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How and When to Potty Train a Toddler

Updated on June 30, 2011

When to start potty training?

When children reach certain age, parents are wondering when the best time to start potty training their children is. People you know, family members and friends probably have different experience with potty training and they can give you lots of useful advice. But, they can’t tell you when to start potty training your child.

You will have to find the answer to that question yourself, looking at your child and yourself. So, you should start potty training when both you and your child is ready. Many people focus only on their child, not thinking about the things they will have to do in the process, starting from cleaning and washing addition clothes, to giving moral support to their child and being able to stay cool and concentrated.

Age plays the role to some extent. Pediatricians and specialists say that there is no point in starting the potty training before the child is 18 months old, because they are just not able to take over the control over some functions in the body.

So, you can start potty training, especially the first phase (later on about two phases of potty training) when your child is 18 months old. Of course, this depends on the mental and emotional maturity of your child. Some will be ready for this step much earlier than others.

If parents are ready for this task, most children will be able to get rid off the diapers when they reach the age of two. Mostly parents’ unwillingness to cope with this task, the lack of time and patience and the availability of disposal diapers can sometimes postpone the potty training process till the age of three or four.

The children are ready to take control over their body much earlier and the parents’ task is to give them support and to teach them how to do it.

Since the parent is the best person to handle this process, it is advisable to do it while both you and your child are together during the day and night. Start potty training on vacation or maternity leave. It is not a good idea to do it while your child is in kindergarten or with somebody else. You know your child the best and you will be able to recognize their signs, worries and concerns. And, you will have enough time to handle the house work, addition laundry and efforts.

Don’t start potty training when your child is going through a major change already, such as kindergarten, divorce, new baby or major illness.

how and when to potty train a toddler
how and when to potty train a toddler

How to know if your child is ready for potty training?

When it comes to diapers, potties and your child being able to tell if they have to go to the potty, there are two stages every child will have to go through. Studies have shown that children react the best to gradual changes and gradual weaning. It is not a good idea to just take off the diapers and make your child use potty every time they have to pee. That will be frustrating for both of you.

Of course, there will always be some exceptions and children who will ask their parents to take away the diapers from them for good. But, most toddlers like when they go through a new process gradually and without too much tears and stress.

There are two phases, in which toddlers are more or less ready to start potty training:

Phase1 – Children are aware that they did something in the diaper or in the potty they feel uncomfortable being wet, but they cannot know, feel or tell in advance that they are going to pee or pup. In this phase it is not a good idea to take off the diapers, because the child is still not able to control his or her needs and urges.

Both of you will be frustrated and tired and no results will be visible. Use this time to show them the potty, how it looks like, how to sit down on it and how to stand up. Talk about it and put your child at least once per day to pee or pup on the potty. Buy some nice books, especially ones related to potty training and read together with your child. The time will pass easier and the result will be there. This way the child will get used to sitting on the potty and will know what exactly they have to do with it.

Phase2 - Children can tell in advance if they have to pee or pup, or at least in the moment they are doing it. This is the time to start real potty training. If you successfully passed the first phase, you child will already know what potty is used for, he or she will pee every time they sit on it and it will definitely pup on it even if they still wear diapers.

You will only have to wean your child from diapers and help them gain control over their needs and urges. Continue to read books in this phase too, encourage your child to tell you if they need to pee or pup. Put the potty in the room where your child spends the most of his or her time so they can use it whenever they have to go. Show them how to take off the trousers and panties and sit on the potty.

How long does it take to potty train?

There is no general answer to this question. It all depends on the child, the approach and parents’ will to cooperate and listen to the child. Generally, every time you introduce the new change, it will take your child two to three weeks to accept it. The more steps you make, the more time you will need. Small steps will make your child happy, so don’t hurry to do everything at once. It will only make both of you unhappy.

But, in average it takes around 30 to 45 days to go through the whole process of potty training. This doesn’t mean that after 45 days your child will never pee in the panties or bed. Those little accidents will be normal part of your life for a longer period of time after your child stops wearing the diapers. But, you will learn how to handle them without stress. What you can expect is that your child will no longer be wearing diapers after a month. And, that is a big thing.

Things that influence the potty training process:

  • Season – potty training lasts much shorter during the summer months than winter ones, because many people don’t want their children to pee in their pants while being out in the winter. So, they keep the diapers during the certain periods of the day a little longer. On the other side, people who decide to potty train their toddler during summer months won’t be bothered with this, because it is hot and it really doesn’t matter if your child pees itself. Sometimes, people can’t choose. New pregnancy or certain conditions make them start with potty training during the winter months.

  • Going through phases - if you passed the first phase earlier and your child knows what potty is used for, potty training will last much shorter. If you showed the potty the first time you took off the diapers, the whole process can last much longer, because the child will have to accept two new things – potty itself and being able to control his/her needs.


Although many people rely on age only when they think about when to potty train a toddler, the age is the least factor in potty training process. Being the only child in the family, being a twin brother or sister or just being a child with single parent can lead to being potty trained later than average.

The average age for potty training is between the age of 2 and 2.5. Many children will be able to live without diapers perfectly even before they turn two. This will happen if parents are ready for potty training, if child is mentally and physically ready or if they have an older brother or sister who is going through potty training process.

If you are looking for a stress free process of potty training and need some tips and advice on how to potty train a toddler, read more about subject of potty training (abowe links).


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