Setting The Stage for Potty Training Success

What makes for potty training success?  Following your child’s lead! Generally, we see the signs that a child is ready between 2 and 4 years of age.  As you begin to recognize that your child is ready for potty training, it’s time to set the stage.  How do you do that?  Follow these three steps.

  1. Your child should see the adults in his or her life using the potty.  This will help him or her to become comfortable in the bathroom and with the process.  Each adult has a different level of comfort with this idea, but it supports a child’s understanding that this is a natural part of their environment.
  2. Begin to use the language of wet and dry. This is something I suggest starting with babies.  You can say, “You are wet; let’s get you a dry diaper.”  Or, “you pooped; let’s get you a fresh diaper.”  When a child poops in a diaper, bring them to the potty to flush the poop.  This will help them become comfortable with the toilet and the sound of flushing.  You can encourage them to say “bye-bye poop.”  Children who are familiar with this language will begin to use it to let you know that they have peed or pooped in their diaper.  As they practice using the potty and once they are in underwear, they will be able to let you know that they need to go.  Note: the language that you choose to use to label urinating and bowel movements is entirely up to you.  When you make a choice, consider being accurate about what is happening, while also choose words that children can easily say.
  3. Make using the potty part of the routine.  Pay close attention to the times when you typically change your child’s diaper.  Let this inform the times that you schedule for your child to sit on the potty.  For example, your child can sit first thing in the morning and before his or her bath in the evening. You can say “Let’s see if any pee pees are coming.” Let your child be a part of taking down his or her pants. Try to have him or her stay sitting for a little while.  You can try to sing songs, read a book, etc. Do not force your child at this point.  We want him or her to be comfortable and excited about sitting. When your child pees, make a big deal. “You peed! You did it!” Clap for him or her. Tell mom, dad, grandma, etc.  Remember it will probably happen initially by accident. If he or she doesn’t pee or poop that is okay too. Remember that we don’t want to make the child feel badly about it. You can just simply say, we’ll try again, or “maybe next time the pee pees will come.” If a child feels criticized or put down, he or she will resist sitting again. We want to keep this a positive experience.


Start with these 3 steps. You can also read books about using the potty.  Three of my favorites are listed below and are available for both boys and girls.  When your child begins to master these steps, they’re on their way to underwear.  A little preparation will make the actual process of potty training, easy!