Are You Ready?
Determining if Your Child is Ready for Potty Training.
5/28/2008 | by By Lisa A. Goldstein
You haven't been counting, of course, but it may feel like you've just changed your millionth diaper. At this point, the thought of having a potty trained child may sound like nirvana!
You may be ready to start training, but it's also up to your child. So how exactly can you determine if your child is finished with diapers and ready for potty training?
Is Your Child Ready?
Signs of readiness are both emotional and physiological and vary with each child. Nonie Levi, a San Diego, Calif., family therapist who has facilitated a toilet teaching class for 13 years, has found several clues parents can look for. "Children will show an interest in cleanliness," she says. "They may want to start using a toilet, asking to use it, expressing an interest."
Here are some more signs that your child is ready to begin potty training, courtesy of the AAP:
- Your child stays dry at least two hours at a time during the day or is dry after naps.
- Bowel movements become regular and predictable.
- Facial expressions, posture or words reveal that your child is about to urinate or have a bowel movement.
- Your child can follow simple instructions.
- Your child can walk to and from the bathroom and help undress herself.
- Your child seems uncomfortable with soiled diapers and wants to be changed.
- Your child asks to use the toilet or potty chair.
- Your child asks to wear grown-up underwear.
Once a child starts to show interest in potty training, preparation is key. When a child shows readiness, that's a parent's cue to start preparing the child by buying products such as a small potty, training pants and children's books about using the toilet. They also can let their children practice on the potty.
"Your concern in the preparation period is simply to make sure you've done your part," says Levi. "You would have told him that urine and feces come from his body, taught him the words you want him to use for the bathroom functions, helped him recognize and interpret the body signals associated with elimination, helped him find out what the toilet is for by letting him observe others using it and given him a gentle introduction to his own potty and helped him practice on it. Finally, you let him know you are confident that he will wear underpants and use the toilet."
According to Levi, the next part of training is the learning period, which can be difficult for parents because they don't know what to expect. She suggests providing easy clothing for your child to wear during this period (no overalls or difficult buttons, etc.). Also, she says it's important to give friendly reminders to your child that he or she may need to use the potty.
"Children whose parents remind them are more successful in remembering [to use the potty] than those whose parents do not," says Levi. Use a timer to remind yourself, too, during that first month or so, so you can start to recognize your child's rhythm to urinate. Also, do not punish your child if an accident occurs, Levi cautions. Children are upset by accidents and need you to help them clean up.
Is it possible to start training too early? Levi says if a child is in the early stages of wearing underpants, is unsuccessful using the potty and seems bewildered by the whole process, then you know you've started too early.
Sarah Ellsworth of Jackson, Tenn., got the potty chair out when her son was almost 23 months old. She thought she'd start getting him familiar with the idea of it being in the bathroom.
"We could talk about it and see what his interest would be, but I decided I would wait several months before I really worked on it with him, when I felt like he understood it all better," says Ellsworth. Ellsworth's son didn't want anything to do with it at first. When she purchased an insert for the big toilet a month later, something clicked with him and he started going.
Whatever your method, it will happen for your child, too, when he or she is ready. After all, each child is different when it comes to potty training and each trains at his or her own pace. "Don't give up," says Ellsworth. "They'll catch on when they are ready."