How do I know when my child is ready to start potty training?
Potty training has some universal characteristics. Every parent knows that, sooner or later, it’s a hurdle in their child’s development that is going to have to be conquered. Plus, everyone they know, or randomly bump into on the street, is going to offer advice, all of it pretty much guaranteed to be different. In response to a parent’s question about how do you really know when a child is ready for potty training, Dr. Jacob Boney, owner and clinical director of Scottsdale Pediatric Behavioral Services, offers advice from a behavioral professional’s point of view.
According to Dr. Boney, most of the parents he consults with will offer some variation of “My child is too independent!” Or “My child is just too hardheaded to do anything they’re not ready to do.” Or “Shouldn’t they just do it in their own time?” While it is definitely easy to understand this type of mindset, the truth is that a child will use the potty when they have the skills to do so and when it is important to them.
One indicator that a child may be developmentally and biologically ready to potty train is when he starts seeming aware of the subject and begins talking about potty behavior. He may ask about wanting to go to the potty or make comments on parents’ potty behaviors, perhaps saying something like “Mommy you were in the bathroom. Were you going potty?”
Another possible indicator is wanting to sit on the toilet or spend time in the bathroom. They may be curious or want to play in there. They will just show more of a comfort level being in the bathroom. This is very normal behavior for young children.
Some children may request your help with a diaper so that they to go to the potty, but do not be surprised if others seem more comfortable using the diaper. For these children, once they use the diaper and get it changed, they will be happy, but when you put them on the toilet they will seem anxious or resistant. They simply are not quite ready. Trying waiting a month or so before trying to initiating potty training and see if their resistance has lessened.
Predictability is also an indicator. Parents observing that a child has developed the control to be consistent in when they void or urinate is a good sign that they are ready for potty training, as is their willingness to express when they need to use the bathroom.
The one seemingly obvious indicator that is missing is age. People like to talk about how young their child was when they could stop buying diapers and offer relentless advice about what age is the best for initiating potty training. Dr. Boney and other professionals agree that age is actually one of the least important variables when it comes to potty training and he does not include it at all in listing the basic prerequisites.
Three Behavioral Prerequisites for Potty Training
- They independently go to and sit on the toilet or potty chair
- They are able to sit for up to five minutes
- They can take off and put back on their own clothing
If a child has these three basic prerequisites, they have the behavioral skills to potty train. There is a systematic process that can be used to motivate a child to use the toilet and help guarantee success in a timely manner. Books and videos are available for parents to refer to when they believe their child is ready. If there is any concern, or, if a parent is on the fence about any aspect of this process, then consulting a professional is always a good choice.
Do you have a question about potty training? Or another behavioral issue? We really want to be your go-to source for behavioral information and welcome your questions at [email protected]!
Utilizing evidence-based practices and the scientific principles of Applied Behavior Analysis, the Scottsdale Pediatric Behavioral Services team provides assessment, treatment, and consultation for potty training behaviors, as well as a wide-range of other issues. We work with a variety of children, families, schools, hospitals, mental health agencies, and local community organizations to help children to increase their skills, decrease their problem behaviors and engage more fully with their environment. If you would like more information about the services offered by our team, please feel free to contact us by phone at 480.410.4040, email us at [email protected], or click here for our convenient online form.