Friday, February 28, 2014

Successful Potty Training

Teaching children how to use the potty represents a significant milestone in their development. The goal of potty training should be for children to participate in their own training process by recognizing the need to use the toilet and signaling this need to their caregiver.

Before successful potty training may be achieved, the following key points should be considered:

  • The toilet can be a scary object for children. Not only does it require balance, it makes loud noises and sucks up anything that finds its way inside. Children may also fear falling in and need reassurance. Many kids find the transition to the toilet smoother with the help of potty chairs and potty seats. 
  • Children may fear potty training because waste represents an extension of themselves, which they are asked to eliminate and leave behind forever. Children may not have the ability to verbalize this to their caregivers, but parents will better understand their child’s concerns by bringing up this issue matter-of-factly. Children’s feelings of fear and ambivalence should be appreciated when they dispose of their waste. 
  • Children may not recognize the connection between themselves, waste and how the waste appeared in the toilet. As such, constantly placing a child on the potty will not result in them producing a bowel movement. Children need to first be explained the purpose of the activity to be engaged in the process.
It is very exciting for parents and caregivers to see their children have a successful bowel movement. Children may mimic that excitement because they have pleased their parents but not fully connect that it is their toileting that resulted in the excitement. Caregivers should keep this in mind and avoid pressuring their children to use the potty or shame them when they are unable to perform. Doing so will result in kids learning to fear of consequences and will not lead to permanence.

As children continue their training, they will form a connection between signaling their need to go potty and pleasing their parents. This will eventually lead them to complete the task and pride themselves on their successes. Remember, potty training takes time and there are often relapses. Stay calm and continue supporting your child in their endeavors. Check out our blog post on Potty Training Tips for further guidance.

Posted by Asya Brodsky, LSW, CADC


Freiberg, S. H. (1959). The Magic Years: Understanding and Handling The Problems of Early Childhood. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.