Potty Training (Toilet Training)

  • Medical Author:
    John Mersch, MD, FAAP

    Dr. Mersch received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, San Diego, and prior to entering the University Of Southern California School Of Medicine, was a graduate student (attaining PhD candidate status) in Experimental Pathology at USC. He attended internship and residency at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

How do I know if my child is ready to be potty trained?

Three separate, though related, developmental skill sets are necessary before successful potty training is possible.

  1. Physiologic: maturity of bladder and bowel function. Willful control of bladder and rectal sphincter control implies neurological maturity that is generally completed by 18 months of age. The ability to avoid urination and stooling for several hours is an effective milestone for parents to expect before embarking on the potty training pathway.
  2. Developmental skills: The toddler can walk to and sit on the toilet, is capable of pulling clothes up and down, has receptive language skills to follow a two-step command, and has expressive language skills to enable the child to verbally indicate his need to use the toilet.
  3. Behavioral maturity: The child shows an interest in toilet training, enjoys imitating others, and has a desire to please coupled with an interest in independent behavior while balanced against a lessening of oppositional behavior and repetitive child-parent power struggles.

How do I know if I am ready to potty train my child?

Parental readiness should be present before embarking upon the task of toilet training their child. It is necessary that the child's desire for potty training must come from within rather than be imposed by the parents. Parents must realize that certain times are more likely to be associated with failure of successful potty training. Stressful times, such as the birth of a new sibling, new daycare facility, a new home, new bed, new bedroom, or the mother returning to the work force, can interfere with potty training. Parents should realize that a large commitment of time and emotional energy will be necessary during this process, which may last several weeks to a few months. Lastly, parents must anticipate "accidents" during the potty training process and be able to "roll with the punches." Avoid comparison with other parents as potty training is a natural developmental process, not a competition.

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