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Parent Instructions for Everyday Behavior Problems: Time Out/Ignoring
by W. Douglas Tynan, PhD

What is Time Out?

Time Out is a form of discipline that can be used when your child needs to calm down or when your child does something wrong on purpose. The term “time out” comes from the phrase “time out from reinforcement” It is supposed to be a “time out” from “time in” rewarding, enjoyable activities and from all reinforcement, including your attention. So, if you keep talking and interacting with a child who is supposed to be in time out, he/she has your undivided attention, and in this situation, time out will not work.


Time Out works best when…

  1. You are calm but firm.
  2. Your child is taught about time out before it is needed. You may want to practice with dolls or puppets and your child should understand the purpose of time out and which behaviors result in a time out.
  3. It is used in combination with Therapeutic Play (sometimes called Special Time) and social praise and rewards for good behavior.
  4. You selectively ignore your child and withdraw your attention during time out.
  5. Keys to effective use of time out are IMMEDIACY and CONSISTENCY. The child should be placed in time out each time the challenging behavior occurs and should not be allowed to re-enter time in until he/she self-calms and complies with the caregiver request.


When to use a Time Out…

  1. If your child does something dangerous or breaks a known rule (for example, playing with the stove), he/she gets an immediate time out.
  2. If your child does not follow a direction to do something, you give a time out after you give one warning and allow him/her 15 seconds to respond. (“If you don’t… then you will go to time out.?”)
  3. Time outs are used for dangerous and defiant behavior. When you first start to use time out, it is helpful to identify several target behaviors that you will use for time out. At this age, time out is an effective way to deal with behaviors such as hitting, biting, and hair pulling that although are developmentally expected, needs to be addressed.


How to use a Time Out…

  1. Warn your child once before initiating a time out, or if he/she has dearly broken a house rule, he/she goes straight to time out.
  2. Place your child in a boring, but safe spot, such as a nearby chair or step where you can watch him/her. He/She should be away from toys, people, windows, TV, or anything he/she likes. Toddlers may be placed on the floor or in a playpen. With young toddlers, you will have to carry the child to time out. Carry the toddler facing away from you (or at least look away from the toddler) so that there is no confusion between a hug and a trip to time out.
  3. Simply and calmly state the rule that was broken or the reason for the time out (For example, “Because you did… you have to take a time out.”) Do not reason or give lengthy explanations to the child.
  4. Do not interact with your child either positively or negatively when the child is in time out. Do not talk, lecture, or scold your child.
  5. Ignore protests, shouting, and promises to be good. Do not look at your child.
  6. If he/she refuses to go, lead by the hand, or carry him/her if needed.
  7. Tell him/her to sit down on the chair. He/She is not to talk to anyone or to play with anything while in time out.
  8. The first few times you use time out, your child may scream, cry, kick, or look for something to throw. As long as the child remains seated, ignore the tantrum by turning away, engaging in a task, or playing with other children.
  9. Do not let your child leave time out before you have told him/her to do so. If your child gets up or leaves time out before it is over, immediately return him/her to the chair without talking. You may have to repeat this procedure several times. The child will soon learn that you will always put him/her back in the chair and therefore, he/she will eventually stay seated.
  10. After he/she has calmed down, tell him/her he/she can get up. If he/she is crying in time out, he/she needs to be quiet for the last 20 seconds before he/she can come out. Rather than implement time out for a specified amount of time, the end of time out depends on the time it takes your child to self-calm. For toddlers, very brief time outs (for example, 20 seconds) are highly effectively.
  11. After time out, your child should immediately be redirected to an acceptable activity. If he/she refused a direction, give the direction again. (For example, “You’re calm. Time in. Please put the blocks in the box.”) Immediately after time out, make sure the child engages in high quality time in activities. A stark contrast between time out and time in increases the effectiveness of time outs.


When Time Out is not working….

  1. Be sure you are not warning your child one (or more) times before sending him/her to time out. Warnings only teach the child that he/she can be non-compliant at least once (or more) before you will use time out.
  2. All adults who are responsible for disciplining the child should be using time out. You should agree when and for what behaviors to send the child to time out.
  3. Remember to use Therapeutic Play (Special Time) and to let your child know when he/she is following the rules. Catch him/her being good rather than taking good behavior for granted. Most children would prefer to have you put them in time out than ignore them completely. Gentle touching (for example, a pat on the shoulder) is an additional way to show positive regard.
  4. Some children will try to convince their caregiver that time out is fun and therefore not working. Do not fall for this trick. Over time, the difficult behaviors for which you use time out should occur less often. Remember to expect an initial increase in the targeted behaviors and/or an escalation in noncompliance with time out strategy.
  5. You may feel the need to “punish” your child for doing something inappropriate in the time out chair (such as cursing or spitting). However, it is very important to ignore the child when he/she behaves poorly in time out in order to teach the child that such “attention-getting strategies” do not work.


