Toilet Teaching: The True/False Quiz

by Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller

toilet paper rollFor many parents potty training or toilet teaching, as it is now termed, is a challenging and sometimes frustrating parental responsibility. It is not uncommon at this point in your parenting life to find your mind filled with questions.

You are ready for your child to be out of diapers, but you wonder, is she? Is this the right time? Are these the right steps? Am I using the right words? Do I know enough and am I skilled enough to help my child move through this developmental stage easily?

Are you wondering how you are doing in the area of toilet teaching? If so, see how you fare in the toilet teaching of your child with this quick True/False quiz. (The answers and explanations can be found at the end of the quiz.)

  1. Asking your child frequently if he has to go potty is an effective toilet teaching technique. True or False
  2. Using incentives such as treats or toys is an effective way to help your child learn toileting habits. True or False
  3. Establishing a toileting routine leads to successful toileting habits for children. True or False
  4. If your child is not toilet trained by age three the task of teaching her will become more difficult. True or False
  5. Giving your child information about how, when, and why to use the potty will help him learn to use the toilet appropriately. True or False
  6. Telling your child that you will take away her favorite toy or game will help her learn to go potty. True or False
  7. It is important to praise your child when he successfully uses the potty. True or False
  8. Keeping the toilet teaching fun can help make the experience more enjoyable for both parent and child. True or False


1. False -- Children don't always know what the sensation of having to go to the bathroom feels like. So asking them if they have to go potty will most likely get you an answer of, "No," regardless of whether or not they have to go. Instead say, "Let's take an opportunity to go to the potty." Let your child know that this is something they need to do to help their bodies learn what needing to go potty feels like. Give them the opportunity to make several attempts throughout the day.

2. False -- External motivators like toys, treats, or special opportunities don't help children identify the sensation of having to go to the bathroom. You want your child to go to the bathroom because she can feel the sensations and has the desire within to use the toilet. If their motivation to use the toilet is to gain a toy or treat, children will focus on the outside treat rather than the inside feeling. In addition, you are conditioning your child to expect something from you every time they use the toilet.

3. True -- The body of a child seeks routine. All new behaviors are easier to learn using a routine. Take your child to the bathroom on a regular schedule. Do it when they wake-up in the morning and after a nap. Do it after meals and before leaving the house. Follow that schedule consistently and your child will soon become accustomed to the routine.

4. False -- Young children learn a variety of skills in a variety of different orders and speeds. There is no one best time to learn to use the toilet. Be patient with your child and allow him the time he needs. Much better that he learn to use the toilet on his schedule than on yours. Don't rush him because you are tired of changing diapers. You will be more successful if you allow your son to learn this skill in his own time. Your patience, here, will help him relax and learn to understand his own body.

5. True -- Read to your child about the potty and giving up her diaper. The more she knows about the new task you are asking of her, the more she will be able to add to her existing knowledge base. Your local library contains many of children's books about using the potty. Use this material to build interest and a natural curiosity for one on the body's basic functions.

6. False -- It is possible that your son or daughter could learn to use the toilet out of fear of being punished or from being shamed for not doing what you want. But is this really how you want to help your child learn this important new skill? Instead of threatening your daughter with removal of a favorite toy, tell her that you will continue to help her grow and learn regardless of how quickly she learns. Your job is to give her the time she needs to do so, using encouragement and support. Threatening is not helpful here.

7. True -- Yes, praise your child for successfully using the potty. But be mindful of the style of praise you use. Refrain from using evaluative praise like, "Good girl," "You did great," or "That's fantastic". Evaluative praise puts the emphasis on the evaluation rather than on the behavior. Descriptive praise describes what was done and keeps the focus of your comments squarely on the behavior. "You filled the potty with your poop like a big girl," or "You made your tinkle go into the potty like a four year old," are examples of descriptive praise. Descriptive praise teaches what behavior is desired rather than evaluates the behavior. Allow your praise to teach by regularly using descriptive praise.

8. True -- Keep the learning fun. Put targets in the water for boys to aim at. Read books and play music while your child sits on the potty. Clap and sing when you're son or daughter is successful. Dad and son can stand side by side and go potty together. Make a game out of never passing up an opportunity to go potty. Keep this learning experience free from stress and worry, by allowing it to be fun.

Toilet teaching doesn't have to be filled with anxiety and strife. Following the suggestions above can result in a positive and successful toilet teaching experience for both parent and child. Enjoy the process.

Thomas Haller and Chick Moorman are the authors of The 10 Commitments: Parenting with Purpose, (Personal Power Press) and Couple-Talk.

Copyright © Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller. Permission to republish granted to, LLC.