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When should I start toilet training my child?

Your child must be both physically and emotionally ready for toilet training. Most children are ready when they are between 22 and 30 months of age, although every child is different. Toilet training usually becomes a long and frustrating process if you try to start it before your child is ready.

Before children can use the toilet, they must be able to control their bowel and bladder muscles. Some signs of this control are having bowel movements around the same time each day, not having bowel movements at night, and having a dry diaper after a nap or for at least 2 hours at a time. Children must also be able to climb, talk, remove clothing, and have mastered other basic motor skills before they can use the toilet by themselves.

Most children are physically ready to toilet train before they are emotionally ready. Your child must want to use the toilet and be willing to cooperate with you. He or she may even talk about being a "big boy" or "big girl" and wearing underpants rather than diapers. Training generally does not go well if your child is in the stage where "no" is his or her automatic response to every request.

How long does it take to toilet train?

A child is considered toilet-trained when he or she knows that it is time to go to the bathroom and is able to climb onto and use the toilet with little help. In a study of children who started training between 22 and 30 months of age, boys were fully trained at an average age of 38 months, while girls were trained slightly earlier, around 36 months.1

Your child will likely need help with wiping after a bowel movement until age 4 or 5. He or she may also need extra help in unfamiliar bathrooms, such as public restrooms, until about age 5 or 6.

What if my child resists?

If your child resists using the toilet, he or she probably isn't ready. Sometimes toilet training disruptions or delays are caused by stress or major changes in routine. Also, a child who is doing well with toilet training may suddenly have difficulty for no obvious reason. This is a normal part of toilet training. It is best to start or resume toilet training when your child is receptive to it and in a stable environment.

Your child's toilet training experience should be positive. If it becomes a struggle or a battle of wills, it is best to ease up or stop for a while. Although you may be ready for toilet training, your child may not be.

Frequently Asked Questions

Learning about toilet training:

  • When should I start toilet training my child?
  • What are some common concerns?
  • When should I call the doctor?
  • How do I know when my child is physically and emotionally ready to begin toilet training?
  • How can I help my child learn to use the toilet?
  • What kind of toddler toilets are there?
1

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 24, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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