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Close up of child's legs on a training potty

Is Your Child Ready for Toilet Training?

By: Dr. Jane Robertson, Suffolk Pediatrics

When it comes to toilet training, timing is everything! Starting before your child is ready will frustrate everyone involved, so knowing when the time is right is important. Some children will be ready to begin toilet training at 18 months; others may need to wait until 24 or 36 months.

Signs your child is ready to start toilet training:

  • They have a regular and predictable bowel movement schedule.
  • They have a dry diaper for longer than usual, stay dry at least two hours at a time during the day, or are dry after naps.
  • They can follow simple instructions and can undress on their own.
  • They show an interest in imitating other family members in the bathroom.
  • They use facial expressions, posture or words to indicate the feeling of a full bladder and the urge to have a bowel movement.

When your child is ready to start toilet training, go to the store together and pick out a potty chair. A chair at floor-level is typically best. Also, choose fun stickers to use for charting successful potty trips.

Allow your child to become familiar with the potty chair outside the bathroom by using it as a special chair while fully clothed. Then, proceed with toilet training when your child is comfortable with the chair.

It may also help to read a children’s book about potty training together.

Start Training

Once you’ve begun training, follow your child’s cues such as pulling at their pants or jumping up and down. Be sure to practice by having your child sit on the potty after naps and 20 minutes after meals.

If nothing is happening and your child is ready to get off the potty, don’t force the issue. Try again in about 20 minutes.

Stay Positive and Never Punish

Stay positive and never punish or yell at your child for accidents or use negative terms to describe pee or poop. This can hinder progress. Children may regress if toilet training creates pressure. Instead, give positive messages like, “You did it! You went in the potty.”

Slow and Steady Wins

After your child uses the potty on their own two or more times, stop “practicing” so your child can learn how to get to the potty in time. Accidents will still occur at this point. Change your child right away and be sympathetic, “Accidents happen to everyone. You’ll do better next time.” This stage usually lasts several months.

The Finish Line

When your child uses the potty at least 50 percent of the time, you can switch from diapers to real underwear during the day. Let them choose the underwear and celebrate the milestone. Using training pants or disposable pants rather than diapers at nap time and bedtime may help. Limit fluid intake right before bed and encourage your toddler to use the potty immediately before going to bed and as soon as they wake up.

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About CHKD Medical Group

About CHKD Medical  Group Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters has been the region’s most trusted name in pediatric care for more than 50 years. As members of CHKD Health System, our pediatricians work closely with CHKD’s full range of pediatric specialists and surgeons. They also share a commitment to quality, excellence and child-centered care. With 18 practices in 29 locations throughout the region, a CHKD pediatrician is never far.