The biggest question when thinking about potty training is by far, WHEN.
When to start? This is often a hot button that gets parents really riled up. So my goal today is to pull this apart, just to get some clarity.
While no one seems to agree on an exact age, it’s fairly unanimous that waiting until after 32 months can potentially cause bladder control problems. While studies are fine, I’d like to bring my own experience as a professional potty trainer who’s worked with thousands of parents to the table.
THE OLE “WAIT TILL THEY’RE READY”
The biggest catch phrase that warrants scrutiny is “Wait Till They’re Ready”. This phrase came about due to earlier practices of abusive potty training. The 1940s saw parents strapping 9 month old children down in order to produce and using soap suppositories to get poops on command. Um, yeah. So “wait till they’re ready” became the thing to do, meaning wait till they are capable.
Now developmentally capable, in my practice, usually comes within 20-30 months. I say usually because we are talking about human beings not machines, so nothing is law. There usually is a window of opportunity within these months.
Right around 36 months is when individuation begins. This is the psychological process in which your child realizes she’s different and separate from you. This is marked by pushing against you and limit testing. In my experience, this is when potty training nightmares usually occur. This is the age of power struggles. And this will be the first time your child literally holds the power.
WHAT DOES READY LOOK LIKE, ANYWAY???
When parents come to me, usually this phrase, Wait Till They’re Ready comes up. And I ask, “Okay. What does ready LOOK like to you?” And this is when I get a blank stare. “Um..I.. well, I guess she’ll tell us.” Certainly, some children will up and tell you but this is rare. I find the signs of readiness are subtle.
Interest in the toilet MAY be a sign of readiness. Staying dry during nap and bedtime MAY be a sign of readiness. However, I look more towards other markers.
- Is your child CAPABLE of potty training?
- Well, can your child ask for food when hungry?
- Can your child ask for fluids when thirsty?
- Can your child throw a tantrum? Don’t laugh.
All of these are markers that you child is aware of a FEELING and can ACT upon those feelings.
THAT CHILD IS READY TO POTTY TRAIN.
There are as many potty training stories as there are children. My goal here is not to say a parent is wrong or right, no matter when they start potty training. My goal here is to shed some light on a murky topic. Waiting Till They Are Ready has brought much more bad than good to my practice. I’ve worked with kids who’ve gotten kicked out of Kindergarten for not being potty trained properly. I’ve worked with chronic bed-wetters and kids who aren’t allowed to move up into preschool. That’s just yucky.
Some kids may never be “ready” but like any other transition, it’s up to us, the parents to guide them and teach them. I find this teaching and guiding goes much smoother when we use that developmental window of opportunity.