FAQ: Toilet Training


Is My Child Ready to Toilet Train?

The age when a child is ready to use the toilet depends on many factors. Most children are able to stay dry during the day by age two to four years. Staying dry at night may take months or years longer.

Most experts agree that before starting toilet training, a child should be able to:

  • Walk to the toilet
  • Sit up on a potty toilet
  • Stay dry for several hours or wake up dry after a nap
  • Pull clothes up and down
  • Communicate the need to go to the toilet
  • Show interest in toilet training

*Note that if your child has trouble with constipation, we recommend getting the constipation under control before starting to toilet train

How long will it take to learn?

The average time it takes a child to learn to stay dry during the day is six months. Girls usually complete toilet training earlier than boys. Additionally, parents should also be prepared to start the toilet training process, as it will take time, emotional energy, involve accidents and setbacks. It can be hard to resist pressure from other parents, family members or teachers who may expect your child to be toilet trained by a certain age. Remember that toilet training is not a contest. Success with toilet training does not mean that your child is more intelligent or advanced than other children. Additionally having trouble with toilet training does not mean that your child is lazy, stubborn or a slow learner. Just keep in mind Dr. Matthew’s sage advice: “By the time they walk down the aisle (for marriage), they will be out of diapers!”.

How to Start Toilet Training?

Consider Dr. T Berry Brazelton’s child-oriented approach, where a parent follows the child’s cues and signs of readiness to advance toilet training.

  • Decide what words you will use to describe toileting and try to be consistent; examples include “pee,” “poop,” “potty,” etc.
  • Buy a potty chair with your child. In the beginning, a potty chair is easier for a child to use compared with the over-the-toilet seat
  • The potty chair should be placed in a convenient location, such as the child’s playroom or bedroom. Easy access is important.
  • Encourage the child to sit on the potty chair, full dressed, to look at books or play with toys
  • After your child is comfortable sitting on the potty chair, encourage your child to sit on the chair without a diaper.
  • Toilet flushing can also be frightening to children, so a child may first practicing flushing pieces of toilet paper or wave “bye-bye” to the feces
  • Encourage the child to tell you when s/he needs to go. Watch for signs that your child needs to go, like squirming or holding the genitals.
  • Be patient because it may take days or weeks before the child is successful. And remember that setbacks are common!
  • Do not punish, threaten or speak harshly to the child if s/he has accidents or will not use the potty.
  • Transition to cotton underwear—the child can transition from diapers to training pants (“pull ups”) or cotton underwear after at least one week of success using the potty. Children should not be rushed out of diapers. At this stage, they should return to diapers if they are unable to stay dry. Once the child has mastered the use of the potty chair, he or she can be transitioned to the regular toilet with an over-the-toilet seat and step stool.

Some tips to keep in mind….

  • Keep a positive, loving approach to toilet training
  • Keep the child in loose, easy-to-remove clothing during the training process
  • Avoid battles over toilet training. If your child is not interested, take a break with stop toilet training for two or three months before trying again.
  • Consider using a star or sticker chart to reward your child for both trying and successful toileting
  • Avoid flushing the toilet while the child is on it; this can be frightening
  • Avoid over-reminders
  • Teach boys to urinate sitting first; teach them to urinate while standing after they have learned to have bowel movements in the potty chair
  • Keep stools soft by offering plenty of high-fiber foods and water, and limiting dairy products to no more than three eight-ounce cups of milk per day.
  • To avoid accidents, remind your child to use the toilet after first waking up in the morning and at other times throughout the day. Even after a child has been completely toilet trained, accidents can happen.