"Keeping it positive from the very beginning is the most important thing. No one goes to college in diapers, right? Everyone will get through this time, as awful as it might feel."
Alison Schonwald, MD, medical director of Developmental Behavioral Outreach
Tired of the seemingly endless cycle of changing diapers? Think your child might be ready to move on to toilet training? It’s a big step for everyone involved—and it can take a while for some children. But be patient and celebrate each milestone along the way. Soon, you’ll be able to say good-bye to diapers—for good.
Although most children are toilet trained when they’re 3 or 4 years old, there is no exactly right time to begin toilet training; you should start when your child is ready.
So how do I know when my child is ready?
We’re glad you asked. At Children’s Hospital Boston, we’ve got answers for you.
The following signs may indicate that your child is ready to begin toilet training.
Your child should be able to:
- walk well in order to get to the potty chair
- tell you when he needs to go to the potty
- control the muscles used for going to the potty
Your child might be ready if he:
- asks to have his diaper changed or tells you a bowel movement or urine is forthcoming
- shows discomfort when the diaper is wet or dirty
- enjoys copying what parents or older children do
- follows you into the bathroom and see how the toilet is used
- wants to do things (like going to the potty) to make parents happy or to get praise
- has dry diapers for at least two hours during the day or is dry after naps or overnight
Keep in mind that the process of toilet training is different for different kids. Some children get it in a day or two; for others, it can take months. For the reasons why — and some helpful tips — read on.
How Children’s Hospital Boston approaches toilet training?
Some kids do have more trouble than others with toilet training. If your child has a medical condition that’s making it harder for her to master toilet training, we can help.
We usually see children and their parents individually at first and most children quickly master using the toilet without anxiety. For those who continue to have trouble, we have developed Toilet School, an educational program for both parents and children to help them with difficult toilet training:
- It’s a six-week program in which six kids — mostly 4-, 5- and 6-year-olds — come to class once a week for an hour to an hour and a half.
- Parents attend a separate class where they learn behavioral techniques designed to help their children master toilet use.
- By graduation time in the sixth week, about 60 percent of the kids have successfully had a bowel movement on the toilet. The ones who haven’t get follow-up visits until they’re successful.
For more information about Toilet School, see the Research & Innovation section.
For children who are experiencing problematic or incomplete toilet training, Children’s has a dedicated Voiding Improvement Program that evaluates and assists kids and families dealing with a wide range of voiding issues.?
Reviewed by Kimberly Dunn, PNP
?© Children’s Hospital Boston; posted in 2011