How and when to start potty training is the question that every parent, since caveman days, have asked themselves at some point in their child’s life. This post
will be focusing on when to start potty training. Other posts will take up the question of how to potty train your child.
When do you start potty training boys? When should you start potty training girls?
I am glad you asked. The first thing you need to know is that there is no set age when a toddler, boy or girl, is ready for potty training. It will vary from child to child. If you are attentive to the behavior of your child, they will let you know when the time has come.
A small percentage of children can be potty trained as early as 18 months while at the other end of the spectrum some will not be ready till they are about 4 years old. Most however are ready sometime around their 2nd or 3rd birthday. Some special needs children may not be ready for yet another year or two beyond their 3rd birthday. Every child is going to be different, but if you observe your child’s behavior you should be able to recognize when the time has come.
Potty training is not a competition sport. You do not get extra points for potty training your child earlier and faster than your neighbor or co-worker potty trained their child. In fact, trying to force an early and quick potty training on your child may backfire and prolong the process. It is completely counter intuitive, but studies have shown that parents who wait until their child is about 2 years old before beginning potty training are generally finished potty training by the time the child is 3 years old, while those who start potty training their child earlier, around 18 months, generally are not finished until the child is about 4 years old. So don’t try to rush the process.
To a large degree the child will determine not only when, but how long the process will take.
So, is your toddler ready to take this big step in his or her life? And just as important, are you ready to potty train your child? Remember, you and your child are in this together. Potty training is going to be a team effort.
Pre-Potty Training Preparation
While it is true that you do not want to rush the start of potty training, there are things you can do beforehand to prepare you toddler for potty training. These preliminary steps will keep potty training from coming as a sudden surprise to your child and also prepare them mentally for the training when the time comes. They will already know something of what to expect.
- First of all you can go ahead and get the training potty or seat reducer that you will be using and allow your child opportunity to become familiar with it. You might even let your child pick out, with your guidance, the one they want. Begin to explain to the child what it is for and how it works.
- Second, this may also be a good time to pick up a children’s book or two about potty training to begin the educational process. Something with lots of pictures. Read it to them, let them look at the pictures. Help them to make a connection between what they are seeing and the training potty you have gotten for them. Use these books to begin the process of building your child’s vocabulary, simple words like pee and poop or whatever terms you prefer, that you will be using during the potty training process. In other words, begin a two way communication process early so that when the time comes to actually begin potty training the child will already understand what you are wanting.
- Third, since your child is most likely still in diapers at this stage, show them what happens to the poop that is in their diapers. Let them put it in their potty, let them put it in the toilet, and even allow them to flush it down the toilet. Give them a chance to see how things work.
- Fourth, there are some who advocate letting your child watch an adult of the same sex use the toilet. You will have to decide if this is something you would want to do or not. Depending on who the adult would be it might not always be appropriate.
So how do you know when the time is right to potty train your child?
Every child is different, but if you are attentive to your child’s behavior you can know when your child is ready for potty training.
- Bladder and bowel control.
Ask yourself if your child has sufficient control of their bladder to begin the process of toilet training. As a rule, they should be able to stay dry for at least 2 hours at a time. There is a reason for this. At younger ages children simply are not capable of controlling their bladders. Trying to potty train a child who has not yet become capable of controlling their bladder is nothing more than an act of futility. It just won’t happen. When they are capable of staying dry for about 2 hours at a time that indicates that they have developed sufficient control of their bladder to begin the process of potty training.
But be aware that a child may develop control of their bladder months before they develop control of their bowels. Sorry, but that is the reality of the situation. Control of their bowels usually starts at about 2 years of age. But again, the timing will vary from child to child.
As already mentioned, trying to rush the process before the child is ready can backfire and prolong the process. If you push training for pooping too quickly and it can easily become a negative and frustrating experience for the child. They may out of fear of having an accident attempt to hold it in for days and consequently become constipated, which only makes the experience even more negative and frustration for the child.
When you notice that their bowel movements have become more regular and you are making fewer diaper changes, then the time for potty training may have arrived.
- Is the child aware of their need to go?
A child’s awareness of when they need to go, whether it be pee poop, is key to potty training. As a parent you can know when your child has developed this awareness if they do things such as hide behind furniture, curtains, or go into another room to do their business. Also, behaviors such as squatting or squirming, etc., can be indicative of their awareness that they need to go. As a parent you need to be attentive to the signals they give. When you start seeing these behaviors it may well be time to begin potty training.
- Is your child mobile, that is, can they easily walk or run to their potty?
Although by the time you begin potty training your toddler, they have already developed a degree of control over their bowel and bladder movements, the urge to go often comes suddenly. So. Ask yourself if they can get to their potty quickly enough to avoid an accident.
Now initially, you will probably be taking your child to their potty when you see signs of their needing to go. In the beginning stages you may well schedule a regular potty break every two hours or so to get them accustom to the idea of sitting on the potty when they need to go. But in eventually they will want to do it by themselves.
- Has your child developed a dislike for dirty diapers?
At some point in their lives, babies will notice when their diapers are dirty and decide that they do not want to be in them anymore. If they have become dirty or wet diaper conscious then that may be a sign that they are ready for potty training. In other words, they are now ready, and motivated, to learn how to use a potty.
- Is there about to be a big change in your child’s life?
Are you about to move to a new home? Is a new sibling about to be introduced into the family? If there is any major disruptive event coming up, you may want to defer the potty training for a while. Potty training in itself may be disruptive enough to your child’s normal routine without adding further stress to the situation.
Remember, this is a big change for your child. It is a big step they are taking. So patience is the key word here. Be willing to wait if the time is not right.
When your child is sleeping
Bladder control at night when the child is sleeping usually takes longer to achieve. Generally, most children, when they are between 5 and 7 years old develop overnight bladder control. This is normal and not anything to be overly concerned about.
Do not be afraid to ask your doctor for help
Sometimes a child may have unforeseen problems, unusual difficulties. Or you may have questions that you cannot find the answer to. It’s OK to ask your doctor for help. Your child’s doctor can check to see if there is a problem, or give you additional guidance.