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Q+A: What's the Appropriate Age to Start Potty Training?

Q. My 19-month-old is really interested when anyone uses the bathroom, and she loves to say "pee-pee." All of my friends waited until their kids were close to 3 to potty train because they say it's easier with an older child. Should I start potty training now, or is it better to wait?

A. Your daughter is interested in the potty, and that's great. However, interest and readiness are not the same thing. Reading your child's signals is the only way to know when she is truly ready. Some of the signs to look for include staying dry for two hours or through a nap; physical skills such as the ability to pull pants down and up and to get on and off the potty; and being able to follow simple directions.

If your daughter has these skills, it's fine to move forward, but I would go slowly and follow her cues. And don't toss the diapers just yet. It's quite common for children to show an early interest in potty training and then lose interest once the novelty wears off. Under-2's have a short attention span. Your daughter might be very excited about sitting on the potty, putting her doll on the potty, and talking about the potty -- then one day, she'll suddenly lose interest in the whole thing. If this happens, don't force it or you may derail the process -- now and in the future. The bottom line: Go for it. You won't go wrong if you follow her lead. Encourage her when she shows any interest, but back off if she loses steam.

Rebecca Parlakian, also of Zero to Three, contributed to this column.

Copyright © 2008. Used with permission from the May 2008 issue of American Baby magazine.

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