When Is Your Child Ready for Potty-Training
Trying to figure out when your child is ready to begin potty-training is a little like trying to discern when water is just about to start boiling — it’s hard to tell except in retrospect. And different methods of potty-training emphasize different points of readiness. Whether you consider a child ready to begin training depends to a great extent on what you consider training to be: Is it for a child to follow orders once an adult takes off her pants and puts her on a potty, or is it a child who can independently walk to the bathroom, take down her own pants and do her business – and even wipe, flush, and wash hands?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, since every child develops at his or her own pace, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to when your child should begin to use the toilet. Some children begin to show signs of toilet-training readiness when they are 18 months to 2 years old. Other children are not ready until they are 2 and a half or even older.
Of course, readiness is not only about physical capability. “Your child must also be emotionally ready. He needs to be willing, not fighting you or showing signs of fear. If your child resists strongly, it is best to wait for a while,” the AAP advises, adding that parents should try to take a relaxed approach to the process – keeping their cool and remembering that much of the process is simply beyond their control – and “avoid a power struggle.” (This advice echoes the “child-oriented gradual” approach to toilet-training advocated by Dr. T. Berry Brazelton.)
Signs that your child may be ready to toilet train include
- A dry diaper for two-hour stretches during the day or after a nap
- Regular, predictable bowel movements
- Indicators (facial or verbal expressions, body language) from your child that he or she is about to pee or poop
- The ability to follow simple instructions, walk to and from the bathroom independently, and help undress him- or herself
- Signs of discomfort in a soiled diaper (e.g., asking to be changed)
- Requests to use the toilet or potty
- A growing interest in wearing underwear
But before you start, you may also want to make sure your child isn’t currently ill or dealing with any big life changes, like starting at a new preschool, moving to a new house, or adjusting to a new sibling. And many childcare experts stress the advantages of training during warm weather – the better to let a bare-bottomed child run around the house or yard (plus no one likes to sit on a cold toilet seat).