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Is It Time for Toilet Training?

When is the best time to teach your child to use the toilet?

There is no right time to start toilet training. Guidelines recommend that parents assess readiness by looking for signs that suggest interest in toilet training. When the child is ready, make a potty available, show your toddler how it works, then offer gentle encouragement. Pressuring your child or lavishing excessive praise on him will seem like coercion. That may set up a battle for control.

The worst thing parents can do is induce shame in their child. The child will make mistakes. Parents have to take that in stride.

What to do

Here are some recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

Your child should be able to do these things before you introduce potty training:

  • Sit, walk, dress (with help), and pull pants up and down

  • Understand and respond to instructions

  • Imitate others

  • Demonstrate independence

Here are tips to make potty training go more smoothly:

  • Introduce the potty as your child's property.

  • Put it in a convenient spot.

  • Let your child sit on the potty chair fully clothed until they get used to just sitting on it.

  • Let your child see you using the toilet.

  • Explain the potty's purpose.

  • Take your child to it when the need to use it is most likely.

  • Let your child go without diapers when he or she shows daytime dryness. Nighttime control takes months longer.

  • Toilet training should not start during times of stress (moving, new additions in the family, new care providers).

Give it time

It may take up to a couple of years before your child uses the toilet exclusively.

The AAP says children may show signs of readiness at 18 months, begin training at 24 months, and have daytime control by 30 to 36 months. Most children will complete nighttime training by the time they are 36 to 48 months old. Still, it is normal for some 3- and 4-year-olds to have accidents.