Potty Training

When Should You Start Potty Training?

Just when you think you’ve got this parenting gig figured out, potty training is the next major milestone to come barreling down the tracks. You’ve finally mastered changing a diaper, and now you have to convince a toddler to use the toilet? No one said it was going to be easy.

There are a number of potty training experts who claim their way is the best—and shortest—route to total potty freedom.

These questions are all perfectly valid for a parent embarking on new territory. Let’s start with the most obvious first: When should you start potty training your child?

The goal of potty training is to get your child to use the bathroom without assistance.

By the time that a child turns two, most parents are chomping at the bit to start toilet training.

The reason? Diapers are expensive! The average parent can expect to change 2,500 diapers within the first year of their child’s life, totaling at $600 a year for disposable diapers. The cost of cloth diapers is significantly less if you wash them yourself at home without using a diaper service, though the cost of water and electricity must be factored in.

All in all, you can expect to save roughly $600 a year by successfully potty training your child. Back in the 1950s, 1957 to be exact, the majority of children were toilet trained as early as 18 months. Today, the average potty training age has increased to 36 months.

Much of this has to do with the fact that 90% of American babies wear disposable diapers. Since disposable diapers are more convenient and less time-consuming when it comes to cleaning and care, most parents are at peace with putting potty training off.

Official potty training recommendations have followed suit. Some parenting experts believe that potty training a two-year-old is as easy as housebreaking a puppy. Others disagree. Nowadays, pediatricians and child development professionals are likely to tell you to wait to potty train until your child shows signs of readiness.

This is a stark contrast to elimination communication, a method used for roughly 50% of infants around the world. These children never wear diapers and are toilet trained by the age of one. When using elimination communication, a mother watches her infant for signals and places the baby on a toilet or receptacle when he is ready to eliminate.

Childhood development experts also believe that boys and
girls have different timelines for potty training.

Many parents reveal that boys are notoriously slow to train.

the University of Michigan Health System estimation of
the average age of successful toilet training

If you feel like your child is slow to learn, this pediatrician’s
advice may make you feel better.

Dr. Steve Hodges, pediatric urologist, says that young children should wear diapers for proper bladder development, in order to eliminate without inhibition. Young children trained in “chronic holding” could face bladder damage and future toilet training issues, like accidents and bedwetting.

He says, “Mastering the toilet has nothing to do with brainpower. Parents who wait until later to train their children aren’t treating babies as ‘stupid’ and neither are they lazy; they’re wisely allowing their child’s bladder to develop in a healthy manner.”

so how do you know when to begin?

Renowned pediatrician Dr. Sears provides the following readiness
criteria. Your child may be ready for potty training if they:
  • Imitate a parent’s toileting.
  • Verbally communicate physical sensations, including hunger.
  • Can understand simple verbal directions.
  • Pull at wet or dirty diapers or tell parent when diaper is dirty.
  • Follow parent to the bathroom.
  • Can take his or her clothes off.
  • Climb on to potty chair or toilet.
  • Stay dry for three or more hours, at times.
  • Investigate his or her private parts.

If your child is ready to toilet train, there are a few supplies you may need to make the process easier on everyone:

Potty seat

Miniature plastic toilet ideal
for small children with short legs;
may come with a splash guard.

Portable potty

Can be used to reinforce potty training away from home; on-the-go potty may come in a leak-proof case or disposable bag to transport.

Kid-friendly footstool

Comfortable, safe footstool helps toddlers reach the sink to wash hands after using the potty.

Potty training book

Offers an adorable distraction on the toilet and can reinforce training with favorite characters; top picks include Sesame Street’s P is for Potty! and The Potty Train.

the 5 best methods for potty training

Countless parents have tried and failed at potty training, only to try again.

We’ll save you the trouble by providing the highlights of the top potty training methods in the parenting community. Remember, potty training is not a one-size-fits-all approach. The method you use will depend on your child’s age and readiness, as well as what works best for your family.

Many parents see potty training success using one of the methods below.

Other parents cherry-pick toilet training tips that work best for their child:


No Pressure Potty Time

In books like Stress-Free Potty Training: A Commonsense Guide to Finding the Right Approach for Your Child, written by Sara Au and Peter L. Stavinoha Ph.D., parents are urged to stay away from strict toilet training methodology. The “no pressure” potty training philosophy endorses the fact that no two children toilet train the same way. Some kids approach the potty and master it on their first try; others are afraid to even enter the bathroom.

Use plenty of patience and positive reinforcement. Consider books, like Stress-Free Potty Training, that teach you how to train based on your child’s ability and personality type. A parent may need as much preliminary training as the child to approach potty training most effectively.

The simple truth about toilet training is that if the child is ready, it happens very easily. If not, a power struggle often ensues.

Dr. Laura Markham –clinical psychologist

Unless your child has shown signs of readiness, it may not be time to get them out of diapers yet.

