When is the best time to toilet train my child?

By ParentTV on 9 May 2019
Categories: Developmental Milestones

Toilet training is one of those areas of child development that is a topic of much debate. There are many differing opinions amongst experts, parents, and even cultures, regarding when and how toilet training should be undertaken. On opposite ends of the spectrum, some suggest adult-led toilet training should be avoided altogether, while others start teaching ‘elimination’ within the first few weeks of life.

With all these contradictory opinions and methods, it can be hard to know what is the best approach for your child. One thing most experts agree on is that any sort of toilet training requires consistency and patience. Any stress or power struggles around toileting can lead to problems such as constipation, urinary tract infections and anxiety.

If you are taking a more traditional, Westernised-approach to toilet training, the general consensus amongst experts is there are three main areas of readiness you need to look out for in your child for toilet training to be successful. Most commonly these signs become evident from 18 months onwards:

Physiological: The ability to control bladder and bowel function. This is evidenced by dry nappies for longer periods through the day and more regular bowel movements.

Developmental: Being able to walk to the bathroom, pull pants on and off and follow basic instructions. It is also important your child has self-awareness of their bodily functions and the communication skills to indicate their need to go.  

Behavioural: Your child likes to imitate you or their siblings. They show an interest in the toilet and may request to sit on it. They may also be showing discomfort in soiled nappies and expressing a desire to wear underwear.

Emotional readiness is also important, as advocated by Janet Lansbury in this article, as your child needs to be emotionally ready for change as this is where problems such as anxiety and fear can develop. These will not only hinder the toilet training process but also can lead to other ongoing issues. For this reason, it is recommended that you don’t attempt toilet training when there is a disruption or major change occurring such as moving house, a new baby arriving or divorce/separation.

“…it is important to not put pressure on yourself or your child, as it can end up being a frustrating and emotional time, which is more than likely going to end up delaying toileting success,” saids Paediatric Occupational Therapist, and mum of three, Elise Easdown.

If you have tried for a week but your child is struggling and having lots of accidents, Elise recommends to have a break and try again down the track. You can hear more of what Elise has to say about toilet training in this Parent TV video.

If you are confident your child is showing all the signs of readiness and is good to go, Behavioural Therapist Stephanie Wicker has some great tips on rapid toilet training here.

toddler behaviour

Are you looking for the parenting manual on how to tame a toddler?