Pointers to Potty-Training Progress

Step one: make sure the child is ready

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SATURDAY, July 16, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- As many frustrated American parents will attest, potty training is hardly child's play. That's why one expert has some advice for moms and dads desperate to dispense with diapers.

First, make sure the child is developmentally ready. Before potty training can even begin, toddlers have to be able to understand instructions, be physically capable of crouching down to sit on the potty and then stand back up again, and be able to remove his or her pants on their own, said Dr. Julie Lumeng, a developmental and behavioral pediatrician at the University of Michigan Health System.

"If your child is not at a point yet where they'll sit still a minute or two or listen to simple one- or two-step directions, they're probably not ready to be sitting on the potty," Lumeng said in a prepared statement.

She noted that most children aren't ready to begin potty training before 24 months of age, with girls tending to be ready earlier than boys. It takes about three months to potty train a child and 98 percent are toilet trained successfully by the time they are 3 years old, she said.

Potty training progress relies on six key factors, Lumeng said:

  • Readiness. Start training when the child is most cooperative and after the child has demonstrated several readiness skills.
  • Consistency. Coordinate potty training with other caregivers, such as daycare providers, in order to keep the training consistent.
  • Freedom. Don't remind the child too often to use the potty. This may create pressure, which can cause resistance from the child.
  • Timing. Encourage practice runs to the potty at promising times, such as after a nap or 20 minutes after a meal.
  • Praise. Applaud the child for their cooperation and whenever they're successful.
  • Reward. Introduce underwear as a "big-kid" privilege after the child starts using the potty.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about toilet training.

SOURCE: University of Michigan Health System, news release, June 28, 2005

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