Keep track of Time Outs

  1. Use a chart or log book.
  2. Monitor for effectiveness. Seek additional consultation if no improvements occur.



Ignoring is the opposite of paying attention. Ignoring, praising and paying attention should all be used together to shape or change your child’s behavior. You can practice ignoring the “special time” sessions. When he is being loud or obnoxious, you can ignore him by looking the other way. But, if he is good, even for a moment, you need to pay attention again. Remember, accidental rewards happen when you pay attention to bad behavior and make it worse.

To ignore, do not look at the child or talk to him. You should act as if he was not there. You might have to leave the room. It also helps sometimes if you pick something up (like a magazine) and start looking at it.

Once you start ignoring a behavior you have to keep ignoring. What usually happens when you start ignoring a bad behavior is that it gets worse for a short time, perhaps as long as a day. This happens because children sometimes think that they are not acting badly enough to get your attention, so they escalate. But, if you continue to ignore them through this escalation, the behavior will quickly decrease. Once the behavior goes away for a few days, you have mastered that problem. However, behaviors that have been ignored away do come back once in a while, but for a short time. Be prepared to ignore it again.

Ignoring is the simplest strategy to deal with behavior problems, but in practice, it is one of the most difficult to carry out To ignore means that you have to have good control, patience and know that things will get better.


Article by W. Douglas Tynan, PhD
More information at

Parent Instructions for Everyday Behavior Problems: Time In: Special Play Time
by W. Douglas Tynan, PhD


Children work very hard to get adult attention. Children will get your attention one way or another, it is better if you do it on your terms, not theirs. Some children will act badly, just for attention. Parents usually think that giving angry attention by scolding, lecturing, arguing, they will teach the child to act better. However, for a lot of children, any attention is good and for those children if you follow a bad behavior with a lecture, you might make it worse. As a rule, any behavior that is followed by a lot of parent attention, either good or bad, usually gets worse.

In order to increase your child’s good behavior, you need to learn to give them attention at the right time. If you want to break that negative cycle of nagging and arguing, you need to start by giving some attention when it does the most good.

In order to increase the amount of good attention, you need to first set up a “special play time” each day for your child to give him or her attention. Pick a practice time of 15 minutes per day. Try to do it the same time each day. Either parent can do this. During this time your child will have your undivided attention. Do not answer the phone, have the TV on or other distractions. Find something else for your other children to do during this time.

During the special time, you give your child a choice of play activities. These should be indoor, quiet activities. It should not be TV or video games. Some games, toys and activities are recommended here. You should start by getting down on the floor with your child to play. If he does not choose something, go ahead and pick something out that you think he may like. You start putting it together and talking about it. (For example: “I’m getting out the Hot Wheels cars, and I’m going to put together the track to see how fast they are…”). Usually once you start playing, your child will join in.

After your child starts playing, talk about what he is doing, like a sportscaster describing a game. Don’t ask questions. Don’t give commands or directions. Don’t tell him how to play. Don’t criticize. There is no “right” way to play.

As your child plays, keep talking. If there is any bad behavior, ignore it. If he or she becomes disruptive (for example: throwing toys around), warn once, and if it keeps up, end your special time early. If you do this once, you probably will never have to do it again.

During the play, observe, comment and RELAX. This should be an enjoyable time for both of you. There are several benefits to this daily session.


The first

is that paying attention to quiet constructive play will increase that type of play. It also helps your child to have a longer attention span to that type of play.


The second …

 is that your child “tunes in” to your normal voice. They are listening when you are speaking quietly. The third is that this helps with language development. If your child starts to narrate his play himself, it also helps him develop that “inner voice” that guides behavior.


Third …

your child gets undivided positive attention for a while. We all do a little better with some of that. The mood will be better and everyone should be a little less grumpy.


Article by W. Douglas Tynan, PhD
More information at

Parent Instructions for Everyday Behavior Problems: Being Bullied

by W. Douglas Tynan, PhD


What is Bullying?

