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Is Your Child Ready to Toilet Train?

By Charles Hopkins Published 04/24/2006 | Parenting
Mandy's daughter was only 18 months when she decided to use the toilet. In the middle of a busy afternoon Kate announced that she needed to 'potty' and from that time on (with a few exceptions) she was toilet trained.

Dennis was four years old and he was still fighting his parents about toilet training. He would become constipated in an effort to withhold his bowel movements and required stool softeners to correct the problem. His parents wondered if they'd be sending him to school in diapers.

Is either scenario normal? Do girls train easier than boys? And when is YOUR child ready to begin toilet training?

What Age Should We Start?

The truth is that the age range for toilet training is a big one. Unlike first smiles or first steps you can easily expect a gap of several years of 'normal' toilet training ages. The usual age to begin is between 2 and 3 years old and can take, on average, 8 to 10 months. Many children will fall outside of these parameters and be completely healthy and normal.

More important than age is the child's readiness. You can look for signs of readiness including: staying dry for a couple hours, telling you when she has wet her diaper or when she is in the process, able to follow simple directions, coordinated enough to pull down her own pants and showing an interest in the toilet and how it's used.

How Should We Begin?

Let your child lead the way. Some children will need time to get familiar with the concept before using the toilet or potty. Let him sit on a potty or (if appropriate) allow him to watch another child use it.

If your child is accustomed to seeing parents or older siblings use the toilet they may prefer to use the 'big' toilet with a child's seat instead of a potty. Allow them to sit on the toilet when they ask or even offer them to try it. Don't expect anything to happen the first few tries.

Should We Use Rewards?

Even experts debate the reward system, but if it works for your child it might be worth considering if they are having trouble staying interested in the process.

What if They Refuse to Go?

You may see that they are physically ready but you cannot be sure they are emotionally ready. If toilet training becomes a power struggle you will both lose. Your child ultimately has control of his or her body and will surely realize this, even if it means making himself sick.

Persistence and consistency are important since children often become bored after the initial excitement and may start having accidents or asking for diapers. However, if your child seems truly stressed or you know there has been a big event, such as a new baby in the house, you should probably give them some time to adjust or feel more comfortable before resuming the training.

If you ever feel anxious about your child's abilities or health in regards to toilet training you should consult your pediatrician who will be able to give you suggestions and ease your mind.

Do Girls Train Easier Than Boys?

While there is no documented evidence to say so, it appears girls often do 'get it' earlier than boys. However, every individual child will progress according to their own schedule and you may well find the opposite is true for your children.