If you’ve ever wondered when to start potty training, you’re in the right spot! I’m a veteran preschool teacher who has seen almost everything when it comes to potty training and changed more diapers than you might even believe.
Sometimes it feels like our parenting is judged on the basis of whether or not our kid is potty trained. We compare notes. Whose kid trained earliest? Fastest? Had the least accidents?
Friends, that’s a lot of pressure! On ourselves and especially on our kids. And possibly on your child’s teacher.
Jumping into potty training at the wrong time can backfire and even prolong the process. Anyone else been there? There are enough power struggles in the early years. You certainly don’t need to increase it with more stress and frustration over poor timing with potty training. There’s an easier answer!
The good news is that I’ve done the hard work and mopped up so many potty training accidents that I can’t even count so that I can share what actually works. And you can avoid what doesn’t!
When To Start Potty Training
Do you ever wonder, “When should I start? How do I do this right?” Or are you tired of purchasing diapers and ready to declare, “Now’s the time!?” You may even be tempted to use the 3-day-method you hear people talk about.
Unfortunately, if you start at the wrong time, you and your child will be on the fast track to feeling frustrated and defeated. In my potty training course, Peaceful Potty Training, I teach parents and teachers that understanding a child’s signs and signals is the path to potty training easily.
It’s potty training without all the power struggles and regressions. A process that took me over 10 years to figure out while teaching class after class full of toddlers and preschoolers.
But how do you really know when to start potty training?
Signs that it’s the Right Time to Start Potty Training
There are four main areas of a child’s development that all are a piece of the puzzle to potty training:
- Mental or Cognitive Awareness
- Physical Independence
- Inner Body Signals
- Feelings and Emotions
A number of well-intentioned people give potty training advice that works for some children but ends up leaving the rest of the parenting world feeling like a failure.
I cringe when I hear someone saying to go cold turkey and take the diaper away right away. There is a very specific time that this can be done to be successful. When we take the diaper away too early or without a smooth transition, it can lead to unhealthy holding or other complications.
Potty Training Readiness
A major indicator of potty training readiness is your child’s interest in using the toilet. You can always help this along by reading books about the potty together, or singing fun potty training songs.
Incorporate talking about the potty into your everyday life. Thinking aloud is a great parenting strategy that can work well. Before you go to the bathroom, you could say, “Oh, I feel like my body is telling me to go to the potty. I better go.”
Another great sign for readiness is when your child stays dry for a couple of hours or more and lets you know when he or she has a wet diaper. You may even notice that they start to hide when using their diaper. This shows a level of physical awareness in this area.
Pay attention to how well your child is able to follow multi-step directions. This is often overlooked but very important too. It becomes automatic over time, but there are a lot of steps to think about the first few times you use the potty!
Another important indicator is your child’s coordination. Is he or she able to remove clothing independently to go sit on the toilet? Potty training is a lot more complicated if a child can’t pull down their own pants!
Or does he or she notice when she has to use the bathroom?
It is really much more about a child’s abilities, rather than their age, when it comes to the decision of when to start potty training.
Emotional Readiness for Potty Training
Physical abilities are not the only thing to keep in mind when you determine your child’s readiness for potty training. To make this process a positive experience, you also want to consider your child’s emotions. This will help you to achieve potty training without tantrums.
How does he or she feel about going to the bathroom? Is she scared of the toilet, or worried about sitting on it? How does she feel about something leaving her body and going down a hole where it disappears? What may seem silly to us is a very different experience for a young child!
Beyond that, how confident is your child in general? Will he or she be comfortable to ask to use the bathroom and maybe even use it without adult support? Once you potty train, you don’t want to flip flop between using a diaper and using a potty, so these are all things to keep in mind.
Other Considerations for When to Start Potty Training
When you consider all these factors, you can probably see why some children begin using the toilet as toddlers and some as preschoolers. Children with sensory issues, special needs, or developmental delays might begin even later.
If you have a toddler who is showing lots of curiosity and interest in the toilet, absolutely follow their lead and start having them take off their wet diapers. Talk them through what you do when you change their diaper. Let them become part of the process, as this will help them gain more independence and self-help skills.
As a veteran preschool teacher, I want to assure you that it’s completely normal for children to potty train during the preschool years, even though many preschools require potty training as a prerequisite.
This school rule is actually not rooted in developmental factors, but simply in the fact that preschools are typically not licensed to change diapers because they don’t have the right setup and staffing.
It is usually a more simple and quicker process to potty train a preschooler than it is to potty train a toddler. I love potty training three-year-olds, and it always amazes me how quickly they progress through the potty training skills path I teach in my “Peaceful Potty Training” course.
There is also something very special for your child in Peaceful Potty Training. It is my printable potty training book and visual schedule with pictures that show children when to go to the bathroom to make it exciting and inviting. This is what I made for my own daughter when she was potty training, and I’ve heard from so many parents, teachers, caregivers, and even therapists who love it just as much as we have. You can also grab it from our store.
Potty training doesn’t have to be frustrating! When you follow the “Peaceful Potty Training” methodology, you will be surprised how stress free this process can be.
So if you are ready to ditch the diapers without pulling your hair out, then follow this method developed by a veteran preschool teacher who has potty trained not only her own three children, but hundreds of others!