At last! The day every parent dreams of–the day you can throw out the diapers.
But how do you know when to begin? The one universal truth is that the child has to be ready. If you try to potty train before your children are ready, you will frustrate yourself and irritate your children. You will not succeed.
Although the age at which children are ready to start potty training varies quite a bit, it generally ranges between eighteen months and three years.
There are several developmental milestones that need to be present for potty training to be a success:
- Children need to be able to sense the urge and understand that that feeling of fullness means that they have to urinate or poop.
- They have to be able to communicate to you that they need to go.
- They have to want to go in the potty: they want to do it themselves or want to wear big kid underwear. Toddlers around two want to be like the big kids and copy their behavior. Their budding independence makes them want to gain control of their potty issues.
- They need to be able to handle the clothing. You can make this easier by not putting them in difficult clothing while you are trying to train them. No onesies or overalls please! Sadly, I made that mistake myself. Very big tears because mommy couldn’t undo the onesie snaps in time. Worst mommy ever.
- They have to dislike having a dirty diaper. They will let you know they dislike it by telling you when it is dirty and wanting it off immediately. And maybe screaming.
- They have to want your approval and the reward they will receive for doing well.
- Physically, you will notice that their diapers stay dry for longer periods of time—about two hours—and perhaps they wake up from naps dry. Their bowel movements become more predictable, usually occurring after meals.
All these necessary abilities are acquired with advances in your children’s development, and every child reaches them at different ages. Your children will train when they are ready, not when the daycare worker says they should or Grandma says you did.
The average eighteen-month-old is just starting to have some control of their sphincters. They are also beginning to be independent. By two, they are quite good at saying, “I can do it myself.” They are interested in the potty and in copying older children. Second children will actually train earlier than first ones because they copy their bigger siblings.
By thirty months, they are very aware of gender and become interested in copying people of their own sex. By three, they are interested in rewards—and intensely interested in your approval. All these traits will inspire them to use the potty.
If they train later, some negative issues come into play: peer pressure kicks in, and they can develop self-esteem issues. It’s the pits being the biggest kid in the baby class because you’re still in diapers when all of your friends have moved on. Also, kids are aware of parental frustration and internalize it, no matter how hard you try to hide it.
If they are ready and you have the next three months clear—there are no stresses coming up, such as a new baby, a move, a death, or a divorce—you are ready to try.
So come back next week for Potty Training: How To Set Kids Up for Success!