Are you thinking about toilet training your child? | Beach Cities Moms

Let’s talk about readiness and how to set yourself and your child up for success. 

First thing’s first, there is a large range across different cultures and social expectations on the timing of when to toilet train. Take a moment to ask why you’re ready to toilet train.  In general, I encourage families to toilet train when your child begins to understand behavioral expectations so they can be active in the process. 

Here are several questions to ask yourself before you get started:

1.    Is your child at least 20 months or older?  Around this age, they have begun to recognize more subtle sensations of eliminating.   

2.    Does your child seem to care if they have a dirty diaper? Having the desire to be clean is a strong sign that they are ready. 

3.    Is your child able to pick up objects, lower and raise their pants, and walk from room to room easily?

4.    Can your child stay dry for several hours at a time? Are they urinating about 4-6 times per day?

5.    Does your child understand toileting words such as wet, dry, pants, bathroom, toilet, and toilet?  

6.    Does your child understand and respond to basic one-step instructions such as “Come here, please” and “Sit down”? 

7.    Are you starting to see bladder and bowel awareness? For example, does your child make faces or sit in a certain location when they are feeling an urge? 

If your answers are yes to the above questions, you are ready to begin the process. I have several recommendations before you actively start toilet training.

Have Reasonable Expectations

Remember, toilet training is a milestone and all children meet them at different times. Some children can be toilet trained in a matter of days, and others need a little bit more time. I was getting some pressure from my mother to start toilet training early. I gave it a shot at 17 months. After half a day, I knew it was too soon and that my child was getting frustrated and in turn, I was getting frustrated. I decided to put it on hold until I knew she was fully ready.  In my personal and professional experience, I have seen the use of the visual timer be very effective in increasing compliance when toilet training.

Have A Solid Plan 

It’s helpful to have a written out plan so you have something to refer back to. It can be in bullet point form such as the example below:

    Start date – It’s important to choose a time where you have several days back to back to dedicate to toilet training such as the weekend. 

    Increasing fluids – Good toilet training requires multiple opportunities. 

    Get the underwear ready – They will be in them all day while you are training them. 

    Watch them carefully for signs – Prompt them by telling them to go toilet rather than asking. 

    How to plan to reward your child – It can be as simple as verbal praise if they respond positively to this. If you need a little extra incentive, a tangible object you know they love will also work. You can keep it aside specifically for toilet training. 

    Do dry pant checks – If they are dry, reward them (again, this can be verbal praise). They are learning that they are getting hooked up with positive praise when they stay dry. 

    Point out and praise your child for any part of the toileting behavior they complete correctly. 

    Accidents are going to happen. I recommend using positive practice. Using a positive practice technique usually involves multiple practice trips to the bathroom after an accident. Be aware that this can generate some opposition from your child. You can always talk to your health care provider about guidelines on toileting accidents that explain positive practice in detail. 

    Have a plan of action if you are out in the community and your child needs to use the toilet. Ikea has a great portable toilet called LILLA and Gimars non-slip toilet cover found on Amazon folds up nicely so you can take it on the go. 

Don’t Let it Become a Power Struggle

If you’ve had more than 50% unsuccessful rate paired with protests, it’s time to considering putting toilet training on pause. It’s ok to stop and come back to it. 

When It’s Time to Get Extra Support

If your child is four-years-old and they are not toilet trained, this is considered delayed. It’s time to talk to your health care professional about it and get additional support. Usually, behavior interventions are recommended to support parents in the toilet training process as long as there are no medical conditions. 


Michelle Tangeman is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (MFC 85890) and a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (1-14-15144). She specializes in working with children and teens ages 0-19 years using her experience in developmental psychology and behavior analysis. She has twelve years of experience using evidence-based practices to decrease undesired behaviors and increase adaptive/desired behaviors in order to strengthen the relationship between parent and child. Her goal is to support you and your child as your child grows and help you navigate any behavior or social concerns that may arise. Her style is candid, clam, and collaborative. She hopes to educate, empower, inspire, and support you.

Please visit for more information about Michelle and her services.

This post is sponsored by Pediatric Behavior Consult


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