We live in a world full of predetermined milestones for children. The preschool says your kid has to be potty trained; the baby-sitter doesn’t want to change diapers anymore; that annoying neighbor brags about how her 18-month-old can already use the potty. Pressure to help a child reach a milestone like potty training early abounds, and it can be incredibly stressful for both parent and child. But take heart: you know your child best, and no matter how long you wait to potty train, there’s no such thing as an eighteen year old who refuses to use the potty, and waiting a little while certainly won’t damage your child. Potty training is a huge milestone, and the process can be stressful. It’s important to follow your own intuitions about whether or not your child is ready, but if you’re not sure if the time has come yet, follow these tips to determine if your kid is ready (emotionally, physically, and otherwise) to begin potty training.
How Old Is Your Child?
Using the toilet is a learned behavior, but it has important physical components. If your child is too young, these physical elements can’t be overriden no matter how hard you try. She simply won’t have enough bladder and bowel control to know the signals that it’s time to use the bathroom. A good general rule of thumb is that children under eighteen months of age will be physically unready to begin potty training. You can still practice with them by occasionally putting them on the toilet so they know what it’s like, but don’t expect them to control their bathroom functions till they’re a bit older. As a general rule, by 24-30 months, most kids are old enough to begin potty training if they show other signs of readiness.
How Long Is Your Child Staying Dry?
Baby bladders function differently than adult bladders. Babies don’t typically empty their bladders completely and they go much more frequently than adults do. Your child has developed more bladder control when she stays dry for several hours at a time and is urinating with less frequency- about 6-10 times a day.
How Well Can She Communicate?
A child can’t be expected to master the potty till you can communicate reasonably well with her. Your child needs to understand basic words like wet and dry and be able to follow simple one step directions before you can embark on potty training with her.
Is Your Child Aware of His Bladder and Bowels?
Before potty training, your child will not tell you when she needs to go, but she gives you other cues. Does she go to a certain area of the house, pause in the middle of activities, or make a face? These are all signs that she is aware of what she is doing and may be ready to begin potty training.
Is She Under Stress?
Many parents attempt to begin potty training prior to starting preschool or nursery school because the school requires it. However, this is one of the worst times to begin toilet training. Kids tend to regress during times of stress and change, like the arrival of a new sibling or the beginning of school. If there has recently been a major change in your child’s life, or you expect that there will be one in the coming weeks, you may want to forego potty training for a few months.
Is He Emotionally Ready?
An interest in big kid underwear or the toilet functions of adults can be signs that your child is interested in taking this important step (though these signs alone certainly do not mean your child is ready). Take stock of your child’s behavior and see if he exhibits signs of curiosity about toilet training? Conversely, a child who insists that he wants to wear diapers and who is extremely combative about toilet training is not yet ready to begin potty training.
There’s no surefire approach for any child. You should follow your own intuitions in determining if you child is ready to begin potty training. However, if your child is not showing potty training readiness by the age of 3 to 3 1/2, talk to your kid’s pediatrician to see what you can do to help make potty training easier.