46 Toilet Training

Martha Lally; Suzanne Valentine-French; and Dinesh Ramoo

Toilet training typically occurs during the first two years of early childhood (twenty-four to thirty-six months). Some children show interest by age two, but others may not be ready until months later. The average age for girls to be toilet trained is twenty-nine months and for boys it is thirty-one months, and 98 percent of children are trained by thirty-six months (Boyse and Fitzgerald, 2010). The child’s age is not as important as their physical and emotional readiness. If started too early, it might take longer to train a child. According to the Mayo Clinic (2016b, p. 1), the following questions can help parents determine if a child is ready for toilet training:
  • Does your child seem interested in the potty chair or toilet, or in wearing underwear?
  • Can your child understand and follow basic directions?
  • Does your child tell you through words, facial expressions, or posture when he or she needs to go?
  • Does your child stay dry for periods of two hours or longer during the day?
  • Does your child complain about wet or dirty diapers?
  • Can your child pull down his or her pants and pull them up again?
  • Can your child sit on and rise from a potty chair?

If a child resists being trained or it is not successful after a few weeks, it is best to take a break and try again later. Most children master daytime bladder control first, typically within two to three months of consistent toilet training. However, nap and nighttime training might take months or even years.


A boy reading while sitting on the toilet
Figure 4.4: Toilet training

Some children experience elimination disorders that may require intervention by the child’s pediatrician or a trained mental health practitioner. Elimination disorders include: enuresis, or the repeated voiding of urine into bed or clothes (involuntary or intentional) and encopresis, the repeated passage of feces into inappropriate places (involuntary or intentional) (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). The prevalence of enuresis is 5–10 percent for 5-year-olds, 3–5 percent for 10-year-olds and approximately 1 percent for those fifteen or older. Around 1 percent of 5-year-olds have encopresis, and it is more common in males than females.

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