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Toilet Training- A Practical Guide

by Dr. Mandar V. Bichu
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As always, there is a right way and a wrong way of doing and achieving things and toilet training or potty training is no exception to the rule! So let’s learn the right way of teaching this important step to your toddler.

Remember Three Rs.

The first R is ‘Recognizing the readiness of your toddler’.

The second R is ‘Relaxed Approach’.

 The third R is ‘Routine Establishment’.

If you follow these three Rs, then the fourth R – ‘Reward’ is not too far away for you and your kid!

When can I start toilet training for my toddler?

By 1 ½ years, most toddlers start indicating the urge to pass urine or stools either through words or through action. That is the ideal time to start potty training or toilet training. Here the ‘Recognizing the readiness of your toddler’ is important.

The overall understanding, attitude and developmental level of the toddler are important factors to decide this timing. Some babies will always be more mature, expressive and co-operative than others and they will be the ideal candidates for learning this new skill. If these qualities are lacking in your baby, then there is no harm in waiting up to 2 ½ years or later to start potty training.

How long will it take?

The time required for toilet training will vary from individual to individual. Usually the basic process will take few weeks to few months.

But remember the ‘Relaxed approach’. Don’t be a pushy control freak. To master a new skill each child will take its own sweet time and you should be prepared to be patient and tolerant of your child’s earlier failed attempts.

Sometimes it could take months before the child masters the process and there could also be occasional mishaps even after he has apparently mastered it.

What are the required equipments for toilet training?

A receptacle potty is the commonest device used. The other way is to use the normal toilet with a toilet seat adapter suitable for the child’s size.

Switching from the diaper to trainer pants or normal underpants is also a good idea in this phase. First do this nappy-to-trainer pant/underpants switch only during the day. Start doing that in the night only after a reasonable day-control is achieved.

How do we actually train the toddler for this?

There are five simple steps and just go through them one by one, according to your baby’s readiness and response. Give minimum 5- 10 days for each step. This is the third R, which is the ‘Routine’ of toilet habits being established in a gradual and phased manner.

  1. Place the potty or the toilet seat in the toilet. Take your toddler to the toilet and make him sit on the potty for a while. The pants / nappies shouldn’t be removed during this step. Repeat this step a few times everyday for at least a week. Make it into a game-like activity. Don’t associate it with passage of stools/ urine.
  1. Once the toddler is used to the idea of sitting on the potty, start removing the toddler’s pants when making him sit on the potty. Repeat it a few times every day. Don’t associate it with passage of stools/ urine.
  1. When the toddler has soiled the pants/ diaper, make him sit on the potty and remove the soiled nappy into the potty. Then let him observe the flushing away of the soiled nappy. If he is afraid of the flushing noise despite your reassurance, then don’t force that step onto him. This step is to make him realize that the potty or the toilet receptacle is there to dispose off wastes.
  1. Now is the time to actually make him practice what you have preached! Now the shadowboxing is over and the actual battle begins. Now you have to remove his pants and tell him to actually make an attempt to pass stools while sitting on the potty. Time it in such way that it matches his usual stool-passage timings. Do it twice or thrice in a day according to the need.

Slowly but surely the child will start mastering the skill. Show your appreciation for his new-found masterful activity!

  1. This is the final step in mastering the act and it involves making the child go alone to the potty where he removes pants by himself and then passes the bodily wastes in the potty.
  1. Achieving full bowel/bladder control is a long process and will happen in stages. The usual order of things will be first nighttime bowel control, followed by daytime bowel control, followed by daytime bladder control and lastly nighttime bladder control.
  1. Understand well that along the way, there will be some incidents or ‘accidents’ where the child still soils in the pants or in the bed. ‘No harsh negative comments or measures’ will be the way to deal with such episodes.

How do I clean the baby after he passes stools?

Cleaning with water is perhaps a more hygienic option than using a toilet paper. The direction of wiping should be from front to back to avoid passage of germs to urinary tract. Fixing a water-jet pipe in the toilet will help you out in teaching the child to easily clean himself after passing his stools.

Teach the child to wash his hands with soap after using the toilet.


Overzealous aggressive controlling parental attitude can cause long term problems like habitual constipation or anxiety over bowel habits in a child.

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