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Ready for Toilet Training?

Pediatrics Expert Advice from Shari Nethersole, M.D.

Q: I have an 18-month-old baby girl. What are the readiness signs for toilet training? I am looking for advice and any related information to begin her training. She has watched Mommy "use the potty" and I talk her through it. But what are the cues to look for and what happens next?

A: In this country, most children are toilet trained between the ages of 18 months and 3-1/2 years. As you can see, the range is very broad, and the best time to start is dictated by each individual child. Most children are not ready before age two, largely because toddlers tend to be very negative and resist attempts to control them. If you push them to toilet train too soon, you may get more resistance and end up prolonging the process. You want to have a very relaxed, un-pressured approach.

You have already done the right thing by having her come into the bathroom with you, and explaining the process to her. You should also get a potty chair for her and let her practice sitting in it, even with her clothes on. Children are ready to train when they can sense ahead of time that they have to go, and give you some sign that they have to go (either in words or with their facial expressions). They also need to be able to sit for a length of time on the potty, and should be able to follow directions.

Another sign to look for is long intervals with a dry diaper or waking from a nap with a dry diaper. This tells you that her bladder is starting to be able to hold the urine for a while. If she has her bowel movements on a regular schedule, it also makes it a bit easier to start the process. Almost all parenting books have useful step by step descriptions of the rest of the process. Check your local library or bookstore to get the details.

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Shari Nethersole is a physician at Children's Hospital, Boston, and an instructor in Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. She graduated from Yale University and Harvard Medical School, and did her internship and residency at Children's Hospital, Boston. As a pediatrician, she tries to work with parents to identify and address their concerns.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com 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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