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Help! My Toddler Won't Go on the Potty!

My 21/2-year-old son shows no interest in the potty. Is he destined to be in diapers forever?
– Melinda

Even though it seems like that's where you're headed, few kids (if any!) have ever gone off to kindergarten while in diapers. Just like with walking and talking, kids develop at their own pace when learning to use the potty.

Most kids begin to show signs that they are ready for toilet teaching between the ages of 18 and 24 months but it's not uncommon to go later, especially for boys. When deciding if your son is ready for big-boy pants, look for signs of "readiness," which include:

  • following simple instructions
  • understanding words about the toileting process
  • showing an interest in using the potty or wearing underpants
  • verbally expressing a need to go
  • keeping a diaper dry for 2 hours or more
  • pulling down diapers, disposable training pants, or underpants
  • getting to the potty, sitting on it, and then getting off the potty
  • controlling the muscles responsible for elimination

If your son is showing no interest in the potty, it's OK to put it off a couple of months. In the meantime, you can model toileting yourself and read potty books to him. Keep the potty chair accessible and eventually he'll be ready to sit on it. 

Once your son is ready, the process can last 3 to 6 months. The good news is that, in general, the later you start, the shorter the training period. Make sure to praise him for the behavior, even if there is no result. You can even offer incentives like stickers to encourage him along. If you have questions or concerns, talk to your doctor.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: August 2010

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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