How to Support Toddlers During Toilet Training

When it’s time for your toddler to begin using the toilet, the potty training process can be an exciting yet challenging time. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that the toilet training period involves more abuse than any other period during childhood, as some parents get frustrated when they mistake their child’s imperfect attempts at self-control for disobedience 12. To ensure that your child’s toilet training proceeds positively and effectively, take steps to provide helpful and encouraging support for your learning toddler.

Take your toddler to the store to purchase underwear or training pants to get her excited and eager about the toilet training process. Encourage her to choose character underwear or whatever color or style she likes so she’ll be eager to keep them clean as she learns to use the toilet.

Encourage your toddler to tell you when she needs to go in preparation for toilet training. Tell her that when she tells you she needs to go potty, you’ll help her get to the toilet so she can go there instead of in her underwear or training pants 3.

Look for signs your toddler needs to use the toilet, such as squirming, grunting or even hiding behind the couch. When you see these signs, ask your child if she needs to use the toilet and offer to help her.

Offer abundant praise and positive reinforcement whenever your child sits on the toilet. Even if she doesn’t eliminate, it’s still praise-worthy because you’re reinforcing the behavior you want with your encouragement. You may want to offer additional incentives such as stickers or special activities when your little one cooperates with toilet training.

Resist the urge to attach any negative reinforcement to the toilet training process. By reprimanding or scolding your toddler for accidents, you may set in motion a negative behavior pattern that will discourage your toddler from using the toilet.

Handle any accidents without emotion, simply cleaning up the mess and helping your toddler into clean clothing. Tell your toddler, “Accidents happen. We can try again next time.”


The Mayo Clinic website counsels parents to take a break from toilet training if the child is having significant problems after two to three weeks. Instead of risking any negative behaviors from beginning, it's better to suspend toilet training efforts and try again after a few months. Small children may have more success using a potty chair separate from the standard toilet. It can be difficult getting on and off the toilet but sitting on a small potty chair is easier for toddlers, states the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

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