Toilet Training: Common Questions and Answers

Drew C Baird, Michael Bybel, Adam W Kowalski
American Family Physician 2019 October 15, 100 (8): 468-474
Toilet training is a significant developmental milestone in early childhood. Most U.S. children achieve the physiologic, cognitive, and emotional development necessary for toilet training by 18 to 30 months of age. Markers of readiness for toilet training include being able to walk, put on and remove clothing, and follow parental instruction; expressive language; awareness of a full bladder or rectum; and demonstrated dissatisfaction with a soiled diaper. Other readiness cues include imitating toileting behavior, expressing desire to toilet, and demonstrating bladder or bowel control (staying dry through a nap or through the night). Physicians should provide anticipatory guidance to parents beginning at about 18 to 24 months of age, noting the signs of toilet training readiness, and setting realistic expectations for parents. Parents should be counseled that no training method is superior to another. Parents should choose a method that is best suited to them and their child, and the method should use positive reinforcement. Complications of toilet training include stool toileting refusal, stool withholding, encopresis, hiding to defecate, and enuresis. These problems typically resolve with time, although some may require further investigation and treatment. Medical comorbidities such as Down syndrome, autism spectrum disorder, and cerebral palsy reduce the likelihood of successfully attaining full toilet training and often require early consultation with occupational therapists, developmental pediatricians, or other subspecialists to aid in toilet training.

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