Readiness for Toilet Training

We're of the opinion that it's unwise to get too heavy handed with a toddler over the issue of potty training. This is one area where a positive and casual approach will produce the best results.

Some children begin to master toilet skills between eighteen and twenty-four months, but it's uncommon for children to be diaper-free during the day by age two. The majority can be trained by thirty-six months, but for some kids daytime control may not happen until the fourth birthday. Most children will learn to control bladder and bowel at the same time, but this can vary from individual to individual.

Be on the lookout for the following indications that your child is ready to begin toilet training:

  1. He demonstrates some awareness that elimination (especially of stool) is going on.
  2. The time between wet diapers is increasing. This indicates that a specific spinal cord reflex, which automatically empties an infant's bladder, is now being inhibited by signals from the brain.
  3. He is able to understand and carry out two or three simple commands in sequence.
  4. He tries to imitate some of the things you do every day.
  5. He is not embroiled in negativism. If your child's favorite word is still no and you're still neck deep in a daily struggle for control, this is not the best time to start potty training.

In addition to your two-year-old being ready to learn, you must be ready to teach. We suggest you begin by talking about the subject in a way that will spark your child's interest. Direct his mind to the excitement of the future when his toilet habits will prove to everyone how "grown up" he is. Let him know how happy you will be for him whenever he succeeds. Then sit him on the potty chair and begin to exercise some patience. Be prepared for mistakes, and don't let them upset you. Praise and reward successes. Above all, try to maintain a casual attitude throughout, and avoid the use of punishment. As we've already indicated, a few children are not ready for potty training until they are three or four years of age, though most will make the grade much sooner. Above all, don't worry when all the other children you know are trained and your child is not. Everyone eventually learns to use the toilet.

If you have further questions, don't hesitate to give our staff a call. Focus on the Family's counselors would be happy to listen to your concerns and help you with some practical suggestions.


Resources

Focus on the Family Complete Guide to Baby & Child Care

Referrals
John Rosemond: Parenting with Love and Leadership

Articles
Potty Training

Behaviors and Strategies for 0-3 Year-Olds

This information has been approved by the Physicians Resource Council of Focus on the Family.

Excerpted from The Complete Guide to Baby and Child Care published by Tyndale House Publishers. Copyright © 1997, 2007, Focus on the Family.