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A Blog from Your Kaiser Permanente Pediatricians in Northern California

Toilet Training FAQs

The best age to start toilet training varies from child to child. It can be as early as 18 to 24 months but is often closer to age 3. And the process is usually easier if you start it a bit later! Whenever you start, keep the process positive with lots of rewards and encouragement. Avoid any scolding or negativity, and don’t try to force it before your child is ready. These can cause stress and make the process take longer.

How do I know when my child is ready to potty train?

Signs of readiness include:

  • Awareness of bodily sensations. They let you know when they’re wet or have had a bowel movement and ask to be changed.
  • Interest in trying the potty. They recognize that older kids and grownups use the toilet and they want to try too.
  • Physical ability. They can pull down their pants and diaper or underwear and get on and off the potty by themselves.

By what age should I worry that my child isn’t potty trained?

First of all, try to not worry too much about this. Ignore any comments from friends and family about how fast other kids train – or how yours isn’t trained yet! Most children use the toilet during the day consistently and successfully by age 3 to 4. but may need your help with the cleanup process. By about 4 to 5, most children are fully potty-trained except for nighttime wetness. One in 5 children still wet the bed at age 5. Some may continue to have accidents and bedwetting until they are older and just slowly outgrow it.

Contact your doctor if your child:

  • Doesn’t use the toilet during the day by age 4.
  • Continues to soil pants after age 5.
  • Is constipated.
  • Doesn’t know when they have to pee or poop.
  • Isn’t dry at night by age 7
  • Starts having accidents again after becoming fully toilet trained.

Are there bad times to toilet train?

Don’t start toilet training when:

  • Your family’s facing a big life change like a move or new baby.
  • Your child’s constipated. This can make the training process slower and more difficult. Talk with your doctor about treatment for constipation before you start training.
  • You’re feeling overwhelmed or frustrated. These feelings can cause you to be negative or overly harsh with your child, which will make it harder for both of you. Parenting can be a rough job! Take a break from toilet training and practice some self-care.

How should I talk about toilet training with my child?

Stay positive! Kids are interested in and often proud of what comes out of them. So avoid negative terms like dirty, smelly, yucky. Instead, use matter-of-fact descriptions like pee, wet, urine, poop, bowel movement, poo.

The more positively you talk, the faster and happier the experience will be. So, skip the scolding and instead cheer them on with “Good try!” or “Next time you’ll have your poop in the potty!”

I remember getting frustrated with my 3-year-old after they had had an accident, and angrily saying something like “Why couldn’t you poop where you’re supposed to?” That reaction made them feel awful (I still remember their hurt face) and slowed training down.

What words should I use for genitals?

It is best to use accurate and clear words for genitals. This shows you’re not ashamed, nor should they be, of any part of their body. It also gives your child the correct words to describe their body if in the future they need to speak with a doctor or other trusted grownup about a problem.

When should they wipe themselves?

Start teaching this from the beginning by showing them what you do and talking about how you do it. Age 3 is a good age to start having them try to wipe alone. But know they won’t always do a great job, so a nightly bath is a great idea!

Is it true that boys are usually toilet-trained later than girls?

Some studies have shown this to be true. What’s most important is to start the process when they’re really ready, stay positive, and have faith they’ll learn soon – and rest assured, they won’t go to college in diapers!


Disclaimer: If you have an emergency medical condition, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital. An emergency medical condition is any of the following: (1) a medical condition that manifests itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity (including severe pain) such that you could reasonably expect the absence of immediate medical attention to result in serious jeopardy to your health or body functions or organs; (2) active labor when there isn't enough time for safe transfer to a Plan hospital (or designated hospital) before delivery, or if transfer poses a threat to your (or your unborn child's) health and safety, or (3) a mental disorder that manifests itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity such that either you are an immediate danger to yourself or others, or you are not immediately able to provide for, or use, food, shelter, or clothing, due to the mental disorder. This information is not intended to diagnose health problems or to take the place of specific medical advice or care you receive from your physician or other health care professional. If you have persistent health problems, or if you have additional questions, please consult with your doctor. If you have questions or need more information about your medication, please speak to your pharmacist. Kaiser Permanente does not endorse the medications or products mentioned. Any trade names listed are for easy identification only.