Toilet training is teaching your child to recognize his or her body signals for urinating
and having a bowel movement and using a potty chair or toilet correctly and at the
Toilet training should begin when the child shows signs that he or she is ready. There
is no right age to begin. If you try to toilet train before your child is ready, it
can be a battle for both you and your child. The ability to control bowel and bladder
muscles comes with proper growth and development.
Children develop at different rates. A child younger than 12 months of age has no
control over bladder or bowel movements. There is very little control between 12 to
18 months. Most children are unable to obtain bowel and bladder control until 24 to
30 months. The average age of toilet training is 27 months.
The following may be indicators of your child's readiness to begin toilet training.
Your child should be able to:
If there are siblings, ask them to let the younger child see you praising them for
using the toilet.
It is best to use a potty chair on the floor rather than putting the child on the
toilet for training. The potty chair is more secure for most children because their
feet reach the floor and there is no fear of falling off. If you decide to use a seat
that goes over the toilet, use a footrest for your child's feet.
Children should be allowed to play with the potty: sit on it with clothes on and later
with diapers off. This way they can get used to it.
Never strap your child to the potty chair. Children should be free to get off the
potty when they want.
Your child should not sit on the potty for more than 5 minutes. Sometimes, children
have a bowel movement just after the diaper is back on because the diaper feels normal.
Do not get upset or punish your child. You can try taking the dirty diaper off and
putting the bowel movement in the potty with your child watching you. This may help
your child understand that you want the bowel movement in the potty.
If your child has a usual time for bowel movements (such as after a meal) you can
take your child to the potty at that time of day. If your child acts a certain way
when having a bowel movement (such as stooping, getting quiet, going to the corner),
you may try taking your child to potty when he or she shows it is time.
If your child wants to sit on the potty, you may stay next to your child and talk
or read a book.
It is good to use words for what your child is doing ("potty," "pee," or "poop").
Then your child learns the words to tell you. Remember that other people will hear
these words. It is best not to use words that will offend, confuse, or embarrass others
or your child.
Avoid using words like "dirty," "naughty," or "stinky" to describe bowel movements
and urine. Use a simple, matter-of-fact tone.
If your child gets off the potty before urinating or passing a bowel movement, be
calm. Do not scold. Try again later. If your child successfully uses the potty, give
plenty of praise (such as a smile, clap, or hug).
Children learn from copying adults and other children. It may help if your child sits
on the potty chair while you are using the toilet.
Children often follow parents into the bathroom. This may be one time they are willing
to use the potty.
Initially, teach boys to sit down for passing urine. At first, it is difficult to
control starting and stopping while standing. Boys will try to stand to urinate when
they see other boys standing.
Some children learn by pretending to teach a doll to go potty. Obtain a doll that
has a hole in its mouth and diaper area and your child can feed and "teach" the doll
to pull down its pants and use the potty. Make this teaching fun for your child.
Make going to the potty a part of your child's daily routine, such as first thing
in the morning, after meals and naps, and before going to bed.
Once children start using the potty and can tell you they need to go, taking them
to the potty at regular times or reminding them too many times to go to the potty
is not necessary.
You may want to start using training pants. Wearing underpants is a sign of growing
up, and most children like being a "big girl or big boy." Wearing diapers once potty
training has been started may be confusing for the child.
If your child has an accident while in training pants, do not punish. Be calm and
clean up without making a fuss about it.
Keep praising or rewarding your child every step of the way: for pulling down pants,
for sitting on the potty, and for using the potty. If parents show that they are pleased
when children urinate or have bowel movements in the potty, children are more likely
to use the potty next time.
As children get older, they can learn to wipe themselves and wash hands after going
to the bathroom. Girls should be taught to wipe from front to back so that germs from
bowel movement are not wiped into the urinary area.
Remember that every child is different and learns toilet training at his or her own
pace. If things are going poorly with toilet training, it is better to put diapers
back on for a few weeks and try again later. In general, have a calm, unhurried approach
to toilet training.
Most children have bowel control and daytime urine control by age 3 or 4. Soiling
or daytime wetting after this age should be discussed with your child's healthcare
Nighttime control usually comes much later than daytime control. Complete nighttime
control may not happen until your child is 4 or 5 years old, or even older. If your
child is age 5 or older and does not stay dry at night, you should discuss this with
your child's healthcare provider.
Even when children are toilet trained, they may have some normal accidents (when excited
or playing a lot), or setbacks due to illness or emotional situations. If accidents
or setbacks happen, be patient. Examples of emotional situations include moving to
a new house, illness or death in the family, or a new baby in the house. In fact,
if you know an emotional situation is going to be happening soon, do not start toilet
training. Wait for a calmer time.
Books and videos on toilet training can be found at the library or bookstore for additional
information. Talk with your child's healthcare provider for more information.