A Guide to Peaceful Toilet Training

Everybody seems to have some kind of preconceived idea of when a child should be potty-trained and out of diapers. Truth be told, there is no magical age that every child is completely potty-trained. It certainly doesn’t happen in a day. It’s a process. As Maria Montessori found, with toileting as well, we need to “follow the child”. Each child will have his own pace and show us at his own time when he is ready.

Here are some suggestions that we have found to work at our school and that you can try at home of what to do and not to do when toilet training your child.

DON’T: Compare your child with other children, especially their siblings, saying things like “Your brother was out of diapers already when he was your age”
Comparisons do not respect the child. It can leave him feeling inferior and ashamed, neither of which are helpful feelings during this toilet training time. Each child is individually different. Parents and caregivers should use encouraging words that show that it’s okay to be different and that they are still respected.

DO: Give your child an option “Today, do you want to wear a diaper or underwear?”
When your child starts toilet training he might still be in diapers and that is perfectly fine. The next step, though, is to get him into underwear and out of diapers. That timing should also be up to your child and not forced upon him. A great way to know when your child is on his way to graduating out of diapers is to ask him in the morning, “Today, do you want to wear a diaper or underwear?” Some days he might choose underwear, but then go back to a diaper the next day. Little by little, though, he might stop asking for a diaper, and eventually it doesn’t have to be an option anymore.

DON’T: Force your child to try sitting on the toilet
This is likely to backfire if they are not ready nor willing to sit on the toilet yet and might even prolong toilet training.

DO:  Ask your child if he wants to use the toilet
Montessori encourages us as adults to “follow the child” and “respect the child” so rather than forcing your child, it’s better to ask your child. “Would you like to use the toilet?” At first, he might say “no” and that is also okay and should be respected. In that case, you can still have your child go to the bathroom to take off his own diaper, throw it away, pull out a new diaper and put it on by himself so he gets used to being in the bathroom. In our bathroom at school, we have a small training toilet and a children’s toilet seat. We give the children an option there too, “Would you like to sit on the small toilet or the big toilet?”

DO: Have a stool so the child can get on and off the toilet by himself
If your child wants to use the big toilet, he probably isn’t able to sit on it by himself just yet. Having a step stool for the toilet allows him to get on and off and ensures that he develops the independence to use the toilet by himself in the future. Without a stool, your child will depend on you for the timing to get on or off the toilet.

DO: Let your child undress and dress himself
You should let your child practice dressing and undressing himself with as little help as possible. That means around the time your child starts to develop an interest in the toilet it’s probably a good time to stop dressing him in a onesie. The problem with a onesie is that he can’t unsnap it by himself. So while he may be able to take off his own pants, he will need rely on you to help him unsnap his onesie. If you want to help your child develop independence in the bathroom start by dressing him appropriately so he doesn’t need to depend on you for help.

DON’T: Rush your child on the toilet
DO: Give your child time on the toilet and ask when he’s ready to come off
We all have busy schedules, but if we want to see progress in toilet training we need to give our child time. Children’s sense of time is much different than ours, but we need to give them space and time for toilet training and not try to make it match our adult pace of life. If you happen to be in a rush maybe it’s not the time to let your child try the toilet. You can also choose when you provide your child with options, but if you give him the option to try the toilet be prepared to give him time. The more comfortable your child gets on the toilet, the easier toilet training will become. If it is rushed, then your child may develop anxiety about going to the toilet.

DON’T: Make a big deal if your child has an accident
DO: Stay calm!
DO: Be prepared with a change of clothes
Accidents are bound to happen during toilet training. They sometimes happen when your child wears a diaper, but they are especially likely when your child chooses underwear. Since we know it is likely, we shouldn’t act surprised, say things like “Oh no!” or “What a mess!” These are likely to shame your child so for a while after the accident he might be against using the toilet and wearing underwear in order to avoid those negative feelings. Instead of making a big deal, stay calm, help your child out of his wet clothes, and help him clean up the floor and himself. If you are out of the house, it’s always a good idea to carry a change of clothes with you for when your child has an accident.

DO: Be patient and encouraging
Know that toilet training is a process. Some days it might feel like a struggle or like your child is going backwards, but keep waiting for him and providing him with some of the options and suggestions given above. Encouragement does not mean overpraising your child. He doesn’t need your applause because going to the toilet should not be an action he takes simply to seek the reward of your praise. By encourage we mean you should acknowledge his accomplishment with specific phrases such as, “You tried sitting on the toilet today!” or “You could pee in the toilet!” or “Your diaper is dry!”

We hope some of these suggestions are helpful for you no matter where you are in the toilet training process! You can comment below and let us know what was helpful or if you have any questions.

Montessori is not just a school or a brand – it’s a way of life!
Our desire is to help you – parents and caregivers – learn how to implement Montessori principles in your own home to help your children develop independence and self-confidence.

Happy toilet training!


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