Is My Child Ready for Potty Training?

Child on potty
Yumi, Yuliya’s daughter, is within the age range when most children begin to learn to use the potty.

By Yuliya Bilan Yu, MSN, CRNP

You might be wondering if your child is ready to start potty training or if there’s a “right age.” No two children are alike, and rather than going by chronological age, it is best to look at different signs of readiness, such as being able to:

  • follow simple instructions
  • understand and use words about using the potty
  • make the connection between the urge to pee or poop, and using the potty
  • keep a diaper dry for 2 hours or more
  • get to the potty, sit on it for enough time, and then get off the potty
  • pull down diapers, disposable training pants, or underpants
  • show an interest in using the potty or wearing underpants

Most children begin to show these signs between 18 and 24 months of age, but some might not be ready to start until after their second birthday or later. Complete toilet training, that includes both daytime and nighttime dryness, as well as bowel control, might not be achieved until 4 years of age. Meanwhile, the process itself can take anywhere from a few months to over a year, so it is important to be patient and try to maintain a positive attitude.

There are different approaches to potty training, with some parents preferring to keep children in diapers or pull ups in between attempts to use the potty. You can start this method by having your child get his or her diaper changed while sitting on the potty and talking about the experience. While your child sits on the potty, praise him or her or engage in a fun activity, such as singing or reading books together. Your goal is to create a positive association for the potty. So if your toddler is resisting this part or the experience is turning out to be stressful, he or she might not be emotionally ready yet, so it is best to take a break for a few weeks before trying again.

Child on potty
Leanna, our MA Jen’s daughter, is encouraged to use the potty at home.

Other parents prefer to discontinue diapers altogether and use cloth training pants or have the child wear real underwear, with the idea that having a sensation of wetness can help increase awareness of urination. In reality, at some point you’ll likely be somewhere in between the two methods. Your choice of an approach largely depends on your family’s preferences and your child’s personality. Regardless of the method of potty training, it is important to never shame your child for having accidents or mishaps, and you should be on the lookout for any possible discomforts that could arise with this change in their routine, such as constipation. A diet with plenty of fluids and fiber, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, will help keep your child regular and make potty training a more positive experience. Another point to keep in mind, is that your child’s feet should be well supported, with knees higher than the potty or toilet, to allow for a comfortable bowel movement.

While potty training might seem like a challenging journey, keep in mind that, as with other skills, your child will one day master it. Should you have any questions or concerns in the time being, we are here to help guide you through the process.

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