How Do I Know if My Toddler is Ready for Potty Training?

Toddlers need lots of patience when getting ready to potty train. Dr. Wegman gives some helpful clues on when they are ready.

By Dr. Ayala Wegman




about the doc

Ayala Wegman is a clinical assistant professor in the department of pediatrics at NYU Grossman School of Medicine.  She has two young boys and deeply enjoys caring for her community at NYU-Langone Global Pediatrics on the Upper East Side of Manhattan where she resides. We are proud to introduce Ayala as our All About The Mom resident pediatrician. You will find her advice in our Ask a Doc section.

There are different schools of thought on appropriate potty-training methods. Cultural variations also exist regarding optimal timing and methodology. Signs of readiness usually include dryness for more than 2 hours during the daytime, a child’s desire for privacy when having a bowel movement, and a toddler pointing to his diaper or indicating that he wants to be changed when soiled. These are usually the foundations that toilet readiness is built upon. The process should never be intimidating, and the potty-training journey should be positive and non-punitive. I encourage parents to practice patience as each child is on their own timeline of readiness for the endeavor.


Withholding is a common behavior that can occur when a child feels scared to use the potty. This can create a challenging cycle whereby a child feels the urge to stool and purposely withholds due to fear. Stool burden then accumulates, leading to constipation and further discomfort. The best ways to prevent withholding behaviors are to ensure that bowel movements are soft and to exhibit patience and encouragement with the process. Take advantage of the gastro-colic reflex. This natural reflex to poop occurs about 5-10 mins after consuming a solid meal. This reflex will allow your child to maximize the success of sitting on the potty at the right time. Always have a child’s feet firmly planted against a hard surface so that their knees are elevated above their hips. This positioning relaxes the pelvic floor and allows for more complete emptying of the rectal vault. Blowing bubbles on the potty or blowing on a pinwheel can also help your child bear down and relax the pelvic floor, enabling urine and stool to evacuate smoothly. Avoid any signs of frustration or disappointment in order to maximize your child’s success!


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