Potty Training

One of the most significant milestones between an infant and a toddler is that of potty training. While many children exhibit signs of being ready to potty train between 18 and 32 months old, the success of training hinges on physical, mental, and behavioral development rather than a certain age. Starting this process too early may create a longer training period for your child. The secret to creating a successful experience is time and patience.

To find out if your child is ready to be potty trained, ask yourself these questions

  • Can your child walk to and sit on a toilet?
  • Can your child pull down his or her pants and pull them up again?
  • Can your child stay dry for up to two hours?
  • Can your child understand and follow basic directions?
  • Can your child communicate when he or she needs to go?
  • Does your child seem interested in using the toilet or wearing "big-kid" underwear?

These questions will lead you to discovering whether or not your child is ready to go. If you answered yes to all or the majority of these questions, then it may be time to start potty training. Otherwise, your child may not be ready yet.

Parents must make several crucial decisions regarding the process. First, consider the terms you will use to talk to your child about their body and bodily fluids. Avoid using negative or off-putting terms such as stinky, dirty, or gross. Then, prepare the equipment necessary to potty train. Encourage your child to sit in the potty chair clothed to begin. Use simple to understand and positive terms to reinforce the toilet. Show the child how to flush the toilet. In some instances, it may help to demonstrate the toilet’s function to the child by dumping the contents of a dirty diaper into the bowl.

To best train your child, schedule potty breaks by taking a few minutes every two hours to sit on the seat without a diaper. Children are often more encouraged to stay on the seat if the parent stays with them and engage in a social activity, such as playing with a toy or reading a book. This habit should also be demonstrated immediately following naps and first thing in the morning after the child wakes up to create repeatable patterns. Don’t get discouraged if your child is struggling. Allow them to get off the seat whenever he or she is ready and praise them for trying. Remind your child that that he or she can try again later.

When you notice signs that your child needs to go, such as wiggling, squirming, squatting, or holding the genital area, respond urgently and identify the signs for your child so that he or she may understand the need to go. When the time comes, stop whatever he or she is doing and take them to the bathroom. Praise the child for identifying the signs or telling you when he or she need to go. Positive reinforcement is key!

If your child begins to get the hang of it after a two or three weeks and can stay dry throughout the day, your child may be ready to move on to training diapers or underwear. If the transition become too difficult and your child cannot regularly stay dry, return to diapers. If your child resists using the toilet or can’t get the hang of it within the first couple weeks of potty training, take a break. Forcing your child when he or she isn’t ready yet can lead to a difficult and frustrating power struggle between the parent and child.

More than 80% of children experience difficulties in toilet training that can be considered setbacks. Mastering the toilet takes time. Children can take up to three to twelve months from the start of training to being completely independent in daytime toilet use. By age four, 98% of children are daytime independent.

As you go through potty training, remember that accidents will happen. Remain calm and avoid disciplining or shaming your child for something that was unintentional. Remember to use positive reinforcement when communicating with your child and be prepared! Keeping an extra pair of underwear and clothing handy can make accidents less stressful. If your child is having difficulties with the potty despite showing signs of readiness, talk to your doctor for guidance or to check if there is an underlying issue that is complicating the matter.

Mayo Clinic

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