It means using some type of power and influence to hurt, frighten or intimidate someone. Bullying can be as minor as teasing or as harmful as physical violence. It can take many forms including:

  • Verbal – name calling, teasing
  • Gestures – threatening gestures or facial expressions
  • Excluding – conspiring with others to exclude a child from activities
  • Computer – threats and insults on line, and with instant messaging
  • Phone calls – harassing phone calls
  • Physical – hitting, but also pushing, tripping, pinching, blocking paths


When does it occur?

Bullying does not usually occur in preschool or the very early grades. When it occurs, it can be seen in 3rd grade, peaks in late elementary or middle school, and tends to fade after about 9th grade. But children can be bullied in any grade.


Why does it occur?

There are a number of reasons for bullying to occur. For some children, they are imitating behavior seen at home and elsewhere and they have learned that it is acceptable to bully others. Other children bully to gain popularity or fit in with a group. Some children have been bullied themselves in the past and now they do it to feel more powerful.

Children who are submissive, quiet, who cry or get upset easily are likely targets for bullies. Also children who are physically smaller or appear weak in some way may be bullied.


What are the effects of bullying?

Fear, loneliness, shame, poor self-esteem, anger and irritability are all outcomes from bullying. Some children develop physical symptoms including headache, abdominal pain, functional GI symptoms and school avoidance. Poor sleep and change in appetite are also outcomes. Sometimes children develop solitary interests to avoid bullies (e.g. become less social, spend all of their time playing video games).


Is your child being bullied?

Many children do not tell adults, they tell no one. Signs of possible bullying (these are also signs of other stressors) include avoidance of school or other places, poor self esteem, anxiety or worry, decreased school performance, isolating themselves and angry outbursts with no clear reason.


How to help a child who is bullied

You want to first listen to your child, so if you suspect bullying is going on, bring up the topic and leave your child chances to talk about it. They may deny it the first time, but try again. Stay calm when you find out what has been going on. Ask them what they have done to try and stop the bullying.

Go over what they have done, ask them about other possible solutions to the problem. Agree with your child that it is a problem. Summarize what they have told you, and suggest solutions. Go over and practice the solution, even role playing how you ignore and walk away from someone.

Possible solutions: Play with someone else, sit with someone else at lunch, ask your teacher to move your seat

Ask if you should help. Some children are reluctant, at first, to get their parents involved, but often you can help indirectly. For example if bullying occurs in a particular class, you can make the teacher aware of it so that the teacher can watch for it and manage the situation.

Ask your child what they want you to do.



  • Take some action, do not wait for it to get better on its own
  • Talk to teachers or others in charge where it is happening
    Work with your child, get their consent when you do something
  • Stay calm
  • Practice solutions to the problem


Article by W. Douglas Tynan, PhD
More information at

Parent Instructions for Everyday Behavior Problems: Anxiety & Depression in Children
by W. Douglas Tynan, PhD



All children experience anxiety. Anxiety in children is expected and normal at specific times in development. For example, from approximately age 8 months through the preschool years, healthy youngsters may show intense distress (anxiety) at times of separation from their parents or other persons with whom they are close. Young children may have short-lived fears, (such as fear of the dark, storms, animals, or strangers).

The keys to addressing anxiety are schedules and routines, increasing positive interactions with your child, and praising and rewarding them for coping with anxious situations.


Schedules and routines reduce any worry about when and where activities will happen. If your child does cope with a situation, praise and re-assurance goes a long way to assure that they will cope again in the future. Set up a reward schedule for successfully coping with a problem situation.If anxieties become severe and begin to interfere with the daily activities of childhood, such as separating from parents, attending school and making friends, parents should consider seeking the evaluation by a mental health professional One type of anxiety that may need treatment is called separation anxiety. This includes:

  • constant thoughts and fears about safety of self and parents
  • refusing to go to school
  • frequent stomachaches and other physical complaints
  • extreme worries about sleeping away from home
  • overly clingy
  • panic or tantrums at times of separation from parents
  • trouble sleeping or nightmares

 Another type of anxiety (phobia) is when a child is afraid of specific things such as dogs, insects, or needles and these fears cause significant distress. Some anxious children are afraid to meet or talk to new people. Children with this difficulty may have few friends outside the family.

Other children with severe anxiety may have:

  • many worries about things before they happen
  • constant worries or concern about school performance, friends, or sports
  • repetitive thoughts or actions (obsessions)
  • fears of embarrassment or making mistakes
  • low self esteem

Anxious children are often overly tense or uptight. Some may seek a lot of reassurance, and their worries may interfere with activities. Because anxious children may also be quiet, compliant and eager to please, their difficulties maybe missed. Parents should be alert to the signs of severe anxiety so they can intervene early to prevent complications. It is important not to discount a child’s fears.



