What is the right age to potty train?

At what age is it a good time to start potty training my two-year-old son?

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Gayle Peterson

Gayle Peterson, PhD, is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She is a clinical member of the Association... Read more

A recent study found that when children are left to their own pacing, more than half toilet train between 27 and 36 months. Most pediatricians do not push toilet training, but advise parents to wait until the child is "ready." But what does that mean?

Your son's interest in using the toilet and his awareness of his internal body signals are often your first indications. Does he imitate you and want to sit on the toilet (potty chair) or flush it? That could be a beginning sign. Because the internal regulation of the sphincter muscles involved in toilet training are highly complex, your child should also show some sign that he is registering what is happening inside his body, too.

Taking off a wet diaper by himself, stopping to grunt or stoop down to pee or poop in his diaper show signs that he is aware of what is happening inside his body, either right before or after the act. His ability to use language to communicate his need to go to the potty and his ability to walk or run to the toilet are also essential precursors to a successful potty training experience.

But what about your readiness? Some children learn to use the potty relatively quickly, while others take more time to integrate a new skill. Pick a time that you are not overly stressed and can give extra patience to your child, as inevitable misses will occur! If you resort to melt downs during this trial and error period of learning, you may negatively charge your child's experience. If you are not consistent in your availability to help your son when he needs your assistance going to the potty, you may set up a prolonged and frustrating experience for the both of you.

Keep in mind that potty training should be an experience of pride and accomplishment for your son. It is step toward independence and confidence in his ability to be autonomous. Do not be shy to express your own enthusiasm for his successes, which he will internalize.

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