Potty Training 101

Published on: June 14, 2014

Potty training your child doesn’t need to be as awful as it’s made out to be. Dr. Saovanee Pichairakporn, Pediatric Developmental and Behavioral Specialist, sheds light on how to prepare yourself for this integral chapter of your child’s development.

By Yasmin-Tamana Tanwani


Parenting experiences are often polarized; what may be memorable to some parents can often be overwhelming to others. However, when it comes to potty training, we are pretty sure the experiences lean farther towards the latter.

Before you decide you are ready to throw away those stinky diapers, be sure your little one is ready to do the same.

All children develop at different rates but, according to Dr. Saovanee Pichairakporn, Pediatric Developmental and Behavioral Specialist at Samitivej Srinakarin Children’s Hospital, most children start to show signs of readiness between the ages of 18-24 months.

Signs that your child may be ready for potty training

How do you recognize the signs that your child may be ready? Dr. Saovanee gives a few pointers that parents can look out for:

  • Your child can sit for a period of time and tell you after having a bowel movement or urinating.
  • Your child shows interest in going to the toilet, shows imitative behavior in other areas such as dressing up and household tasks.
  • Your child exhibits readiness skills including motor, language and social skills (e.g. ambulating, sitting, removal of clothing, knowing the words associated with toileting).
  • Your child demonstrates having made the connection between the feeling (muscular contraction) of urination or defecation and what is produced.
  • Your child has an increased period of daytime dryness (an increase in bladder capacity and sphincter control).

If your child isn’t ready

If your child is not exhibiting these signs, don’t fret. Some children do take longer than others.

“Wait a few months if your child doesn’t seem interested in the potty chair. Meanwhile, try to get to the root of the delay or setback in your child’s potty training. Some of these include forcing or rushing your child into training before the child is ready, punishment (beating or scolding), underlying illnesses, birth of a new sibling or absence of a parent for a prolonged period of time.”

Don’t imply that going to the toilet or to ‘poo’ is disgusting. Your child may follow suit and resist potty training…

By the age of 4 years, most children are able to control their urination and bowel movement, says Dr. Saovanee. “If your child is not able to do so, he or she is considered delayed in toilet training and should be evaluated for hidden issues such as neurological maturation problem, chronic constipation, delayed development or toilet training resistance”.

Tips on ensuring healthy and fun potty training

However in most cases, once your child shows signs of readiness, it’s time to start preparing your child for the potty. Slow and steady is paramount; before you throw your child into the deep end, Dr. Saovanee shares nine tips on ensuring a healthy and fun process to potty training your child.

1. Prepare your child

  • Speak to your child, read books, or download iPad apps which involve using a potty; each is a great way to prepare and excite him or her for potty training.
  • Narrate the process while the child is watching a parent or sibling use the toilet.
  • Allow your child to undress himself or herself; easily removable clothes are recommended.
  • Keep a potty seat in a regular place in the bathroom; let the child know that he/she can sit on it anytime.
  • Use training pants during the day and encourage your child to remove the training pants by him/herself.
  • If your child exhibits signs of reluctance or isn’t ready, do not push him/her.

2. Make it fun

Photo by Garagm via Wikimedia Commons

Increase interest by investing in a special and fun potty. Your child’s favorite cartoon character is a good idea. Playing with your child’s favorite toys or activities while sitting on the potty is also recommended.

3. Reduce the pressure and anxiety

Read a book or sing a song together with your child while they sit on the potty to reduce anxiety.

Also, do not rush or punish your child if they did something wrong or it is taking too long to go to the toilet.

4. Make flushing fun

Often children may be afraid of the loud flushing noise and may have a fear that part of them will be flushed away along with their poo/pee. Parents should motivate their child and make potty training fun in order to reduce their fear.

Try dripping some blue or red food coloring into the toilet and your child will be amazed at how he or she can turn the water green or orange when flushing.

5. Be mindful of your word associations

Don’t imply that going to the toilet or ‘poo’ is disgusting. Your child may follow suit and resist potty training, making the process all the more difficult.

6. Make them feel proud

Give positive reinforcement. Praise and reward could be in the form of applause, a compliment, a hug or tokens which children can collect to receive a prize when they reach the target.

Parents should motivate their child and make potty training fun to reduce their fear.

For example, when your child accomplishes even a small task related to potty training, reward him or her by adding a sticker to a potty sticker chart. This will reinforce and motivate your child to go to the toilet.

7. Set a routine

Photo by drcorneilus via Wikimedia Commons

Setting a routine is key to creating good habits. Parents should aim to potty train their child at the same time every day. It could be 10-15 minutes after breakfast or any meal that your child would follow with bowel movements.

Parents could also bring the potty and let their child play or sit on it first for 5-10 minutes. Please note, it’s okay if your child does not have any bowel release. This activity will make them get used to the schedule and train them to go to the potty as a routine.

8. Try not to compare your child with other children

Parents should understand that every child is different. Comparisons will only put your child down, causing a sense of low self-confidence. This will be counteractive in potty training your child.

9. Prevent constipation

Parents should encourage high fiber foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains as well as fluids. Constipation can result in pain when defecating and make a child refuse toilet training.

Nighttime potty training

Nighttime potty training can be more challenging, so patience is pivotal. Dr. Saovanee explains, “Children will achieve daytime dryness before nighttime dryness. While awake in the daytime, children learn to recognize the feeling of a full bladder and what they need to do about it. At night,  when a child is asleep, they may not notice their full bladder.”

Dr. Saovanee gives us 5 steps which can prepare your child for nighttime potty training.

  1. Restrict fluids about two hours before bedtime to avoid nighttime wetness.
  2. Encourage your child to use the potty before bedtime.
  3. Consider using a waterproof mattress pad that goes over the sheets to keep your child’s bed dry and make bedding changing easier.
  4. Start by using training pants at night.
  5. Never punish or scold your child for a nighttime accident. Instead, show understanding and support.


Cover photo by Valentina Powers via Flickr

About the Authors

Dr. Saovanee is a specialist in developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Samitivej Srinakarin Hospital. She received her medical degree from Rangsit University and holds diplomas of the Thai Board of Pediatrics and the Thai Sub-Board of Developmental and Behavior Pediatrics, Queen Sirikit National Institute of Child Health.

Yasmin moved to Bangkok from Singapore in 2012 after marrying her now-husband, a Thai national. Thailand has now become her home away from home. Before her move to Bangkok, Yasmin was a full-time media professional working in public relations. She loves everything to do with film, travel, photography, food, and books.

The views expressed in the articles in this magazine are not necessarily those of BAMBI committee members and we assume no responsibility for them or their effects.

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