The transition from diapers to toilet use is an important one in your child’s development. If you’re patient and non-pressuring as he learns to use the toilet, you’ll get through this stage fairly easily. But if you try to force toilet training or shame him when he has an accident, this stage may cause a lot of anger and unhappiness.
Parents sometimes initiate early toilet training because they feel a great deal of pressure. Nursery schools and day care centers want children to be trained, and friends and relatives offer criticism: “You were trained at two!” or “You really should start toilet training him.” There’s sometimes a feeling of competition among parents to see who has the youngest toilet-trained child, as though toilet training were a race. Many people mistakenly think that the faster a child develops (and the sooner he’s toilet trained), the smarter or better he is.
Aside from starting toilet training in response to pressure, many parents start because they don’t believe their child will learn on his own. Although they’ve seen their child learn to crawl and walk on his own, they find it hard to trust that he’ll also use the toilet when he’s ready.
Children can begin to use the toilet on their own, without urging from their parents, but the ages at which they’re able to do so vary since, in this, as in all areas of development, some children are ready sooner than others. Between two and three, most gain enough bladder and bowel control to be able to use the toilet on their own, although some don’t use the toilet routinely until they’re three and a half. Emotional factors such as the birth of a sibling, a move, or a mother going back to work can delay a child’s readiness.
Some children show an interest in the toilet at eighteen months, but you shouldn’t take this as a sign that your toddler’s ready for toilet training. At this age, your child’s body is not mature enough, and any toilet use will be controlled by you. He’s just temporarily interested in flushing the toilet, tearing toilet paper, and imitating you or his siblings. Some children under two or three are afraid of the toilet. It’s large, and they fear they’ll fall in or be flushed down. They may be afraid as they watch their bowel movement disappear.
Parents make a big deal over their child going in the toilet and then want to get rid of the results quickly. A small potty seat is less frightening, but many children won’t use one, insisting on the same toilet the rest of the family uses.