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 long will it take to toilet train my child?

Presuming both the child and parents are ready (see above regarding these areas), most children will be daytime toilet trained after a few weeks of effort. Many parents will say that the major challenge the child must overcome is discovering the connection between the sensation of impending urination or passage of stool and "relaxing" to allow the evacuation. "Pushing" (especially with urination) may be counterproductive.

The attainment of nighttime toilet training is indicative of a neurological maturation milestone and as such is beyond parental control. Girls generally achieve nighttime dryness before their male counterparts. At 4 years of age, approximately 25% of boys wear a nighttime diaper while approximately 12% of girls need a nighttime diaper. By 6 years of age, these percentages have reduced to 5% and 2%, respectively.

Is there anything I can do to prevent accidents from happening?

Most parents quickly discover that a large gulf may exist between the biological capability of being toilet trained and the emotional and psychological readiness to anticipate the impending need to use the bathroom. Children will often need reminders of need for a "potty break" during periods of play and before setting out on any duration of car ride, bath, or pool event. Wise parents also discover that commanding the child to "pee and poo right now because we are late" often is met with resistance or refusal and thus more parental frustration. A better approach involves the child merely sitting on the toilet with no expressed or implied need to perform. In the majority of times, once the pressure is off, the child will successfully comply with the parental goals. Punishment of the child rarely accomplishes anything. Remember: Toilet training is probably the biggest accomplishment your child can remember. This obvious evidence of maturity is a much more tangible goal than color and/or number recognition. The child wants to succeed and please him/herself and the parents.

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