While we think of depression as an adult problem, signs of some depression can be seen in children. Many depression behaviors and reactions are normal emotional reactions to everyday situations that children experience. So, feeling upset or sad over a losing a pet, a bad grade, playing poorly in a game, not getting invited to a birthday party, or breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend are typical, normal feelings following a loss or sad event. One should help the child label and identify their feelings, allow them to grieve for a while, and then help them resume a typical routine.

Routines and Schedules, Time In, and Sensible Consequences are all important strategies at this time. Sometimes when children are upset they are more likely to break rules and it is important to follow through on sensible consequences.

Sometimes, however, depressed feelings become more drawn out and longer than expected. Children with depression also may become much more irritable, annoyed at any little thing, argumentative and very difficult to live with. When there are chronic irritable or sad moods, coupled with negative comments about themselves (“I am stupid”), or others in the family (“You are all crazy”), then the depression requires treatment. Children with depressions tend to:

  • Make a lot of negative statements about themselves or others
  • May have a change in appetite or sleep patterns
  • Lose interest in activities
  • Have a loss of self esteem
  • Have a hard time making decisions about minor things

If you are not sure if your child is having a typical response to a sad situation or if they are becoming truly clinically depressed, an evaluation by a qualified mental health professional is a good first start.


Article by W. Douglas Tynan, PhD
More information at

Parent Instructions for Everyday Behavior Problems: Problems at Bedtime
by W. Douglas Tynan, PhD

What are common problems?

Children commonly delay, or refuse to go to bed. They may cry after being put to bed, get out of bed or refuse to sleep in their own bed. They may also wake up in the middle of the night and come to the parents’ bed.


Why do problems like this happen?

Parents usually feed and rock their young babies to sleep. If this becomes routine or a habit, children learn that they need these conditions to go to sleep at bedtime or when they wake in the middle of the night. Children need to learn to fall asleep without rocking, feeding or parents attention. They need to learn to fall asleep on their own, independently.

Sometimes parents encourage poor sleep habits by accident. You put your child to bed, read a story and say goodnight When you try to leave, the child cries, and you come back to their room and lay down with them or take them to your bed. The child learns that their crying brings you back and they have no need to sleep by themselves. If their crying gets them what they want, it will continue and they will not learn to sleep on their own. Sometimes this happens if there is a disruption to the normal routine, for example if your child becomes sick and you let them sleep in your bed for a few nights. These problems usually correct when the normal routine returns.


How to Prevent Problems at Bedtime

Make sure your child’s room is a comfortable temperature, well ventilated and use a night-light. Have a regular bedtime that is reasonable.

Establish a routine, for example:

  • Go to the bathroom, wash face & hands, brush teeth
  • Read a book with your child
  • Make sure they have had a drink, a nightlight or anything else they may need.
  • Remind them to stay quiet and in their own bed
  • Say goodnight

Prepare ahead of time. Let them know about 30 minutes ahead of time they will be going to bed soon. Have quiet activities during this last half hour, no active play.

When your child goes to bed, make sure everything has been done

  • Did you brush your teeth!
  • Did you say good night to everyone?
  • Did you have a drink?
  • Did you use the toilet?
  • Now you are ready for sleep

Say goodnight and leave.

In the morning, praise your child for staying in bed


Teaching Your Child to Stay in Bed

Explain what will happen. You will go to bed, and if you stay there and are quiet, I will come back to check on you in a couple of minutes. Ignore any complaints and leave.

After 2 minutes, if your child is quiet, return and praise them. You are doing a good job staying in bed and you are quiet. I will come back again. Then come back in 3-4 minutes. Repeat again with a 5-minute interval. Continue on a 5-minute interval until the child is asleep. What the child is learning here is how to go to sleep on its own without you in the room.


What if they won’t stay in their bed!

Use a gradual approach. The gradual approach is probably easier with younger toddlers.

Tell your child that you will check on them a couple of times. Explain what will happen. If you stay in your bed all night, there will earn a reward in the morning ,tell them what the reward will be. If your child cries, do not respond right away, wait at least three minutes, go in, remind them it is time to go to sleep. Your goal here is to reassure the child and you, not to stay until they fall asleep. After one minute leave them, even if they are still crying. Gradually extend the time from 3 minutes to 5, 7 and up to 11 minutes. Keep to the time schedule, use a digital clock. Only stay one minute each time you go in to the child’s room.

