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Toilet Training - What Is Normal

It can be hard to know when to start toilet training. In general, a child must be both physically and emotionally ready before toilet training can be successful.

Children go through a toilet readiness phase that won't be the same for every child. Watch for physical and emotional signs that your child is ready to toilet train. Things going on in your family affect your child during this phase. It is not advised to toilet train during a time of family change, such as when there's a move, a new baby, or divorce.

When your child is ready to toilet train, the learning phase can begin. During this time, provide opportunities to toilet train and encourage your child.

Physical readiness

A child is physically capable of being toilet-trained when he or she develops muscle control over the bowel and bladder. This rarely happens before 18 months of age.

Some basic signs that your child has bowel and bladder control include the following:

  • Bowel movements occur on a regular, somewhat predictable schedule.
  • Bowel movements do not occur during the night.
  • Diapers frequently are dry after waking from a nap or for at least 2 hours at a time.
  • Facial expressions, grunting, or squatting show an awareness that he or she is passing urine or stool.

Your child must also be able to climb and remove clothing. And he or she must be able to talk enough to communicate with you about the need to use the toilet.

Emotional readiness

Your child may be physically ready to toilet train after 18 months of age. But emotional readiness may take more time. Your child must want to use the toilet. And he or she must be willing to cooperate with you during the toilet-training process. For example, training typically does not go well if your child is in the stage where "no" is his or her automatic response to every request.

Your child shows emotional readiness for toilet training in several ways. He or she may:

  • Tell you when his or her diaper is dirty and ask to have it changed.
  • Be eager to please and able to follow simple directions.
  • Tell you that he or she wants to use the toilet or wear underwear instead of diapers.
  • Like to be neat and tidy. Many children go through a period where they like being clean and organized.
  • Act interested when other family members use the bathroom.

Be careful of getting too excited about your child's readiness after he or she shows one or two of these signs. A child may be excited about using the potty, only to lose interest very quickly.

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