The biggest question for most parents thinking about potty training is "when is my child ready?"

I wanted to share a couple of studies that have been done regarding the "right" age to potty train. I've thrown these out there at various points but they warrant their own topic here.

This is from the Journal of Pediatric Urology.

And this is from Parenting Science.

What I particularly like about the latter article is that the author clearly separated out age from method.

"Early potty training got a bad reputation because it was once associated with bad training methods".

I don't think there's an exact "right" age but I do think there are windows of opportunity. I think largely what's happened is "ready" and "capable" got confused somewhere along the way. I believe this happened when Pampers started lining the pockets of some very vocal pediatricians and they mucked things up.

I usually ask parents what "ready" looks like. Most people think it's some version of the child pretty much asking to use the toilet on their own. This can happen but not usually. For me, ready means capable. And being a mom, I know we all underestimate our children's capabilities. To nudge us the parents along, there are pretty standard age markers for things. I was by far not the only mom crying on the first day of Kindergarten. None of us thought our babies were ready for the cold world of school. They all were and are thriving.

I often use the example of my son learning to tie his shoes. He never really asked me if he could learn this. Velcro has certainly made my life easier. And yet, I know tying shoes happens sometime around Kindergarten and I think it's a pretty important life skill. I made a concerted effort to only buy tie shoes. I knew if I bought Velcro, I'd cave in a rush in the morning. Life will always happen if we don't make an effort to change something.  I set aside 30 minutes every morning to teach this. There was a fair amount of frustration; the worst was me feeling inept that I was not being a good teacher, although I've been tying shoes for years. And there was a fair amount of patience required for both of us. But after 6 days of consistently attending to this...voila, my son can tie his own shoes. Did he show signs of readiness? No, not really.  I used an outside age marker and my Spidey Mom Sense that he was CAPABLE.

In my experience, kids are capable and may even show outward signs of readiness. But I think in our very busy lives, these subtle signs go undetected. I also think most people think the desire and willingness to sit and go will increase with time. So if he asks to go on the potty once in a while, next month he should be asking to go everyday. Again, just my experience but I've found if you don't seize that window, the kid just moves on and forgets about it.

I also know that individuation begins at around 3. This is when kids learn they are different and separate from you. They push against you, testing limits. This is typically the age of ye ole' power struggle. I just don't think it's the easiest thing in the world to add pting to individuation. Remember: this is probably the first and only time your child actually, literally has the power.

So, rather than asking, "Is she ready?" The better question to ask is, "Is she capable?"