
  • Emotional stress or a significant life event (e.g., a new sibling or moving)
  • Developmental delays

Your pediatrician can help identify any underlying issues and provide guidance on how to overcome them. It’s essential to be patient and supportive during this process, as every child develops at their own pace.

Potty Training for Specific Situations

Boys vs. Girls

When it comes to potty training, there is no significant difference between boys and girls. It is essential to focus on the individual child’s readiness and progress. However, there are a few minor factors that may require unique approaches to potty training boys and girls:

  • For boys, you may start with sitting down to pee and later transition to standing up when they are more comfortable with the potty.
  • For girls, using fun underwear with their favorite characters can be encouraging (source).

Working Parents and Childcare

Working parents may find potty training more challenging due to limited time with their child. Consider these tips to overcome this hurdle:

  • Enlist the help of a childcare provider, family member, or friend to support your child’s potty training while you’re away.
  • Use a consistent schedule and communicate with your childcare provider to maintain a routine both at home and during childcare.
  • Utilize long weekends or days off for focused potty training sessions.

Daycare and Preschool Settings

Potty training can be seamlessly incorporated into your child’s daycare or preschool routine with these considerations:

  • Before beginning potty training, ensure your child’s daycare or preschool is on board with your potty training plan.
  • Provide a separate set of training pants and clothes specifically for daycare or preschool to make transitions between home and school smoother.
  • Foster a spirit of collaboration and communication with the daycare or preschool providers to ensure consistent routines, expectations, and guidance for your child.

In all specific situations, it is crucial to remember that every child’s potty training journey is unique. Therefore, adapt potty training techniques and strategies to suit your child’s individual needs and preferences (source).


In summary, effective potty training involves waiting for your child’s readiness, establishing a positive and supportive environment, and using consistent routines. Observe for signs of readiness such as wanting to use the potty or showing interest in wearing “big kid” underwear (Cleveland Clinic).

Setting up the right equipment is crucial. Place a potty chair in the bathroom or where your child spends most of their time. Encourage them to sit on the potty chair with clothes on at first, and ensure their feet can reach the floor or a stool (Mayo Clinic). Create a consistent daily routine to help your child get used to using the potty, making it a natural part of their day (Verywell Family).

During the process, offer praise and positive reinforcement for success, but avoid punishment, shaming, or force. Use neutral and supportive language when discussing their progress (UC Davis). And, remember that each child is unique, so the timeline and methods for potty training can vary. Be patient and adaptable as you support your child through this important milestone.


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About the author
Henry is a father of 2 boys, musician and expert on all things parenting-related. As a dad, he's experienced the joys and challenges of raising children first-hand, and he's passionate about sharing his insights to help others.