Potty Training

The questions begin when a child is about a year old: At what age should I begin potty training? Does a difficult experience cause emotional damage? What if my child refuses to be trained? These are common concerns. First-time parents find them particularly worrisome.

God’s Word does not talk specifically about potty training, of course. But that doesn’t mean we can’t apply some biblical principles in general terms. The Bible does remind us, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). The body grows and develops according to a set pattern that God determines. With children, the bones grow, muscles develop, and think­ing matures all according to his plan.

Successful potty training cannot begin until the body has developed some specific muscular control. Most children, especially boys, do not have the necessary muscle control until age 18 months or later. Training before then will only frustrate both parents and child.

An observant parent will see signs suggesting that the time for training can begin. It may be a special look on a child’s face. Or the child might move to a quiet cor­ner for privacy.

Potty training should be carried out in a positive manner. Punishing or yelling at a child for accidents will only create tension and make the process more diffi­cult. Positive statements from parents for good attempts at elimination are very helpful.

It is usually helpful to use a small potty. A child is able to sit on a small toilet for longer periods of time. Having a child sit on a large toilet may be too tiring for the parent and perhaps even a little scary for the child.

After a child has successfully gone on the potty, there needs to be a lot of verbal praise. A small, tangible reward, such as a few pieces of candy, is good positive reinforcement.

The next step is to move from diapers to training pants. Continued use of diapers may delay the process because the diaper confuses the message that goes from the nerves to the muscles.

It is also quite helpful to get your child into a potty routine. An observant parent will likely notice a pattern.

Daytime control is usually accomplished before trying to achieve dry nights. After a time, you may expect your child to help clean up an “accident,” not as a punish­ment but as a way of teaching personal responsibility.

Remember, this is a learning process. Learning takes time and includes making mistakes.


From Patient Parenting, by John Juern. © 2006 Northwestern Publishing House. All rights reserved.