Toilet choosing vs. toilet training: What’s the difference?

Written by: Kelly Perez

potty training


There are countless decisions parents have to make in order to raise happy and competent children. But, thanks to a process called “toilet choosing,” there is one decision that parents don’t need to make—when their child learns to use the toilet!

What is toilet choosing?
Toilet choosing allows your child to choose to use the toilet when she is ready to do so instead of training her according to a set timetable.

All children naturally want to be like their parents. They show this by imitating the world around them when they play, such as playing house or school. This desire to imitate also motivates them to learn to use the toilet.

So why does it matter if we toilet train or toilet choose?
Learning to use the toilet is a developmental milestone, just like walking and talking. As with those milestones, a child should choose when to use the toilet. It’s a truly voluntary action.

Toilet training often involves using rewards, which removes the feeling of accomplishment and joy that comes from choosing for herself. Rewards can also put undue pressure on a child, making her do something she isn’t quite ready to do and then feeling bad about it. Although rewards may work in the short term, using them can also result in stressful power struggles and negative behavior. So, when you approach learning to use the toilet with the same relaxed attitude you have when your child learns any new skill, she will gain confidence and, most importantly, you will avoid the inevitable power struggles and retain your positive relationship with your child

Of course, parents have pressures, too, when it comes to when and how quickly their child learns to use the toilet. Peers, family, schools and new siblings on the way, can all contribute to a parent’s stress and motivation to have a child using the toilet in a certain timeframe. Here are some tips to encourage your child to use the toilet in an unpressured way:

  • Place a training potty in the bathroom so that your child has access to it when she wants.
  • Read storybooks together that depict toileting in positive, encouraging terms.
  • Invite playmates who use the toilet over for play dates; children imitate those they admire.
  • Substitute pull-ups for diapers so that your child can experiment with the toilet on her own.
  • Let your child decide if she wants to wear “special” underwear. It may inspire her to stay dry.
  • If your child is not potty-trained and is ready for preschool, look for schools that do not have this requirement.

Allowing children to choose to use the toilet naturally and in their own time gives them a sense of pride. By doing so, you will help enhance their self-esteem and confidence—a lesson that will apply to many future challenges.

The Natalie G. Heineman Smart Love Preschool provides a play-based curriculum founded on the Smart Love philosophy of child development. We offer parent and baby programs, toddler programs, preschool and kindergarten for children six weeks to six years old. Our approach is child-centered, focusing on social and emotional development. We have helped foster happy and confident learners—the formula for future school success. Smart Love Preschool’s doors opened in 2010 and we have recently purchased the property at 2222 N. Kedzie Blvd. in Logan Square–opening fall 2017! Please contact us at 773-665-8052, ext. 1;, or visit us at

Related articles:

Potty training doesn't have to be a battle 

Best playgrounds for the potty-training toddler

When your child resists toilet training


Posted on April 17, 2017 at 10:31 AM