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When to start potty training and tips for making toilet training a little less stressful for you and your child.  
Related post topics: potty training, potty training age

When to Start Potty Training Advice for Toilet Training


Potty training can certainly be an adventure! One of ease or one full of perils. My adventure in potty training my daughter was definitely one full of perils. Thought I was going to lose my mind! To hopefully save your sanity I have put together a list of signs that your child is ready to potty train.

Keep in mind that there is a wide age range of when children are ready to use the potty. Some children are ready at 18 months, and others are not ready until age 3. Just like with walking and talking, every child is different. A child needs to be physically AND emotionally ready to use the potty.

When to Start Potty Training 

Your child might be ready if he or she:

  • Recognizes that she is urinating or having a bowel movement. Some children make a particular face, some announce it, and some hide. Awareness that they have urinated or pooped is perhaps the most important sign. Your child will not be successful without recognition of the process.
  • Is developing motor skills that are critical to potty training: ability to walk, pull pants up and down, sit down on the potty, and stand from the potty. Of course you will be there to assist, but in general your child has the motor skills necessary to actually access the potty.
  • Curious your toileting behavior. I know, it’s a little creepy when they follow you in and want to know and see what you are doing on the potty. But this curiosity is a good sign!
  • Copies your toileting behavior. For example, my daughter started pretending to go potty and had her stuffed animals go pretend potty. She even imitated placing a protective cover on the seat as she observed me do in a restaurant.
  • Stays dry for at least 2 hours at a time. Check those diapers and watch the clock. The ability to stay dry for longer periods is a positive sign,
  • Wants to use the potty. This is a significant sign. My daughter had a fleeting desire at 18 months to use the potty. It is common for 18 month olds to show a brief interest in the potty. Around 18 months most children develop control over their bowel and bladder. Oh, how they like control! To exercise this control he or she may show interest in the potty at 18 months, but then lose interest in a week or so. Some children embrace potty training and graduate to undies at 18 months. Most 18 month old children chose to ignore the potty after their brief flirtation and return later, perhaps much later when they are 3 ½. That’s ok! Being emotionally ready is huge!
  • Feels uncomfortable when his diaper is wet or soiled. He may ask to be changed as soon as he has urinated or pooped in his diaper. My daughter would request a change for the smallest amount of urine. Not only did she have awareness that she had urinated, but she was uncomfortable with being wet. Great sign!
  • Just as there are signs your child is ready, there are signs that it is not a good time to start potty training. When children are going through any type of significant change, it is recommended that you wait to begin potty training until typical routines have resumed. Here are some situations that create change and sometimes stress for your little one.

Hold off potty training when:

  • Preparing to or have recently moved
  • Beginning or changing child care
  • Moving from crib to a bed
  • You are expecting or recently introduced a new baby sibling
  • Traveling
  • A family member is seriously ill
  • Death in the family
  • Any significant family crisis

If your child is ready and your family is ready, create a supportive environment. You want your child to feel comfortable and not pressured. This is a learning experience and you want to set them up for success!

Here are some potty training tips:

  • Recognize that your child is in control of his body. You can not make a child eat, sleep, or pee!
  • Teach your child words for body parts, urine, and bowel movements. This is the one time potty talk is completely acceptable!
  • Have the equipment readily available: small potty or potty seat for toilet with a stool
  • If you chose to use a potty seat for the toilet, have a stool available to support your child’s legs.
  • A small potty has the benefit of putting your child into a crouch position which promotes a bowel and/or bladder movement.
  • Expect accidents. There will be accidents.
  • Be prepared for accidents in the community. Pack extra clothes in a plastic bag for outings. Place soiled clothes in the plastic bag as needed.
  • Handle potty accidents without anger, shame, or punishment. At some point you will become frustrated. Try to suppress it, calmly clean-up the mess, and move-on.
  • Keep a portable or small potty seat in your car.
  • Avoid too much praise. Just as punishment can create negative feelings about the potty, over praising your child can have that effect. If overly praised when successful, they may feel like they are disappointing you when they are not successful. We don’t want negative feelings associated with the potty.
  • Try to approach potty training without a lot of emotion. Not too much excitement and no anger or disappointment. Overwhelming joy can complicate potty training just as punishing your child for accidents can.
  • Don’t force your child to use the potty. This can create intense power struggles which can lead to your child trying to regain control by withholding urine and/or bowel movements. If you see a power struggle emerging, back off. Limit your talk about the potty, or even stop talking about the potty. You may need to stop potty training and resume in a couple of weeks when your child shows interest again.


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