771153_40565523Is your child ready to use the potty? More importantly, are you ready? Successful training not only depends on the physical and emotional readiness of your child but also on whether you and your toddler are committed to the process. Physically your child may have the ability to use the potty sometime after 18 months of age; however, children are usually ready physically before they are emotionally. Most children seem to be ready to put it all together between 22 and 30 months of age. Some children may resist until a bit older. Toilet training can be a long and frustrating experience for all concerned if you start before your child is ready.
When is the right time to start? If your toddler is facing a change such as a new sibling, a new school, or any major disruption in routine, it may not the best time to start. Since potty training requires some time and patience from the parent, start at a time when you can devote energy to the process and not at a time when you are facing new challenges. The best time to start is when your child shows the appropriate physical, behavioral, and cognitive signs.
What are the signs of readiness? Since toilet training is a complex developmental milestone, your child needs to show physical, behavioral, and cognitive signs of readiness. Physical clues that your child has the bowel and bladder control needed for success include having a bowel movement at about the same time each day, not having a bowel movement during the night, and remaining dry after a nap or for longer than 2 hours. Other physical skills required are the ability to walk and run steadily and the capability to remove clothing. Behavioral signs needed include being able to sit quietly for 1-2 minutes, disliking the feeling of being wet or dirty, communicating the need to go to the bathroom, taking pride in accomplishments, and not resisting the learning of new behaviors. If your child understands the physical signs that means he has to go before it happens, can follow instructions, understands the value of putting things where they belong, has words for urine and stool, he/she has the cognitive skills need. Even if your child has most of these signs of readiness to start potty training, success is still dependent upon appropriate emotional growth.
How is toilet training impacted by emotional factors? As a child develops from infancy to the toddler period, emotional growth occurs. Understanding the emotional characteristics of a toddler influences your success in potty training. First, your child has a strong need for self-mastery. Wanting to be in control of one’s own body and environment is a powerful desire common to most toddlers. You encountered this each time your toddler declares, “I can do it!” This type of mentality can motivate your child but can have the opposite effect if toilet training is forced. Another emotional factor typical in this aged child is resistance. This stems from the strong desire to control one’s environment. When stressed a child will use resistance as a way to exert tighter control on his/her environment. Parents should recognize this characteristic and back off from toilet training if the child shows signs of resistance. Although self-mastery and resistance may interfere with your child’s toilet training, the great desire for approval and social awareness are two emotional growth factors in toddlers that motivate for success. Potty training is the first complex milestone that requires a consistent effort over time to master the ability. Your child’s need for approval is essential for success. If this emotion is not yet present, your child will not be able to sustain the effort need without your ability to use this way of motivation. The children who have the strong need to please their parents are usually quicker to toilet train. Children who do not seem to care often are the last to get out of their diapers. Social awareness is the other emotion that motives the child. The urge to imitate others may make the toddler want to be a “big boy” or “big girl.” Practically, this may be why younger siblings seem to train earlier.
Who knows when it is time to potty? There are many factors that impact when your child is ready to become toilet trained. Every child is different. As the parent, you know your child better than anyone else. Once your child demonstrates most of the physical, behavioral, cognitive, and emotional factors that impact potty training, then it is time to start. If your child is the last kid on the block to toilet train, you have not failed as a parent. The “bottom” line is that your child has the final word on when he/she “pees in a pot.”
The next article will discuss the details of toilet training.