Using task analysis can make potty training more manageable.

Task Analysis for Toilet Training

by Carrie Cross

A task analysis takes a complex skill and breaks it down into small and manageable steps. It is like teaching your preschooler to make his bed; first, you ask him to hand you things like a pillow; then, you ask him to help with the sheets; and then, you teach him not to jump on the bed after you have made the bed. You have to teach each step separately, which makes it easier to pinpoint any difficulties, -- which, for making a bed -- would be jumping on the bed. For a task analysis of toilet training, you still have to break down the process into logical steps, even though the actual steps are different.


You have been ready for toilet training since you changed your little one’s diaper the very first time. Well, maybe not going back quite that far. It is important that your little one is ready, too. Can she remain dry for up to two hours during her naps? Does she object to a wet or dirty diaper? Is she able to sit on the potty long enough to accomplish the task? Can she pull her pants up and down? Is she able to wash her hands by herself? If your young lady needs help with her pants or with washing her hands, incorporate them into steps in a task analysis and work on them first. You may also want to introduce the potty chair to the bathroom several weeks before you start.

The Schedule

The next step is to develop a schedule that will be a close fit to your child’s natural rhythm. For three days, keep track of when you change her diaper – and when daddy changes it, too. This means constantly checking for diaper dampness. Also, keep notes on how much time elapses between dirty and wet diapers. You will need to increase your child’s fluid intake to give her more opportunities to go. Checking diapers and increasing drinks all happen within these three days, but do not begin potty training until you have determined her schedule.

Let the Games Begin

Determine the length of intervals between potty visits by taking the average time between wet diapers. Then, divide this number by half. For example, if an hour elapses between each pee, set your potty breaks for 30-minute intervals. In the beginning, you may even use 15-minute intervals. Set a timer to alert you. Give your daughter something to hold that she can associate with the potty, like a toilet paper roll with one or two pieces of toilet paper on the roll. Now you are off to sit for 5 minutes – no more. Just remember to keep to the schedule.


If your child is successful, praise, praise and praise again. You can offer toys, chocolate chip cookies, lollipops, or any favorite snack or treat to reinforce positive behavior. Just remember that this treat is the "special potty treat" and is not a treat for any other occasion. If nothing happens, praise her effort verbally, put the toilet paper roll back, and continue with your daily life until the next potty break. This may seem monotonous and tiring, but after your child has learned how to use the toilet, the rewards of a system like this are great.

About the Author

Carrie Cross has been writing for profit and pleasure for more than 35 years. Her background includes business, real estate, entrepreneurship, management, health and nutrition. A registered nurse, she has published various pieces, including web content, numerous newspaper and magazine articles and columns and six books.

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