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Behavior, Parenting and Discipline > Potty Training

Potty Training

Kids develop at various stages. Let them take the lead when to start potty training, which can happen anywhere from 15 months until 3 years of age. They are ready when they show interest (wanting to sit on a potty chair, wanting a wet diaper off, telling you when they are wet). If you push, they will resist.

If you think your child is aware of when he/she needs to urinate or have a bowel movement, put out a potty chair that is in full view when in the bathroom. Buy potty training books geared toward toddlers.


PottyTraining-Girl-Sleeping-(1).jpgShow excitement and give praise for interest and any steps in the right direction (sitting on potty, peeing in potty, washing hands, etc.). You can do a potty dance, give stickers, call Grandma, and do whatever makes a big deal for each little step!

Praise others for using the bathroom. Invite play dates who are similar ages and are potty trained over so your child can see them in action. Praise older siblings for going to the bathroom.

You can put the idea in their head: "I'm going to the potty. Boy, do I feel good! I went on the potty, didn't get my pants dirty, got to flush the toilet, got to use the foamy soap, etc." but don't tell them directly to go. They resist being told anything!

Afraid to poop

Many kids are ready to go pee in the potty, but are afraid to poop there. That is okay. Offer a diaper at the time of day they often have a bowel movement. It is not good to try to force stooling in the toilet if they don't want to go there. They will hold it and end up constipated. You can take them to the bathroom after the bowel movement and drop the stool into the toilet, and then have the child flush. Then they associate the stool going down the toilet, which sometimes helps. Encourage lots of fruits and water so the stool stays soft. If it hurts to poop, they hold it longer, which then hurts again, which reinforces holding and then constipation. See also our page on constipation for more hints to keep the stool soft.


Don't worry about setbacks. Many kids show a temporary interest in potty training, but then stop wanting to go completely. Return to diapers, but leave the potty chair visible. When the child starts to show interest again, give praises. Remember, normal children do not go to kindergarten in diapers! They will all potty train. If your child isn't potty trained during the day by 3 1/2 years, talk to your doctor. Nighttime accidents are actually normal much longer, see our bedwetting information.

For a personal account of Dr. Stuppy's potty training experiences, check out her blog on Potty Training.

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