Confusion about a child's readiness for toilet training

It can be difficult to know exactly when and how to go about toilet training. Although your child should show signs of physical readiness, such as letting you know when he or she has had a bowel movement, and emotional readiness, such as wanting to wear underpants, there usually is not a dramatic moment that clearly indicates your child is ready.

Mixed messages from health professionals, parents, and friends and past experiences with other children may all contribute to this confusion. Specific timing varies by child; try not to compare your child to others or take stories too seriously about how early your parents or in-laws trained their children.

Your best strategy is to closely watch your child and look for the physical and emotional signs of readiness for toilet training. You can provide the equipment (such as a potty chair or attachment to a standard toilet), discuss the process, and talk to your child positively about the benefits of using the toilet. Consider your child's temperament and disposition in your approach. As you begin to understand and are sensitive to your child's reactions, you will gradually gain a sense of exactly when and how to gently encourage your child, and when to back off. Patience, perseverance, and respecting your child's abilities are all important for helping him or her to be toilet trained.

Last Updated: April 8, 2009

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