Behavior Problems Child Development

Toilet training: Make it easier by letting your child see other kids go potty

Toilet training: Make it easier by letting your child see other kids go potty

The essentials of toilet training:

  1. Show them where they are supposed to pee and poop
  2. Show them what to do to use the potty
  3. Role Model how you use the toilet
  4. Express your Expectation that they use their potty
  5. Say it when you think it looks like they need to ‘go potty’
  6. Try to take them to use the potty when it looks like they need it.
  7. Be clear and brief about what you say
  8. Be patient in how you feel
  9. Be consistent in what you do

Toilet training can get even the best-intentioned and patient parents tied up in knots.
The essentials look something like this: You notice your child is showing evidence of bladder and bowel control and you decide it is time for potty training. You put the potty in the bathroom and have your child try to pee in it every time before bed, or before changing their diaper, or just whenever. You role model and demonstrate how you use the toilet and want them to use their potty. You tell them that this is what is expected. Often you will let them run around nude in the house or back yard and watch them, read their cues and catch them when they look like they need the toilet. You may reward your child with stars or even bribe them with M&M’s. These are all good strategies to try. And sometimes they work. But sometimes they don’t. Why not? One reason is that toddlers can easily get into a control struggle. But this is not the whole explanation.

Some other reasons why it is difficult to potty train your child

Your child must be ready If you try potty training and it doesn’t work, it is fine to decide your child is not quite ready and that it is better to wait a while before you try it again. You can always wait a week or several weeks before starting again.

You must be ready. Maybe it is you, the parent, who is not ready. Parents often are not ready to let go of the ease and convenience of diapers. Potty training does mean extra hassle; extra effort; and even extra mess. Parents sometimes want to hold onto the baby stage of development just a little longer. In either of these cases, toilet training is usually not successful because the parent does not express their expectation for using the potty clearly, confidently and consistently. If this is the case for you: honestly check in with yourself; and find out if it is you that is not ready rather than your child. If it is you, it is OK. Just wait until you are ready.

Your child may need other kids to imitate Toilet training seems to be more difficult for parents these days than in past generations. This is because of changes in how children play. For most of human history children would hang out and play together in groups of children of different ages. This gave toddlers plenty of opportunity to watch and imitate what the other kids did when they needed to pee and poop.

Nature had in mind to have kids learn potty training by imitating other kids.

Nature designed for kids to learn potty training from other kids who already know how. However, your toddler probably does not spend a lot of time being together with older kids. You don’t even have the benefit of your child imitating others at preschool, because most pre-schools require the child to be out of diapers by the start of school.  So now it’s all up to you. In other words it is extra hard these days because you lack the help of other kids.

The story of one diligent mother:

She used every technique possible but nothing worked.  She blamed herself for not doing it right. But then something really surprising happened. She was shocked when her 3 year old graduated from the toddler room at her day care center and moved up to the 3 year old room. All the kids there were toilet trained. Everyone was expected to line up and take there turn in using the potty. Her little girl came home after the first day in the 3 year old room saying “No more diapers”

What you can do

  1. Hang out with a group of friends who have kids that are already potty trained. Let them play together and let your toddler follow the other kids into the bathroom. Hopefully you friends will be open to this.
  2. See if your child’s day care center has periodic bathroom time and gives kids the opportunity to watch each other in the bathroom.
  3. If you child is already 3 and not yet potty trained, consider going to a preschool where kids don’t have to already be potty trained, but have the opportunity to learn from the other 3 year olds.

Recipe for success: Be patient, read their cues, give clear explanations, express firm expectations, and give your child the chance to see other kids using the potty. 






As a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, I have been in private practice for over 35 years, with a special interest in parents and couples.


Nothing from August 14, 2022 to February 13, 2023.