What is the right age to start potty training a toddler?

Baby with BookWell I am sure you've heard other mother's brag about their children being potty trained by a year old or just after. Chances are if they are not remembering the ages incorrectly then it was pure luck. A child normally has no control over the sphincter muscles that are used to control urination or bowel movements until they are almost 2 years old. This may also account for a lot of the frustrations you've heard from some parents who were unsuccessful when trying to get their child to use a toilet.

So when your child reaches between 21 and 24 months of age is a good time to start considering potty training a toddler.


How to Introduce and Teach Potty Training to a Toddler

Have you ever watched your young impressionable youngster do something that you or another parent has? If so then you have already had a taste of the best way to introduce toilet training. Kids learn best by seeing and mimicking actions. Allow your toddler to tag along with you when you use the bathroom or perhaps a slightly older brother or sister (depending on age) but be sure to let them know what you are doing in terms that they can use and understand in the future such as going; potty, pee pee and poo poo etc.

Allowing them to tag along has several purposes including - 1) it allows the child to familiarize themselves with the bathroom (toilet, sound of the toilet flushing etc) 2) makes it a less scary experience seeing mommy and or daddy using it 3) it gets them accustomed to associating keywords with using the bathroom.

Another important step in the potty training process is helping your toddler to understand when he has gone potty and to verbalize the individual act(ions). This stands true whether they go in the toilet or in their diaper. If you see that your child has just peed in their diaper you will want to change them promptly and as you do let them know "you went pee pee" and positively play up the fact that you will get him dry. (As above this helps them to associate the word with the action and changing them quickly teaches them it is good to be dry in a positive way)

No one will know your child better than you and as a parent you can recognize distinct looks and behaviors that a child will display when they need to go to the bathroom. If you see this verbalize it "(childs_name) needs to go poo poo or pee pee" <- Obviously you will want to be specific when possible. This goes hand in hand with the step above and helps your child to not only recognize the name of the function but to also associate the urge and feelings in his little body that mean he has to go potty.

Now is a good time to introduce big kid training pants to your little one. This will be easy for some and not so easy for others. To make the transition to training pants you want to show them that this is an important new step without making them feel pressured. This can best be achieved by pointing out that these new big kid pants are just like those worn by you and even older brothers and sisters. It is also beneficial to point out that it is easier to use the big kid potty with these new undergarments.

Now comes the time to get them comfortable and open to using the big kid potty. Positive reinforcements and showing/telling them that you will be right there to assist them when they need to use the bathroom is a fear easer. Ask your child if he'd like to try and use the potty and back up your words by helping your child into the bathroom, out of his training pants and helping him feel secure on the toilet.

Once the concept has been introduced and is more welcomed by your child it is good practice to make it a point to take them to the bathroom several times a day at home and ask them throughout the day if they need to use the restroom. Make sure you also continue this outside of the home. This is an easy way to introduce using public restrooms to them and teach them this is something they can do anywhere and not just at home.

The Breakdown

Don't Start too Early

Be Supportive (Always!)

Be Consistent

Help Them Learn

Tips, Suggestions and What to Avoid When Potty Training a Toddler


When you decide the time is right to start teaching them to use the restroom consider investing in a child's potty chair or a child seat attachment for the main toilet. To begin it is easier if you keep track of how long after your child drinks or eats until they potty. This will allow you to get a good average of the best time to place them on the toilet after meals in order for their toilet training experience to a success - obviously this isn't something you will continue long-term but when starting out if you can get your child to actually pee pee or poo poo in the toilet (just by luck of timing) this gives a great way for you to reaffirm that this is exactly what they are supposed to do. Now don't expect that to be it all said and done but it's a good start.

If you don't have an average to work with then try to place them on the toilet 5 to 10 minutes after eating and allow them to sit for a couple of minutes but do not force them to stay as this can lead to potty training rebellion and failure. Instead make potty training time fun for your toddler. You can do this by reading them a story or finding something to keep them from becoming bored if their stay ends up anything but brief. Don't forget if they do use the bathroom verbalize which step this is (half of the battle is association!).

What to Avoid

Some parents use a reward system for when their child uses the restroom and this is not always the right solution to successfully potty training a toddler. Rewards can backfire and cause undue stress and frustration for your child when they have accidents and don't make it to the toilet. This frustration can have many ill effects on kids and can set back their success.

Never scold your child for not making it to the toilet. This makes learning to potty like a big kid scary and frustrating. As with unforeseen effects of rewards my pediatrician informed me that scolding when an accident occurs could lead to bed wetting later in the years. As a parent you are who your child looks up to and it is your responsibility to teach them that accidents are going to happen during this learning process and that it is ok and that together you'll work through them.


Tips for Toilet Training Kids Successfully

While you are teaching and your child is learning stay on top of looking for signs that a trip to the bathroom is imminent. A child is a child and their focus can easily be distracted and you can help keep them on track and prevent unnecessary accidents by watching for signs.

Don't expect to be successful in a month. These things take time and each child learns at their own pace. Just stay supportive and help encourage his use of the toilet but if he shows unwillingness or detracted motivation then pay attention to his needs if he rebels - there's a reason. Figure out what is causing potty training to be frustrating for him and eliminate the factor and help him to get back on track.