Oh, boy. This is the big daddy of potty training soundbites.
“I’m just going to wait till he’s ready.” I’m sure you’ve heard and you may even be saying it.
Whenever a parent tells me this, I always ask, “Okay! Cool. What does ready look like to you?”
And often I’m met with a blank stare. Sometimes parents will say they are waiting for interest from the child. That’s cool. But most kids aren’t interested in POTTY TRAINING. Most kids are interested in the toilet, the toilet paper, flushing, AND MOST IMPORTANTLY in mimicking the behavior of the grown ups in their life. This is the interest you are looking for.
THIS MOST OFTEN DOESN’T PRESENT as “Hey mom! I’d like to sit on the toilet like you! Can you take this diaper off and let’s get down to this potty training thing!” It presents in your child wanting to be with you in the bathroom, in wanting to actually see you pee and poop, in helping you flush. Again, this is the interest you are looking for.
Maybe your child will even ask to pee once in a while. Or maybe they sit and pee right before bath time or nap time.
HERE’S THE TRIPPY PART: most parents assume this interest will BUILD. The child is interested in the bathroom today so by next month, their interest will progress to asking to USE the toilet. The child asks to pee on the potty once in a while, so by next month, they’ll ask to go all the time. THIS INTEREST DOESN’T NECESSARILY BUILD. And in fact, if YOU the parent, don’t deem it important, the child will stop deeming it important.
In other words, they’ll move on to other interests. They will developmentally move on. And then your window of opportunity will be gone. It won’t be impossible to potty train. But it will get harder. Capitalizing on this interest in key but KNOWING what that interest actually looks like is even more key.
It’s fine to “wait till they’re ready” as long as you know what ready looks like.
I regularly get 5 year old clients who were never “ready”. They showed no interest or the interest was so slight, the parents missed it. Often the parents were waiting for a major cue from the child. My experience is very few children show an actual interest in potty training without the parents leading the process. To wait for a child to ask to potty train is inviting trouble. Potty training 5 year olds is hard. The diaper is a 5 year habit that’s hard to break.
Often we are just too busy to even catch the cues of interest. Or parents are petrified of potty training. In a recent workshop, a mom described a child who was indeed, ASKING to potty train. This mom was like, “Nope. I don’t want to deal with any accidents. I’m not potty training him right now.” Again, if YOU don’t attend to this, your child will move on, making that much harder later on.
Listen. I have no vested interest in when you potty train your child. I am an “expert” only because I’ve done this thousands of times with thousands of families. I see big numbers and big trends. I don’t think my job is to shove anything down your throats about potty training. My job is to help you be very realistic and let you know where the potential pitfalls are. You are going to have to teach this skill in some manner at some point. You are going to have to be vigilant about it for a short time, no matter what the age of your child.
I totally get that this phrase is coming from the heart. I get that parents are wanting to bow out of the “childhood race” that seems so prevalent these days. I totally get that parents don’t want to push their children to be performing monkeys. Potty training shouldn’t be about a race. It’s not about doing it first or doing it best or easiest. It’s just another developmental milestone. As such, it has a golden window of opportunity. My advice is to snag that window.
Again and again and again, I get private clients with potty training nightmares. All because they were waiting till the child was ready and that day never seemed to come.
Next up; there’s an actual history to the phrase, “Wait till they’re ready”.