How Do You Know When Your Child is Ready for Potty Training?

How Do You Know When Your Child is Ready for Potty Training?

Question: How do you know when your child is ready for potty training?

Answer: The age for potty training varies drastically (usually sometime between 18 months old and four years old) because, as we all know, our children are each so different. Most children are ready to potty train when they wake up with a dry diaper consistently, go several hours during the day with a dry diaper, when they show interest, or when they're able to communicate that they need to go to the bathroom.

My little boy is almost four years old, and we still haven't potty trained him because he just hasn't been interested. He wakes up with dry diapers, is very aware when he needs to go to the bathroom, and is definitely old enough and extremely capable of communicating these needs. So, he's definitely capable. But...he just hasn't cared. And to be honest, neither have I. I mean, nobody can deny the convenience of diapers (and the hassle of cleaning up accidents), especially when life is busy or you're traveling. We did try potty training one day last summer, but at the end of the day, we were both tired and more than a little overwhelmed, and he finally just asked to wear a diaper. Since we had company coming the next day, I was more than willing to let him wear a diaper and try again another day. Another year has flown by, and we've had family vacations, preschool, and a million other things to focus on. And I still haven't potty trained him. So you can imagine how relieved I was when I e-mailed my son's pediatrician (Dr. Shabnam Barnhart at Woodcreek Healthcare), and she told me about one of her children who potty trained at a later age. She said: "My first two children were easily potty trained in one to two weeks, and before three years of age. My third child made me want to pull my hair out. He had many starts and stops and just didn't care if he went in his underwear and was wet or dirty. Even with stickers and treats, he just wasn't motivated. He preferred to keep playing instead of stopping to go to the bathroom. He finally potty trained around three years and eight months old. It was frustrating, but completely normal. Keep a sense of humor and know that your child will likely not start kindergarten in diapers." Even though she says it's completely normal for a child to potty train when he's a little older, Dr. Barnhart highly recommends starting to introduce the concept when your child is 18 months old. "Most kids go through a phase of wanting to emulate their parents at this age, so this is a good time to start talking about the potty and reading books on potty training," she said. "You could even buy a potty chair and start letting your child sit on the potty when you go to the bathroom." But, she also explains that most children won't be fully potty trained at this early age. "Most kids aren't actually fully potty trained until a little before or after three years of age," she said. Dr. Barnhart recommends continuing to talk about potty training and to give your child opportunities to try using the toilet, as long as they are interested and don't become resistant. She said, "As long as your child is interested, keep talking about using the toilet, buy underwear (that your child picks out), and have him or her sit on his potty chair when he or she wants. If the child starts becoming resistant, then stop the process and take a break for a few weeks." Now that we know that 18 months is an ideal time to start talking abut potty training and helping your child practice sitting on the toilet, how do you know when your child is actually ready to ditch the diapers? Dr. Barnhart said, "Most kids are ready to fully potty train when they don't like the feeling of a wet/dirty diaper, can hold their urine and stool for a stretch of time, and can communicate their need to go to the bathroom. Some kids potty train easily and some kids take a little longer with a few starts and stops in the process. Both of these are completely normal."
One thing to watch for, and try to avoid, as you begin potty training is constipation. Dr. Barnhart explained that when you begin potty training, children often get confused about how to use the toilet, and they tend to avoid using the toilet, which then leads to, as she says, "a bad cycle of stool holding and stools that get larger and more painful." If this happens, Dr. Barnhart recommends taking a break from potty training and increasing your child's fiber (such as pears, plums, prunes, peaches, flax seed, and bran) and water intake. If this helps ease your child's constipation, continue potty training, but if you don't see an improvement, make sure to call or visit your pediatrician.

Last night, as we were in the middle of our bedtime routine, my little boy asked if he could wear underwear instead of a diaper. So now that his preschool class is ending for the summer and we don't have any vacations planned for the next couple of months, I think we're going to break out the superhero underwear he picked out a few months ago and his potty training seat (if you haven't bought one yet, check out the Puj Easy Seat Toilet Trainer and Puj Nubs), and try again! Wish us luck! And good luck to all of the other mamas (and dads) who are preparing to potty train!

Featured Image PC: @alissacvillegas
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I liked reading your article. I think it is so important to let your child be ready to get potty trained and for you not to push the issue. Great job. I think they will be happier.

Valerie Jensen

Thank you! We definitely believe that letting them lead the way is a great option for many parents!

The Baby Cubby

I got this guide and after reading it I am sure we will make it, can’t wait to start it!


What worked for me and my two kids was guide by Susan Urban “How to make your child love going potty.” It really made my kids love going potty really fast and without drama! I loved the way the author leads you what to do and when to do it! great help


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