Use a sleep diary or chart to keep track.


If your child gets out of bed

Return them immediately to their bed. Stay calm. If they come out again, return them and dose their bedroom door. Open the door when they have been quiet for two minutes. Repeat this every time your child comes out of their room. Return them, close the door, and open it when they have been quiet for two minutes. Calmly closing the door works much better than threats or spanking.


If you child comes to your bed

Return them to their bed, stay no more than a minute. If it happens again, return them and then dose your bedroom door, lock if you have to and ignore them.

Most problems can be avoided by having clear routine and very predictable responses when they leave their room.



  • Consistency of Bedtime routine
  • Praise and Reward for Staying in Bed
  • No TV at bedtime, it delays start of sleep
  • Awaken the child it time each morning � lights on or shades open to help


Article by W. Douglas Tynan, PhD
More information at

Parent Instructions for Everyday Behavior Problems: Tantrums
by W. Douglas Tynan, PhD


Why do children have tantrums?

Tantrums occur when children are frustrated or angry. They often occur when the child experiences:

  • Being told “No”
  • Changes in routine
  • Things do not go their way
  • Unable to manage tasks that are hard
  • Unable to use words to express their feelings
  • Overtired or hungry
  • And sometimes for no clear reason



As much as possible, keep a routine or schedule, If you have to change something let your child know in advance, use visual reminders as much as possible about changes. Make sure you spend some one to one playtime (see Special Time!Time In) When you tell a child no, do it as a matter of fact, and try to move on to another activity right away. (No, you can’t have that right now, lets do this instead). Redirection can go a long way to preventing an outbursts.

Keep an eye on the clock, make sure that meal time or nap time is not the cause of a tantrum, a child who is tired, hungry or thirsty is more likely to get upset over something small.


Giving Directions

Be clear and brief in giving directions. If a child is having a hard time doing a requested task, break it down into pieces for him/her. For example, if it is time to clean up and put toys away, tell him specifically what to do for a few items (e.g. Pick up the red car, and put it in the blue box, thank you). If the child complies with a few simple requests and you praise them, they are more likely to continue.

Once a child starts crying, becoming angry or throw themselves on the floor, selective attention and selective ignoring can help them calm down.


Selective Attention

Wait for your teachable moment, when in the middle of the outburst the child is quiet for a few seconds, you can then talk to them, tell them what a good job they are being calm. Don’t worry if they start crying again, wait again for a teachable moment.


Selective Ignoring

During the tantrum, ignore, turn your head, look the other way. Wait for a few seconds of quiet before you speak. If the child hangs on to you, gently put their hands off of you, and continue to ignore them.


When it is over

After your child is calm, let them know that they were angry or upset, label the feelings, suggest something else they can do in the future if they start to get upset again.



  • Time In / Special Time
  • Schedules and Routines
  • Basic Needs of Food, Drink Sleep



  • Make sure the child is safe
  • Selectively ignore the child
  • When they calm for a few seconds, pay attention to them


Article by W. Douglas Tynan, PhD
More information at

Your child has finally reached that age
by W. Douglas Tynan, PhD

Most children have the muscle control to regulate themselves between 18 months md 3 years of age. Children with disabilities or certain medical problems may not have this ability until later. On average children are fully day trained between ages 2 1/2 and 4. Night training for wetting is much more variable, between the ages of 3 and 8.


How do I know my child is ready?

Your child may be ready to begin toilet training if he/she:

  • Has regular, soft, formed bowel movements
  • Imitates others bathroom habits (e.g., likes to watch you go to the bathroom, wants to wear underwear)
  • Makes physical demonstration when he/she is having a bowel movement (e.g., grunting, squatting)
  • Has words or gestures for urine and bowel movements
  • Is able to follow simple instructions
  • Can inform, by words or gestures that he/she has to urinate/bowel movement before it happens
  • Does not like the feeling of a dirty diaper
  • Has “dry” diapers or underwear for at least 2-3 hours
  • Can walk and sit down


How Long Does Toilet Training Take?

Once you begin toilet training it may take children 3 to 4 weeks before they are mostly dry during the day, but for some children it may take several months. Many children still accidentally wet or soil their pants up to a year after training begins. Most children find that learning to urinate in the toilet is easier than passing a bowel movement and it may take children longer to learn to pass a bowel movement in the toilet.




