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Toilet Training

When is a child ready for toilet training?

There is no set age at which toilet training should begin. The right time depends on your child’s physical and psychological development. Between 18 and 24 months, children often start to show signs of being ready, but some children may not be ready until 30 months or older. Your child needs to be willing, not fighting you or showing signs of fear. If your child resists strongly, it is best to wait for awhile. Look for any of the following signs that your child is ready:

  • Your child stays dry at least 2 hours at a time during the day or is dry after naps.
  • Your child can walk to and from the bathroom and help undress.
  • Bowel movements become regular and predictable.
  • Your child seems uncomfortable with soiled diapers and wants to be changed.
  • Facial expressions, posture, or words reveal that your child is about to urinate or have a bowel movement.
  • Your child asks to use the toilet or potty chair.
  • Your child can follow simple instructions.
  • Your child asks to wear grown-up underwear.

How to teach your child to use the toilet

Decide what words to use.

  • Avoid using words like “dirty,” “naughty,” or “stinky” to describe waste products. These negative terms can make your child feel ashamed and self-conscious. Your child may be curious and try to play with the feces.

Pick a potty chair.

  • Once your child is ready, you should choose a potty chair. A potty chair is easier for a small child to use, because there is no problem getting on to it and a child’s feet can reach the floor. It’s sometimes helpful to let children watch parents when they go to the bathroom. If possible, mothers should show the correct skills to their daughters, and father to their sons.

Help your child recognize signs of needing to use the potty

  • Encourage your child to tell you when he is about to urinate or have a bowel movement. Your child will often tell you about a wet diaper or a bowel movement after the fact. This is a sign that your child is beginning to recognize these bodily functions. Praise your child for telling you, and suggest that “next time” he let you know in advance. Before having a bowel movement, your child may grunt or make other straining noises, squat, or stop playing for a moment. When pushing, his face may turn red. Explain to your child that these signs mean that a bowel movement is about to come. It often takes longer for a child to recognize the need to urinate than the need to move bowels. It is better for boys to learn to urinate sitting down first, and then change to standing up after they use the potty for stools.

Make trips to the potty routine.

  • When your child seems to need to urinate or have a bowel movement, go to the potty. Keep your child seated on the potty for only a few minutes at a time. Explain what you want to happen. It may be helpful to make trips to the potty a regular part of your child’s daily routine, such as first thing in the morning when your child wakes up, after meals, or before naps. Success at toilet training depends on teaching at a pace that suits your child. You must support your child’s efforts. Do not try to force quick results. When a mistake happens, treat it lightly and try not to get upset. Teach your child proper hygiene habits. Show your child how to wipe carefully. (Girls should wipe thoroughly from front to back to prevent bringing germs from the rectum to the vagina or bladder). Make sure both boys and girls learn to wash their hands well after urinating or a bowel movement.

Encourage the use of training pants.

  • Once your child has repeated successes, encourage the use of training pants. However, be prepared for “accidents.” If may take weeks, even months, before toilet training is completed. Continue to have your child sit on the potty at specified times during the day. Most children achieve bowel control and daytime control by 3 to 4 years of age. Even after your child is able to stay dry during the day, it may take months or years before he achieves the same success at night. Most of the time, your child will let you know when he is ready to move from the potty chair to the “big toilet.” Make sure your child is tall enough, and practice the actual steps with him. Provide a stool to brace his feet.

Information on this site is intended for Angel Kids Pediatrics patients only. Always consult your doctor before beginning, modifying, or discontinuing any treatment plan.

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