Dr. Markham advocates setting up conditions to help your child learn how to use the potty naturally and without pressure. She recommends reading books about potty training with your child, modeling bathroom behavior, letting your child copy older siblings or friends, and leaving a small potty in each bathroom of the house for impromptu use.


potty training in one day

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to get this whole potty training mess over and done with in just one day? Dr. Phil says you can. You just need a doll that wets, a potty chair, big kid underwear, and plenty of water for your child and doll to drink.

Now it’s time to pull out the big guns—get rid of your child’s diapers and commit to big kid underpants.

Dr. Phil’s one day potty training method hinges on the “watch and learn” approach. Using the potty training doll as your model, encourage your child to name their new friend and give it a drink. Take the doll to the potty chair, pull down its underwear, sit it down, and watch it potty. Once the doll has finished, throw it a celebratory potty party with plenty of attention and treats. The point of this shindig is to show your child that using the potty is positive and comes with great reward.

Give your child lots of water to drink and encourage them to use the potty, like their doll. Once your child has successfully used the potty 10 times without an accident, throw a potty party to celebrate. In the event of an accident, take your child to the potty, sit him down, and walk him through the process again to build muscle memory through repetition.


toilet training in two Days

Like Dr. Phil, Dr. Sears advocates a quicker approach to toilet training a ready toddler—in “training camp” over the weekend. According to Dr. Sears’ criteria, your child must be verbal, receptive, and willing to please before they are ready for fast-track potty training. In order for this plan to work, you must have a free weekend. Plan to start training only when your child is well and in a good mood.

Kick off the weekend potty training camp by telling your toddler that you are going to play a special game tomorrow. On the first day of training, repeat the instruction that you have a special day ahead, where your child will start using the toilet just like Mommy and Daddy.

It’s important that this potty training weekend is free from activity since it will be your job to watch your child like a hawk. As soon as they signal for the potty by pulling on their diaper or squatting, take them to the potty chair. Repeat again and again with positive reinforcement and special prizes for toilet use.

Above all, keep your expectations realistic. Dr. Sears says parents can expect plenty of false starts and several weeks with the potential for accidents to follow.


potty training in a week

Potty training in a week is a slower yet effective approach. Some child development experts advocate training only in the morning and afternoon for several hours at a time. During this timeframe, parents will watch their child carefully and place him on the potty every 15 minutes. The child will wear a diaper or pull-up for the rest of the day.

To get the most out of these training sessions, keep your child naked or bottomless at home. Without a diaper or underwear, it will be easier for your toddler to detect when it’s time to use the potty. Once he hits the mark, it’s a celebration!

Reward stickers and a chart or M&Ms can be used as potty prizes


potty training by gender

Caroline Fertleman and Simone Cave have authored two gender-specific potty training books that parents swear by: Potty Training Boys the Easy Way: Helping Your Son Learn Quickly — Even If He’s a Late Starter and Potty Training Girls the Easy Way: A Stress-Free Guide to Helping Your Daughter Learn Quickly. Parents who potty train by gender may be looking for help with specifics.

Girls may be prone to accidents, and boys can take longer to train.

Any of the above potty training methods can be used for boys and girls, but gender-specific potty training techniques can help to troubleshoot. Many parents have observed potty training gender differences based on development, method, and reward systems. Parents of boys may need specific coaching on training boys to first sit and then stand while peeing; parents of girls must remember to train daughters to wipe from front to back to prevent infection.

10 most common pitfalls of potty training

It’s almost impossible to potty train perfectly on your first go. Be patient with yourself and your toddler.

If you hit a wall, here are quick solutions to the top 10 potty training problems:


Comfort, reassurance, patience, and positive reinforcement can redirect to the original potty training plan.


Start slowly by letting the child empty their dirty diaper into the toilet and flush; sit the child on the potty to eliminate in their diaper until they are more comfortable.

Holding in Poop

Review potty training goals with your child, allow them to poop in diapers for reassurance and to prevent constipation, and provide rewards for successful poop in the potty.


Contact your pediatrician if your child has noticeable problems eliminating.


Training may have started too early; back off and try again in a few months.

Lack of Interest

Try a colorful chart with stickers to record progress.


Epic meltdowns may mean it’s a bad time for potty training. Dust yourself off and try again in a few weeks.

Too Busy

Frequently remind your child to use the potty while playing; schedule regular potty visits when running errands.


Keep potty training on track by keeping it consistent; take a travel potty when running errands or traveling on vacation.

Toilet Refusal at Daycare/School

Transitioning into the real world may be the hardest part; talk to teachers about your child’s potty routine and bring a potty seat from home, if necessary.


  • “What Babies Really Cost.” Whattoexpect.com.
  • “The Straight Poop: Adventures in Toilet Training.” Early Childhood Education Degrees.
  • “University of Michigan Health System.” Toilet Training: Your Child.
  • Hodges, M.D. “A Doctor Responds: Don’t Potty Train Your Baby.” The Huffington Post.
  • “6 Steps to D-Day – Diaper Free Day | Ask Dr Sears| The Trusted Resource for Parents.” Ask Dr Sears The Trusted Resource for Parents.
  • “Ages & Stages > Toddlers.” Dr. Laura Markham > Easy Potty Learning for Toddlers.