Potty training: Signs you are ready to start

Is your child ready to start potty training? Find out. Photo: Aaron McIntyre

SILVER SPRING, Md, March 15, 2013 – One of life’s big milestones is when a child stops needing diapers and can begin using the potty.

While new parents may look forward to the day they no longer have to change diapers, they frequently are stumped as to when to start the potty training process. The answer to that question is not exactly straight forward.

The average age for potty training is about 2½ years old, but it is highly variable. Girls generally are ready to potty train sooner than boys, but that is not absolute. Some of it is child dependent, some is set by cultural norms. Some children can start potty training as soon as a year, but other children do not become inspired to learn to use the potty until they are in pre-school and all the other children around them are using the bathroom.

When trying to determine if your child is ready to start potty training, there are some requirements. Your child needs to be able to walk steadily and be aware of her bodily functions. Generally, once a child starts to become aware of their bodily functions she will alert you when she is urinating or passing stool.  Vocal children may simply announce their actions, others may squat, hide in a corner, pat their diaper, or grunt when passing stool.  Being able to notify you that she is urinating or defecating is key to being able to introduce good bathroom behavior.

Most parents wait until the child can pull up and down their pants, although some children may be ready to start potty training with some pants-pulling assistance. Once these children start seeing what their parents are doing and when, they are likely to start trying to take over the task themselves. So for younger children, this self-dressing may be a skill that develops in tandem with potty training, but they do need to be able to act independently and follow simple directions.

Pull-up style diapers can make potty training easier. Photo by UmbrellaCorp128.


Another key sign that your child may be ready to start potty training is that she shows interest in others’ bathroom habits. If your little one follows you into the bathroom to watch what you are doing, or starts being interested in the toilet, she may be trying to figure out what goes on in the bathroom and what she should be doing.

Timing with potty training is important. So, having a well established routine can make learning to use the potty easier. If you can identify the time of day your child normally has her bowel movements that can help you know when to guide her to the potty ahead of time. Knowing when to try to use the potty is important to success, and every time your little one successfully makes a deposit and she receives praise for it, the more she will want to repeat the correct behavior.  

Other timing issues that come into play with potty training is the length of time she can go without a wet diaper and how long she can sit still quietly. Usually, you want a minimum of two hours between wet diapers, which indicates that her muscles are strong enough to have some bladder control. She also needs to be patient enough that she can sit still on the potty, usually for three to five minutes at a time. This time spent on the potty allows for her to relax and allows for the development of whatever urges she has communicated to you.

Children need to be able to sit patiently on the toilet before beginning potty training. Photo by Ragesoss.


One additional thing to consider is your child’s temperament. If your child is going through a negative or contrary phase where everything is a fight or she says no to everything, it may not be the right time to begin potty training. You do not want her to have negative associations with using the potty. The best time to start is when she is in a positive stage, is proud of her accomplishments and acts for positive response from her caregivers. Praise when using the potty is a big part of potty training success, and wanting that praise makes things easier.  

Aside from not having to change diapers any more, you will have extra money in your pocket that normally would have gone towards diapers, wipes and ointments. Plus, potty trained kids have more options for day camps and pre-schools. So, if your little one is starting to indicate that she is uncomfortable in dirty diapers, take advantage of her desire to be clean and start introducing the potty.


Follow Brighid on Twitter a @BrighidMoret and receive updates when new columns post on Facebook or Google+. She also writes picture book reviews at Big Reads For Little Hands. Read more about first time parenting issues in Parenting the First Time Through at The Communities at The Washington Times.

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Brighid Moret

Brighid is a freelance writer and first time mother.  She holds an MA in Writing from Johns Hopkins University.  Find her on Facebook @Brighid Moret


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