First, some perspective for frazzled parents: Every healthy child is successfully potty trained. In the long run, the age at which your child masters these particular skills doesn't matter. It's not a reflection of your skills as a parent or your love for her. Doing it earlier doesn't mean she's smarter or more coordinated or will get into an Ivy League school.
When to Begin
But if you start potty training before your child is biologically and emotionally ready, you're both going to become frustrated and upset. It will also drag out the process because it's likely to turn into a battle of wills, a battle that parents never win. That's why it's a good idea to know the signs that she's probably going to be successful before you start. Most children become potty trained between 18 and 30 months. However, some children still struggle with the skills when they're 4 years old.
Reading the Signs
If you look closely, your child will tell you with his behavior that he's probably ready to begin. For example:
Does he have bowel movements at a fairly predictable time? Does he let you know through words or behaviors that he's aware that he's having one?
Can he pull his pants down, and also pull them up?
Does he show an interest in the bathroom and what other people do in it?
Can he walk over to and sit down on the potty by himself?
Has he started saying "No!" to you? Does he like to have at least some of his toys in certain special places? This shows that he's interested in controlling things in his environment.
Does he know what "wet" and "dry" mean?
Does he respond to praise and want to please you?
If your child shows most of these behaviors, he may be ready to begin.
We can help you with some ways to start. Remember, never try to potty train a child during a time of stress, such as when your family is moving or going on vacation, or when the child is sick. If it doesn't seem to be working, take a break and try again in a few weeks or months. It will happen; just give it time.