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Potty Train a 1-1/2-Year-Old?

Pediatrics Expert Advice from Henry Bernstein, M.D.

Q: My husband and I have a son who is one and a half years old. When is a good time to start potty training for him?

A: Parents often want to train as early as possible. Sometimes it can be difficult for families because specific child care arrangements are affected if a child is not fully trained. Although younger may be more convenient, I frequently recommend some patience because "Mother Nature" does need to be included in this decision process. I recommend waiting until your child is showing some signs of readiness for toilet training. This most often happens between the ages of one and three years.

Kids may show signs of understanding the words used with toileting, understanding how to use the potty and even wanting to sit on it, asking to be changed frequently, and trying to hold it some. They may have dry diapers for longer periods and may go off on their own behind the furniture for privacy. There are books that you can read to them and they may even want to push the issue. When they ask to be changed, don't necessarily drop everything -- tell them you'll do it as soon as you can. The sensation of a dirty or wet diaper can reinforce independent toileting.

Most importantly, be patient! Children should understand that it's natural -- everyone does it. Adults or older siblings can model positive behavior. Toileting should always be a pleasant experience. Be sure to encourage and praise them repeatedly, give them rewards for success and never punish or reprimand. Let them believe they are in control, and the toileting will happen sooner rather than later.

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Henry Bernstein, M.D., is currently the associate chief of the Division of General Pediatrics and director of Primary Care at Children's Hospital, Boston. He also has an academic appointment at Harvard Medical School.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


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