Toilet Training

When you think about toilet training, what ideas come to mind? The associations we have about toilet training can conjure up mixed feelings. It’s an important stage in your child’s development and there’s a lot of different information out there! Are you and your child are ready to get into the toilet training process? Here are a few tips to reduce the stress, so toilet training can be a journey of fun and learning for both you and your child.


First thing’s first

  • Toilet training can be a little messy, accidents WILL happen and it’s okay. Wee and poo oopsies are all part of the learning process. Each accident is a little bit closer to you and your child celebrating toileting success. These give you an opportunity to troubleshoot and shape up the behaviour.
    • When accidents occur, respond calmly and neutrally. Avoid talking about, explaining, or reprimanding your child. You can remind your child in other teaching moments about using the toilet.
  • Be patient and gentle with your child and yourself. This is a new skill; you are both learning. It can take time. 
  • Select a motivator. It must be motivating for your child. What are your child’s interests? Some examples might be: a themed sticker, mini car toy, you can even wrap up toys to make them into little surprise presents (such as a couple of blocks, textas, animal figurines…). It’s important that this motivator is only accessible when they have a success on the toilet. This is so it keeps it’s novelty and strength to reinforce the behaviour.
  • Be ready to jump in and help your child through the toileting steps.
  • Ensure your child goes nappy free during toilet training times. Start with during the day when at home.
  • Include your child in the process by giving them underwear choices.
  • “Catch” and reinforce your child’s achievements relative to their own goals. The ‘little’ successes are BIG too! Your child will notice when you’re celebrating them, this will likely encourage these behaviours to continue and increase!


The process

Toileting is made up of a collection of behaviours, breaking these down into bite-sized goals can help set you and your child up for success. Let’s check these out…


Step 1 – Remaining Dry

How long can your child keep a dry nappy? Can your child remain dry for about 2 hours? If so, your child is likely ready to participate in toilet trips. 


Step 2 – PLAY!

Play in the bathroom or near the toilet. That’s right, play! Keep this time fun, without placing any expectations or instructions on your child. This will help the area in which they will practice toileting become a safe, comfortable and fun space. They will likely go there a little easier when it’s time to begin toilet trips. Some examples might include: playing their favourite songs, blowing bubbles, reading their favourite books, playing with their favourite toys. Find your child’s interests and include them around your loo!


Step 3 – Toilet Trips

Depending on how long your child can remain dry, schedule toilet trips around this time frame so you can ‘catch’ a wee on the toilet when they are likely needing to go.

You know your child best. Look out for their body cues which can help indicate when they need to use the toilet. Label these behaviours too, so your child can learn about their own body cues. This might look like “Oh I can see you’re holding your pants, your tummy might be full and telling you that you need to wee.” Be clear and give detail, these are cues that are not yet consistently familiar to your child. When completing toilet trips, assist your child through the process with any steps they need help with. Have the motivators ready to give your child when they have a success in the toilet , we call this the ‘Party Package!’

This might look like…

Party package: Connection (A big hug/high-five)+ Specific praise (A cheer: “Woo! You did a wee in the toilet!”) + Motivator (Sticker)


Step 4 – Fade

We want our littlies to eventually be independent with this process. Over time, slowly and carefully begin to fade back the “Party Package” of reinforcement you deliver to your child. This might mean you cheer and give a hug every toileting success, but only every second toileting success they receive their motivator. Begin to increase the space between these reinforcers to fade over time. Don’t forget to occasionally surprise your child with the whole collection (“Party Package”) of reinforcement to continue to strengthen the behaviour, assist in its maintenance and remind them you’re proud! 


Reach out to Happy Oak here if you would like more support and a structured program to work through this.


Laura Buontempo, CBA, BCBA

M. Ed Applied Behaviour Analysis

Program Supervisor at Happy Oak

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