When my son was 17 months old, I started putting him on the potty each evening while I ran his bath. The sound of the running water seemed to encourage him, and within a few nights we had success. I kept up the routine at that same time every evening. Slowly, we started adding more trips to the potty throughout the day. I used this method successfully with all three of my kids.
Timing is Everything
The secret to success is waiting until your child is ready. If a child can't follow several instructions in a row or keep a diaper dry for four hours, she probably isn't up to the task. We waited until my daughter was 2 1/2 years old. We didn't pressure her, and we encouraged her every step of the way. Once she started, she was using the potty regularly in less than a week.
Keep a Schedule
Be consistent -- plan on having at least three solid days to focus on toilet-teaching without interruptions. I taught my daughter by putting her on her potty-chair every hour. I kept a close eye on the clock to keep track of when she usually went; this helped avoid accidents later. To keep her still when she was on the potty, I read her stories.
Give Your Child a Hug
When my youngest daughter was 2, she was afraid to use the potty. To help her get over this, we started the Magic Hug -- I would put my arms around her while she was on the potty. The security helped her relax and focus on going to the bathroom. This strategy really made the transition to using the toilet easier.