Potty training is an important milestone in your child’s life; it’s up there with first steps and first words. At the same time potty training is a subject which makes a lot of parents nervous. There is conflicting opinion on what age your child should start potty training, and every child is different. Some children develop faster than others, and you don’t want to start potty training too soon.
One reason for the stress associated with potty training is that many parents have unrealistic expectations. In fact, a recent survey found that parents believe, on average, that they can get from diapers to full training within one month.
In reality, potty training can be a much slower process. The average age for starting potty training in the U.S. is between 21 and 36 months of age.
Is your child ready for potty training?
If you plant peas on St. Patrick’s Day, you can expect to pick peas in May. If you plant those seeds in February, you’ll still pick peas in May. Sometimes it doesn’t matter when you start. Potty training can be a bit like this, too. Starting too early may not speed up the end result — it can just lengthen the process.
Waiting for signs that your toddler is ready can make the whole process easier. Ask yourself these questions:
- Does your child notice when he or she has a bowel movement? If she tells you she went potty or shows that he wants his diaper changed, then he’s more likely to succeed at potty training than if he’s blissfully unaware of a full diaper. A child who expresses the need to go potty before she does so is ready to make the connection between that feeling and a trip to the bathroom.
- Does your child copy other family members? When he’s ready to do what parents or older siblings do at meals or during play time, he’s probably also ready to copy bathroom behavior.
- Can your child follow instructions? If your toddler responds to instructions like, “Put your toys away” or “Give mommy the book,” she can probably understand instructions to head for the bathroom when she shows signs of needing to do so.
- Is your child interested in the bathroom or the potty? Some children begin to want to go into the bathroom with family members, to ask to use the toilet, or to sit down on the potty chair. Encourage that interest!
- Does your child have a fairly regular schedule? Some kids wake up and have a bowel movement, and then stay dry for a couple of hours. They may urinate regularly when they get up from their naps. If your child has a schedule already, you can use that natural schedule for potty training.
Don’t be in too big a hurry and don’t stress over the process. Healthy children all end up potty trained eventually. If you want to know if your child is ready to begin toilet training, talk to your pediatrician.