When Should My Child Be Potty Trained?

There should be no “should” in this question.  The better question is when is my child “ready” to be potty-trained? Consider these questions to figure out whether your child is ready.

  1. Is she getting signals and can she “hold it” long enough to get to the potty (usually not before 18 months)?
  2. Can he communicate what he is feeling and what he needs in order to learn this new behavior (usually not before two-years-old)?
  3. Is she mature enough to be cooperative and motivated by “perks” (“big kid” school, having shorter interruptions to their play (no diaper/clothes changes), or fun underwear to wear)?

In the 60’s, Lendon Smith, a TV pediatrician, gave this advice. “Tell two-year-olds that they are not allowed to use the toilet, and they will be breaking down the door to do so.” Another pediatrician recommended doing all potty training in the nice weather months and putting the potty outside where the kids play together so they can learn from each other how to use it.

Both of these ideas are meant to be funny, but the bit of truth here is that there is no magic way  to accomplish potty training or age at which it will be accomplished. Kids will do it in their own way and at their own pace – some quite easily and some needing more time and understanding.

One very important thing: Potty-training can be a big deal for a young child – stressful and challenging. By staying calm and not threatening or punishing, you can make it less stressful and less negative. If you find potty training isn’t working for either one of you, stop trying for another few months and then try again. You may have started too soon.  It can be hard to know when all the parts of readiness are in place. Your child has a unique growth pattern, and it is different from what you may have seen with other children.


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