Having a baby is so exciting and every milestone is worth celebrating. From that first “coo,” to the first giggle; pulling himself up to standing and taking those first steps, parenthood is an amazing journey!
When your baby becomes a toddler, he has more of a say in what he wants, or what he doesn’t want. Vocabulary begins to flourish and motor skills are further developing. When all of these big new skills are being learned, you’re probably starting to think that it’s about that time to start potty training.
This is a milestone that is definitely worth celebrating, and you’re going to earn every ounce of celebration that comes with it. Before we even dive into knowing WHEN your child is ready for potty training, it’s important to know that YOU have to be ready for potty training. It’s not going to be a walk in the park, it’s not going to be sunshine and rainbows…it’s going to be pee accidents and poopscepades for about a week. It’s going to be several days in a row at home, without going anywhere. It may be potty resistance battles (I’ll teach you how to avoid that!) and it will likely be EXHAUSTING! But once you’re through it, you’ll be glad you did it. And, hey! You won’t have to change another diaper ever again!
So we talked about your sweet little baby who is now a toddler. He’s really starting to show you his personality traits and he’s finding his place in this big, wide world. Your child is probably around two years old, maybe three. Well, that checks the box in the “age” category of potty training readiness. But do we think that’s the only thing that contributes to this decision to potty train? You guessed right, there’s WAY more to it.
Here are a few things to consider when deciding if your child is ready to take on potty training:
- Is your child showing interest in the potty? Does he want to go with you in the bathroom and see what you’re doing? Does he pretend to put his stuffed animals on the potty? If he’s showing any of these signs of interest, put another checkmark on your list.
- How about asking to be changed when his diaper is dirty? Toddlers who can recognize that it’s uncomfortable to be in a dirty or soiled diaper are getting closer to being ready for potty training.
This shows you that he knows that this doesn’t feel good, and maybe there’s another way to feel better… by staying clean and dry. But he just hasn’t connected the dots yet that potty training is a thing and that he can use the toilet, just like Mom and Dad.
- Is he staying dry for 1-2 hours? This isn’t a “mandatory” sign of readiness, as many parents will tell me, “I don’t know, I’m not constantly checking his diaper for wetness.” But if you’re already changing your child’s diaper and notice that it’s not wet, or not as wet as it used to be at your normal changing times, then your child’s bladder capacity is growing and he may be almost ready for potty training.
- Here’s a huge sign, like a “right in front of your face” kind of sign… the one where you REALLY CAN’T MISS IT! … If your child wants privacy while pooping (aka hiding in a corner while pooping looking like a deer in the headlights) then it’s time to ditch the diapers. Your child is now ready to have a private place to go to the bathroom and just needs to be taught that the toilet is the place to do this.
So now you know that your child is ready, but you want to help make this a smooth transition before jumping face first into potty training, right? I got you covered. Here’s how to help your child decide that he wants to be potty trained:
- Let him watch you in the bathroom. I know you were probably hoping for a moment of silence in the bathroom as you scroll your Instagram feed in peace…but say goodbye to your secret hideout and say hello to teaching your curious toddler about what you’re really doing in the bathroom. I know this isn’t what you were hoping to hear, but you can probably hide out in the pantry or your bedroom closet for a moment of peace and quiet instead of the bathroom.
- Let your child help you in the bathroom. OH, YES, I am serious. Let him help you flush the toilet after you have gone to the bathroom. Yeah, yeah, I know you’re probably thinking I’m nuts at this point, but kids need to know where their pee and poop is going. Get technical. Teach your kid about toilet pipes and the sewer. Kids love asking “why” over and over and over so give them the information they’re seeking. Tell your child that this is what everyone does and everyone’s pee and poop goes down the toilet.
- While you’re talking about this and teaching this lesson, flush your child’s poop down the toilet too. At this point, your child’s poop should be solid and easy to dump out of the diaper and into the toilet. Teach your child that this is where poop goes and let him flush it down and wave “bye-bye” to the poopies!
- It is very important to use proper and consistent potty language. Children need to know the correct terms for their body parts and it’s our job as parents to teach them these things. PLEASE do not teach your daughter that her vagina is a “cookie.” It’s NOT. And it’s not cute. Or appropriate. For the health and safety of your child, please teach the correct anatomical terms for their body parts.
Remember that kids will say things at the most inappropriate times, like when you’re in the middle of grocery shopping in a crowded store. So if you don’t want them shouting weird names about their privates in public places, don’t teach them.
And God forbid, if something bad were to happen to your child, s/he needs to know what to call their body parts so they can tell a trusted adult what happened and that the adult understands exactly what your child is telling them. I pray that this never happens to your child, but it’s important to be educated and prepared.
- While you’re preparing to potty train your child, you’re going to want to teach your child how to push down and pull up his own pants. This isn’t 100% necessary, but it will make both of your lives 10x easier. It will save the hassle of trying to get to the toilet quickly enough to help push down the pants and underwear in time to get on the toilet, without getting pee all over the pants…or your hands.
Just a few more words of advice and some important things to remember:
- Ensure the proper timing for potty training. Don’t try to potty train your child just because you’re about to have a baby and you don’t want 2 kids in diapers. Is that really fair to your child? Nope, it’s not. Other times to avoid potty training include, if your child is starting at a new school/daycare center, if you’re moving to a new house, if you’re going through any major life changes, if you’re transitioning to a toddler bed, or if you’re weaning from breastfeeding. These are a few examples of BIG transitions in your child’s life that won’t be conducive to learning a huge new skill such as potty training.
- Be patient with your child. I know this may be a stressful time for you, but you have to find the joy in seeing your child learn this BIG NEW THING. This is a skill your child is going to have forever. This is also your first look into your child’s learning style. Once you know your child’s learning style, hone in on it and do what works for your child. You may have a child who likes to be reminded to sit on the potty. OR you might have a child who wants nothing to do with your reminders and wants to decide on his own when he is ready to sit on the potty and try to pee. Either way, your child is going to show you how he wants to do this and it’s your job to be flexible and help your child learn the way he is showing you he needs to go through this process.
- Reach out for help if your need it. There are several potty training consultants who are eager to help families through this journey. I love helping families ditch the diapers in my 10-day potty training program: The Potty Party. When you join The Potty Party, you’re part of a private Facebook group community in which you receive my written potty training action plan. This is your step-by-step guide to potty training. You get daily prompts and professional support throughout the process as well. I’m there with you for every step of the way, answering your questions and cheering you on!