How To Tell When Your Child Is Ready To Potty Train
Let’s face it, we’re all dummies when we start potty training our kids. And if you’ve landed on this page, you may be desperate for some expert advice on how you can get your kid to go in the bowl. So what makes me an expert, you ask? Well, I’ve potty trained one child with success, so clearly I now qualify as an expert. Come to think of it, I am also potty trained, so maybe I qualify as an expert twice over. In any event, I have combined my own experience with some seriously diligent Google research and free potty training charts, and now I am here to give my expert advice. If you have a one-year-old and you are wondering if you are behind the potty training ball, since you’ve heard that all over Europe and Asia there are 14-month-olds who are not just potty-trained, but they are wiping themselves AND reading head start books on the potty, I can dispel at least some of those rumors. My son started preschool in Europe with several (European) kids who were still struggling with the potty long after he was trained. And I have been in Asia and seen for myself what potty trained can mean there – that a child wears crotchless onesies for convenient on-the-go going.
The truth is, you can start potty training at any time. I have heard of some extremely brave (and weird? no judgments!) parents who start potty training their kids when they are infants. As a general rule, however, it’s important to understand that the earlier you start, the longer the process is generally bound to take. I recommend that you not even bother starting to try until you recognize the signs of potty-readiness in your child. So what are the signs, you ask? I am not an advocate of infant potty training so I am going to skip over the physical aspects here (your child can walk, stand, sit still for short periods of time, pull down his pants, etc.). But there are tell-tale signs that your toddler might be gearing up to get out of the diapers and get on the potty. Signs of Potty-Readiness
- Your child is interested in your bathroom habits
- Your child has relatively predictable and well-formed bowel movements
- Your child has dry periods of time indicating some basic bladder control
- It’s fairly obvious when your child is doing his business (grunting, hiding, crouching, etc.)
- Your child tells you when he goes and has words for both #1 and #2
- Your child wants to have his dirty diapers changed
Once your child has been signaling that he’s ready to use the potty, give it a try! Get him on the potty and see how it goes. But understand that this interest may still just be part of the preparation and not the actual act. When my son was around a year and a half, we bought a cute little potty that he loved sitting and reading on, and he would frequently tell us he needed to use it, only to sit on it and do nothing. This was all part of his preparation for the big act. Consider this period of time pre-training and utilize it to reinforce the bathroom habits in order to prepare your child for the main event. How, you ask? Bathroom Habits to Reinforce Before Training
- Let him sit on the potty when he asks, and don’t get frustrated when nothing happens. Put him in Pull Ups if he’s asking a lot and you don’t feel like changing diapers as often as he is interested.
- Let him help – kids love to pull off toilet paper and mimic wiping. Ripping and throwing away are two favorite toddler pastimes. It has the added benefit of entertaining your toddler if you are otherwise unwell.
- Invite him into the bathroom with you and let him watch the process (as if you actually have to invite him). Explain what you are doing as you do it. It’s important to remember during the potty training process that there is no dignity in parenthood.
- Praise him when he tells you he has gone to the bathroom. Even if it’s in his diaper. The very fact that he is telling you is a great indication that he is thinking about his bodily functions, and positive reinforcement is great for everyone.
- Let him hang around in a dirty diaper a little bit. I am not talking about to the point where you induce a diaper rash. But let him feel how uncomfortable running around in a super soggy diaper is, and he may start begging for the potty.
- Read to him about going to the potty. There are a lot of great books out there on the subject. Sure you’ll have to endure unrealistic artist renderings of poop, but reading to your kids is always good.
- Talk about the potty. With my son, at every diaper change we talked about how big he was getting and how soon there would be “No More Diapers!” This became a mantra around our house for several months before we even got into training.
It’s also important to remember that it is very natural for toddlers to begin expressing interest in the potty, and then just as quickly lose interest. When we first got my son his potty, he used it successfully a few times, and I thought, wow do I have this parenting thing nailed down! The second I thought it, my son lost all interest in the potty and wanted nothing to do with it. Instead of stressing about it, we followed his lead, and when he started expressing interest again 6 months later, we began the process all over again. Potty training is not a quick fix process – it will take patience and time. But if you start early on by talking about it, reading about it, and demonstrating how it’s all done, you’ll be off to a great start when you finally do decide to ditch the diapers. Stay tuned later this week for Potty Training Part II: 14 Tips and Tricks for Success, where we will let you in on some of the easy ways to encourage your child to get on the potty and off the diapers.