How to Potty Train a Child Who Is Afraid of the Toilet

Reassure your child your potty is safe.

From staying dry overnight to following simple instructions and understanding the word “toilet,” your child is displaying many of the physical and emotional signals he's ready to potty train. Unfortunately, your child's first experience with the toilet or potty chair is met with crying, anxiety and a general fear of the strange, loud contraption. Fortunately, a child's fear of the potty is something that can be overcome by gently introducing him to the toilet.

Lead your child to the toilet and shut the lid before allowing him to relax on it for a few minutes fully clothed. Make the experience fun by reading a book or even sharing a piece of candy. Continue to encourage your child to sit on the toilet fully clothed for five to 10 minutes every day.

Remove your child's diaper or training pants and open the toilet or potty lid. Sit him on the toilet for five or 10 minutes and let him know that this is how a big kid uses the potty. If he's still a little apprehensive, take him off and sit on the toilet yourself fully clothed or use the toilet while explaining what is going on, whichever makes you more comfortable. Let him know that Mom or Dad uses the potty every day and there's nothing scary about it.

Continue to remove your child's diaper, training pants or even underwear and sit him on the potty three or four times a day. Once your child is comfortable sitting on the potty, remove the contents of his soiled diaper or training pants and drop them into the toilet. Tell him that this is where the poop goes before taking his hand and helping him flush the toilet. If he becomes frightened by the noise or the prospect of being sucked down the drain, reassure him there's no reason to be scared and that the toilet is perfectly safe. You don't need to encourage your child to use the potty just yet, but if he does, offer plenty of praise before helping him flush the toilet.

Establish a toilet routine with your child. For instance, take off his diaper or training pants the first thing in the morning, after meals and right before bed. Once your child successfully uses the potty for the first time, give him a big high five and plenty of praise for being a big, brave boy that overcame his fear of the toilet.


Create a system that rewards your child for successfully using the potty. For instance, set a jar on the back of the toilet and each time your child uses the potty, drop a marble or button inside. Once the jar is full, treat your child to some ice cream or a trip to the department store to shop for big kid underwear.

Place a stool in front of the toilet to make getting on and off the seat safer.