Dr. Spock’s Method

Dr. Spock’s Toilet Training Method


To train without force. Most children are ready between 2 and 2.5 years of age. If parents wait until a child is ready, the child will learn without being forced, and the process will be more relaxed and pleasant with fewer power struggles. The child must decide to gain control of bowel and bladder to be more grown-up. Parents must trust the child’s desire and be patient. Once training begins, parents must be consistent and convey the expectation that the child will toilet as older people do by praising and encouraging success, and avoiding criticism and anger in the event of accidents and refusal.

Pre-training experiences

Allow the child into the bathroom with other family members to learn about potting, but without the pressure to perform. Teach the child to wash his or her hands afterwards. Talk about what is happening so the child learns the words and also that toileting is a straight forward fact of life and not dirty, shameful, secret, or mysterious. Avoid commenting on how smelly or messy “poop” is so the child does not confuse criticism of evacuation with criticism of him or herself.

Training supplies and set-up

  • small plastic child-size potty chair with the urine guard removed (boys and girls should learn to eliminate in the sitting position),
  • step stool and small bar of soap so the child can learn handwashing, and
  • books or toys near the potty to entertain the child.


1. Get the child used to the potty chair. Have the child sit on the potty fully clothed for as long or short as child chooses.

2. Once the child has accepted the seat, suggest the child use it for bowel movements the way the parents do. Let the child leave the seat whenever the child chooses so he or she does not associate potting with punishment or imprisonment. They ought to think of it as a voluntary act carried out with pride; do not urge or pressure the child if the child is unwilling. If movement occurs in diaper, show the child how to deposit it in the potty and say that is where he or she will do it soon, too. Do not empty the potty into the toilet and flush it while the child is watching.

3. Once the child shows interest, take the child to the potty two to three times per day, especially if signals of impending elimination are detected. Praise the child for being dry for long periods just like “parent or favorite character.” Do not over-praise, as this age group does not like to be too compliant. When the child appears ready to be more independent, remove all lower clothing and place the potty nearby explaining to the child that he or she can use it whenever they need to by him or herself. The parent may give occasional reminders. Put the child back in diapers if the child resists or has an accident.
Copyright and Disclaimer

Children usually achieve bowel and bladder control at the same time. Once this control is obtained, switch the child to training pants. Do not scold the child for the occasional accident. Boys will learn to stand and pee sooner or later from imitation.

Once control is achieved, teach proper wiping and handwashing Teach the child to wipe from front to back; the parent may have to complete the job at first.