How Can I Prepare My Child and Myself for Toilet Training?

  • Find your child’s pattern, their schedule or routine. Keep track of the times during the day when your child usually wets or passes bowel movements. Begin to sit your child on the toilet during those times when you begin training.
  • Get everything ready that you need. You can use a potty or the toilet for training. If you choose to use the toilet, get a toilet seat ring so that your child will not be afraid of failing in. Also provide your child with support under their feet (e.g., a stool or stable step).


Help your child get ready

  • Only use diapers when your child is sleeping. Diapers are a sign that it is all right to wet or pass a bowel movement
  • Put your child in underwear. The feeling of wet underwear may help your child realize when they are wet. Training underwear made of thicker material may be helpful
  • Dress your child in loose clothing. Clothing without fasteners or buttons is easier for children to get on and off
  • Talk to your child about the potty and what it is for. You may want to let your child do a special activity (e.g., like playing with a favorite toy) while they practice sitting on the potty
  • We all learn by watching others. Let your child follow you into the bathroom to see the steps that you go through when using the toilet. Talk to your child about what you are doing


Article by W. Douglas Tynan, PhD
More information at

Step by step parenting guide to Toilet Training
by W. Douglas Tynan, PhD

How do I teach my child to use the toilet?

  1. Choose a day to begin. It is important to be consistent and follow the same toileting routine every day when you begin toilet training. To start toilet training, set aside half of a day when you will be home and choose a time when your family is relaxed.
  2. Explain how to use the toilet. Tell your child the steps to toilet training. They may include:
    o Tell Mommy or Daddy that you need to use the toilet
    o Go into the bathroom
    o Take off your pants and underwear
    o Sit on the potty
    o Try to do a pee or a poo (use whatever words mean something to your child).
    o Ask for help to wipe
    o Flush the potty
    o Wash your hands
  3. Give your child plenty to drink. On the first day of training giving your child more to drink helps to increase the chance that you child will want to use the bathroom, but do not force your child to drink. Also make sure that your child’s diet has plenty of fruits and fibers to keep bowel movements soft.
  4. Ask your child if they need to use the toilet. Ask your child from time to time if they need to use the toilet. Look for signs like holding themselves or straining to pass a bowel movement.
  5. Encourage your child to sit on the toilet. When you think your child may need to go, sit them on the toilet for 3 to 5 minutes. You can do this if you see signs that you child needs to use the toilet, after waking in the morning, after meals, before going out, or when returning home. Do not force your child to sit on the potty or toilet.
  6. Praise and Reward your child for trying to use the toilet. If your child is relaxed and encouraged, they will eventually do something in the toilet. When they do praise them for their success and allow time for your child to admire what they have done. Remind them to flush the toilet. Wait at least two hours before taking them back to the toilet, unless they ask. If your child sits on the toilet for 3 to 5 minutes, but is unsuccessful, praise them for sitting and then let them get back to playing.
  7. Teach your child to wash their hands. Praise their cooperation for washing their hands.
  8. Encourage desirable behavior. Praise your child for any steps that they follow, any progress they make, and when they are successful at using the toilet. Tell your child what they have done well. “Billy, well done for telling me when you need to go to the bathroom.” You may like to reward your child with a special activity, such as a story, or stickers.
  9. After your child has learned to toilet train. Once your child learns to toilet train, you can stop giving rewards for successful use of the potty and instead praise your child from time to time for following toileting steps.



Toilet training is a learning process, and there are times when children will stay have accidents. Do not become discouraged. Children may also accidentally wet or soil their pants when they are sick or their usual routine has been disrupted. If this happens, take a break from toilet training. Start the training again with sitting on the potty or toilet when everything has returned to normal.


What should I do if my child has an accident?

  • Stay calm if your child accidentally wets or soils. Calmly say something like, “Oops, you’re wet. Let’s change.” Go to the bathroom and help your child clean up. Do not punish your child and do not talk a lot or make cleaning up a fun time for your child. A few minutes after changing remind your child of the toileting steps.
  • Check to make sure the following things are in place to help prevent accidents.
    o Make sure your child can easily reach the potty or the toilet
    o During long play periods or before going out, ask your child if they need to use the potty
    o Encourage your child to go to the bathroom on outings
    o Keep diapers on at night until your child usually stays dry until morning
    o Ask your child to sit on the toilet before going to bed


Article by W. Douglas Tynan, PhD
More information at