Potty Training - how to know if your child is ready.

Short Version:

Unless there is a developmental or medical reason that interferes, your child will not be wearing diapers into adulthood. Don’t sweat it. (And if there is a medical or developmental condition, or if you just want some tips and tricks, read the long version).

Long version:

One of the things that parents often ask me about is how to tell whether their child is ready to potty train and which approach they should use.

While there are some general signs of potty training readiness, I am not going to tell you which approach to use. All kids are different. Some kids train in a weekend; some over several months. Some kids need tangible rewards; some kids teach themselves. Some kids can go days and nights; others wear nighttime pull-ups for a year. Some kids train for both pee and poop at the same time; others can pee in the toilet, but insist on wearing a diaper to poop for quite awhile.

There’s no one right way. Use an approach that resonates with you and with your child’s style of being in the world.

What I can offer you are some guideposts and a general framework to know when it might be a good time to potty train.

Look for signs of readiness.

Kids usually potty train sometime between 18 and 36 months. It just depends on the kiddo.

Does your child ask to be changed when they’re wet or soiled? Do they seek privacy while eliminating into their diaper? Do they tell you while they’re going? Afterwards? These are all signs that they are associating the feeling of having to go with the act of going.

To build readiness, you can start by taking them to the bathroom with you. (I know, I know, the last place you actually have privacy!) It can seem a little icky, but children learn from watching their adults…. Same principles apply to potty training.

Another thing you can do is let your child flush the poop from their diaper down the toilet. (Warning: some kids LOVE to flush and some kids hate the noise, so if this is not fun for your child, don’t do it!)

Don’t rush it.

Yes, changing diapers is gross, but take a long view: your child will be out of diapers MUCH longer than they will be in them.

Decide and do… consistently.

Whatever system you decide to use (and there are many), decide on what it is and STICK TO IT for at least 2 weeks, unless your child is stressed out (in which case, take a pause for at least 2 weeks before starting again). Consistency is key, no matter the approach.

Stay calm and matter of fact.

If your child has an accident (and they will at some point), point it out calmly (“you’re wet.”) and get them changed (“let’s get some dry clothes for you”). Shaming your child or talking about how big kids use the potty and don’t pee in their pants is likely to backfire. Remember that you are teaching your child to use the toilet, not testing them to see if they can stay dry (and punishing them when they don’t).

Err on the side of nice weather.

If you have a choice to potty train in temperate weather vs. colder weather, do it! Warmer weather means fewer clothes to remove (and wash!) and more opportunity for naked time! Your child (and you!) are more likely to notice that they are getting wet when they are naked and can see and feel things happening.

For children with special needs

If your child has a developmental or medical issue that delays or prevents them from being potty trained, ask your medical and related service professionals for help BEFORE you start potty training. For children with special needs, potty training can be a very stressful time (for everyone), and it’s worth getting off on the right foot from the beginning. Undoing behaviors related to potty training is MUCH harder than starting off right from the start. Your child may need a specialized program designed specifically for them, so seek help.

If you haven’t already watched it, go ahead and watch my Facebook video on INTEROCEPTION, which explains a little bit more about connecting internal feelings (needing to go) with actions (going). And I’m happy to answer more questions if you have them.

All my best,