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Potty Training Tip: Earlier Isn't Better

Early Start Doesn't End Toilet Training Sooner
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How do you know if you're one of the lucky parents? A gentle test can't hurt.

"I think sometime after 18 months, it probably makes sense to make a potty chair available to your child," he says. "Maybe ask them sit on it around bath time, just to get them exposed to it. If you have one of the kids who are really interested and want to do it, and you just make a suggestion and your kid wants to do it and makes progress -- go for it. But for about three quarters of kids, the parents really need to work at it."

Here's another way to look at the findings. Blum found that for most kids:

  • If you start intensive potty training younger than age 2, training takes more than a year.
  • If you wait until age 2 1/2, training takes seven or eight months.
  • If you start around age 3, training takes 4 to 5 months.
  • Waiting longer than age 3 doesn't make training any shorter.

Timothy R. Schum, MD, director of medical pediatrics at Milwaukee's Medical College of Wisconsin, has led several studies of potty training. He says his data generally support Blum's findings. He notes that kids vary by as much as 15 months in when they are ready to toilet train.

"I think there is a window of opportunity for a lot of kids," Schum tells WebMD. "That window is the age of 24-30 months. At that age, kids are probably ready and if their parent sees signs they are ready, they should begin. The things we're routinely telling parents is if the child is interested in going potty, if the child can stay dry for a couple of hours, if the child wants his or her diapers changed, and if the child has some way to let you know he or she wants to go, it's time."

Waiting beyond age 3, however, may not be wise.

"For some children, not all, eventually they can get beyond the stage where they are interested in toilet training. Then they don't want to do anything," he says. "One associate of mine is in early childhood education. She has heard more and more of teachers seeing kids age 4 and beyond who are not toilet trained."

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