Potty Training:When to Start and What to Except

As you are preparing your child for day-care, pre-school or even Kindergarten, you are learning that schools usually require the children to be toilet trained prior to the commencement of school. Most schools require this anytime between two and three years old. In many cases, this is much easier said than done and it takes a lot of patience from parents.  It is important to have reasonable expectations and know that- unfortunately- this does not happen over night!

Every child is unique and there is no single, correct way to make this transition. It may depend on the child’s personality and their readiness. There are some signs to look for to know that it may be time to start potty-training. They may start indicating to you that they need to poop or pee, either verbally or by pointing. They might go to a corner and squat or try to go to an area to get a little more privacy. Even walking you to the changing table or telling you after they have used the bathroom in their diapers could be a sign.


Once you are seeing some signs that they are ready for the toilet, you can start sitting them on their training toilet. You can even let them be in the bathroom while you are sitting on the toilet and use phrases like “big boy” or “big girl potty” to make them feel more in control and excited to try this new adventure.


When your toddler gets more comfortable on the toilet, then the real training begins. It is helpful to be at home for most of the day and try to get them to sit on the toilet about every 30-45 minutes (they will probably need to urinate at least a little bit each time) and make sure they are relaxed on the toilet.  Make it fun, and even if you are getting discouraged, try not to show them!  If they still think it is fun, they will keep trying to please you and get the hang of it. Make it a big celebration when they correctly use the potty! You can sing songs, have a sticker chart, clap your hands, or have a reward at the end.


For the ones who take a little longer to toilet train, sometimes it is helpful to go a little more extreme. By this, I mean choose his or her favorite thing (a favorite toy or book or Skittles, etc.) This one item will only be obtained or done after sitting on the toilet successfully. At first, reward sitting on the toilet, then progress to successfully using the bathroom on the toilet, and then reward having dry underwear for a few hours, then half a day, then a week, etc. And remember, the whole training process usually takes 3-9 months, so plan accordingly.


Remember that they will have accidents still and try not to get upset or embarrass them. Have cleaning supplies handy, because it is a definite that you will need them during this time. Once they are newly potty-trained still remember that they need reminders. Kids want to have fun, and if they are playing and do not want to be interrupted they will say they do not need to go to the bathroom even when they do. Always stop and take a time out from playing periodically for a bathroom break. This should be fun for you and them, and will be a good bonding experience.

Jennifer Adair M.D.

Jennifer Adair, M.D., was born and raised in Mobile. She graduated from Davidson High School in 2002 and received her Bachelor of Science in Chemistry at The University of Alabama in 2006. She completed her medical training at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, and pediatric residency at the University of Nevada College of Medicine – Las Vegas and the University of South Alabama. She joined Children’s Medical Group in July 2013 and currently practices at their Airport office. Jennifer and her husband, Cory, reside in Mobile with their dogs, Fitz and Barkley.