Potty Training Tips from a Pro - part 1: Preparing kids.

Our parenting consultant shares great potty training tips from her doctrine and on-the-job knowledge

Seeking professional potty training tips I went to speak with Alona, an experienced parenting consultant, to get an expert point of view.

In this part of our conversation Alona shares tips on preparing kids for toilet training.

  • How to speak with children about starting potty training and how to get them on board
  • Somewhat earlier: How we can encourage toilet training readiness
  • And a lot earlier: How we can encourage awareness to hygiene

Alona's potty training tips are based on the Adler approach, as well as on her own professional view.

(I’ve edited the conversation to appear in a structured manner ordered by topics.)


Alona Oren:

Family Consultant certified by "Maagalim" Psychology Institute and the Ministry of Education (Israel) * Parenting Facilitator certified by Adler Institute and the Ministry of Education (Israel)

Alona bases her work widely on the Adlerian psychology school (see Adlerian psychology--Wikipedia), and combines other approaches such as behavioral - cognitive psychology and Imago Relationship Therapy.

The information presented in this page is based on a two-hours 'interview' I conducted with Alona on January 2012.

"Prep Talk":
How to speak with children about starting potty training, and how to get them on board.

Alona begins: It's important to talk about potty training before actually starting to potty train.


A preparation talk includes when and what:

  • When do we start?
  • What we expect from you (the child): What does it mean to be toilet-trained, plus encouragement and “you’re a big boy” talk.

We want to tune the preparation and the conversation to fit our child’s personality, and if possible - leverage his strong traits for the advantage of potty training:

What do I know about my child that can help me prepare him better?

For instance:

  • Some kids may seem to have difficulties in adjusting to changes, when in fact what they need is simply more time and preparation.
    If we set their expectations properly and give them time to get used to the idea, they’ll adapt more easily.
  • Some kids cooperate well with agreements made upfront.
  • Agreements that combine some level of choice on the child’s part tend to work better.
  • Considering all the above, it can go something like:

    I think you are ready to start potty training very soon, what do you think?”
    “Let’s agree on what day we’re going to start, I’ll let you choose the date… Do you want to start on Friday morning? ...”

    Make an agreement with the child, allowing him a certain level of choice. Then hold him to the agreement.

Another idea for preparation - based on the above potty training tips:

Post a pre-potty-training chart above the bed and let them circle the start date. Then have a daily/nightly ritual where you cross-out the passing day, and remind them that you’re about to start potty training soon.

How can we encourage toilet training readiness?

There are things we can say and do before potty training, to encourage maturation and help our child become ready.

Talking and encouraging:

  • Say stuff like: “I think you are capable of using the toilet like a big boy. What do you think? ... Do you think you can do it? ... I know you can.”
  • Repeat these sentences continuously (like mantra) before starting potty training. Let it sink in gradually.
  • If we’ve reached the right age and it seems like our child is “not there yet”, we use this kind of talk again and again til it sinks in.


Practicing “start and stop”:

We can practice self-control with our kids, by playing simple games that teach them how to stop in the middle of something, and start-over again.


  • Let’s run-run-run-run-run, and -- Stop!
  • Let’s sing-sing-sing-sing-sing, and -- Shush!
  • Let’s dance-dance-dance, and -- Freeze!
  • Open the tap and let the water run-run-run… and -- Stop!
  • And other exercises like these.

This can help kids understand that they have control on their actions and on their body.

Earlier in life: Things we can do to encourage awareness to hygiene and toilet habits 

Earlier in our child's development, long before potty training - we can let kids watch us when we use the toilet. (Only if we're comfortable with it.)

Alona elaborates:

When parents notice “signs of independence” in the child’s behavior; when we see that they want to do things like grownups, this would be the right time to demonstrate our own toilet-habits.

How to approach the subject:

Say stuff like “I’m going to use the toilet now. Would you like to come with me and watch mommy/daddy make pee in the toilet, like all grownups do?"

Or take it a step forward: “Would you like to try it yourself?”

This can help to develop awareness to hygiene and toilet habits.


Parents can start the “toileting awareness” dialog even earlier, with young babies, by talking over the diaper-changing act.

Most of us do it intuitively: “Did you make poo-poo in your diaper? Yes you did!” … “Let’s change the dirty diaper now and put on a clean one” … “It feels good to be clean and dry, doesn’t it” … and so on.

More potty training tips: What to do when the interest is coming from the child

Kids may become interested in potty training before parents have mentioned it.

It can come from watching other kids in Daycare using the toilet or from seeing it elsewhere. They’ll come to us with this “new idea” that they have, and it's up to us if we choose to do something about it.

If we do choose to act on it, it’s important to:

  1. Take full responsibility on the potty training process from this point onward. Lead it as oppose to just “roll with it”.
  2. If the child is currently in Daycare:

    Start the potty training at home and establish a good basis for success before going back to Daycare and sharing the responsibility with the teacher.

    Ask the Daycare staff to cooperate with you on this: Make sure they don’t intend to put the child back in diapers after a couple of “accidents”.

Interested in more potty training tips from a pro?

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