Hey parents, imagine you just started a new job. It’s your first day in the office, and your new supervisor comes up to you and hands you a skateboard. “Let’s skateboard to the new lunch spot,” she says. Not exactly what you were expecting, right? Especially if you have never before ridden a skateboard.
While it might be unlikely for an adult to get that kind of challenge, it provides an example of what it’s like to face an unexpected challenge. And this can happen when your little one is asked to learn a major life skill and potty train at the same time.
So, mom or dad, even if you’re ready for your guy or gal to start using a toddler or big person toilet, it’s important to know that some big life events may mean delaying potty training.
Is Your Child Ready to Start Potty Training?
While children often progress on big milestones around the same time, there’s no exact age when they should start potty training. Every child is different.
In general, parents should start looking for signs of potty training readiness around 24 months. As some kids are ready to potty train before that, be sure to look for these signs:
- Pulling at a wet or dirty diaper
- Hiding to pee or poop
- Showing interest or copying the behavior of people who are using the bathroom
- Staying dry in their diaper for longer than usual
- Waking up dry from a nap
- Telling you that they’re about to go or have just gone
If your child shows at least two of these signs, they might be ready to start. Take the Pull-Ups® Potty Training Readiness Quiz to help you decide.
When to Pause Potty Training
Even if your child has shown signs of being ready or you’ve already started the process, big life changes can mean a setback or be a reason to hold off on potty training. Especially if you have a child with a cautious, shy or high-energy potty personality. These kids most often do their best in a calm and settled environment.
1. The birth of a sibling. Having a new baby around can make some children want to take on the role of the Big Kid, which could work well for potty training. Some kids, on the other hand, may revert to being a baby to get their parents’ attention. If your child is clear in their desire to be a Big Kid when their new sibling is born, charge ahead with potty training. Otherwise, you might both benefit from taking a break by delaying the potty training adventure.
2. Major family changes. Moving to a different home, parents splitting up or any other big change can be stressful for kids. Holding off on potty training can make sense until new routines are set in place.
3. Transitioning from a crib into a toddler bed. Toddlers have a lot of fun steps in their journey to becoming Big Kids, and wearing Pull-Ups® training pants while learning to use the potty is just one of them. If they’re tackling reasons #3-6, adding potty training too might be too much to handle at once.
4. No longer using a bottle at night.
5. Being weaned from breastfeeding.
6. Stopping the use of a pacifier.
7. Starting or switching daycare or preschool. While there are some good ways to get ready for preschool potty training, know that starting or switching preschools can mean kids are temporarily lacking the calm and security needed for potty training. Adjusting to a new busy environment should be priority as young kids get to know their environment better.
8. Illness. Imagine how you feel when you’re sick. Sometimes, hauling yourself off the couch or out of bed to use the bathroom can take all of your energy. For a little one who’s potty training, it can feel like an even bigger challenge. Feeling your best while having the best energy and focus you can have as a kid will create the best start.
9. You’re in the middle of the holidays. While there’s no best time of the year to start potty training, know that the holidays can be tough. Your toddler might struggle to stay focused if there’s already a cascade of candy, late nights, events, and excitement in the air.
10. Pressure from others. If some external force—like your little one’s preschool teacher or a well-meaning relative—is pressuring you to potty train your child but your child isn’t ready, go with your gut. Watch for cues from your child that they’re ready and trust your instincts and observations.Remember that this isn’t just about your toddler. Avoid the extra burden of potty training when things are stressful. Stopping and restarting potty training once things are calm can help ensure the potty training journey will be pleasant, fun, and successful for everyone!
Tips for Successful Potty Training
As you begin potty training your child, one of the most important tips is to try to remain patient. Yes, there will be accidents and yes, there will be things that happen unexpectedly but never use punishments or threats. Give your child choices as refusals are usually about them wanting to be in control of their bodies. Positivity and creativity will be your friend!
Make potty training fun. Check out these fun ways to kick off potty training and potty training games.
If you pay attention to your child’s needs, potty training can be a lot easier everyone. Watch for signs they’re ready and be aware of important reasons to hold off. Tailor your approach and any rewards to their personality will assist in your child’s goal setting. And remember that you can’t force a kid to potty train, however you will be ready to be their biggest cheerleader when they are ready!
By Lakisa Ballard, MSN, RN, C-EFM, RNC-OB
Lakisa Ballard, MSN, RN, C-EFM, RNC-OB, is a Clinical Practice Specialist in Maryland. The information of this article has been prepared by nursing experts of the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric, & Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN). The content should not substitute medical advice from your personal healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for recommendations/diagnosis or treatment. For more advice from AWHONN nurses, visit Healthy Mom&Baby at health4mom.org.