Is your child ready for potty training?

Potty Training

Do you have questions about when the best time to start potty training? Me too!

My son is now 38 months (but who’s counting?) and he’s not fully potty trained. We started the process when he was 18 months old but soon realized he just wasn’t ready to fully commit. As if that is even possible at that age. It’s tough as a parent to understand what motivates our little people.

For some reason he’s freaked out about going poo in the toilet some days but on other days it’s a breeze. It’s a mystery to him and me and his dad. Sometimes he gets so upset that we have to put a diaper on him and even then he doesn’t want to use it.

There’s nothing more heart wrenching than knowing he has to ‘get his job done’ as he says and watching him walk around with his butt cheeks clenched so tightly that he can hardly manage to walk.

I know I am not alone in this and that it can be stressful trying to figure it out for ourselves when we’ve got a million other things to do. And I know that every kid is different which is why I wanted to have this topic for our Mama’s Night Out on November 14, 2013.

But I digress. Here’s what our expert, Carli Sussman, has to say on the subject of potty training.


Three signs that matter – and four that don’t.


“Wait until he’s ready,” has become the mantra of modern day potty training.

Just one generation ago, most children in North America were potty trained between 1.5 to 2.5 years of age. Now, many parents are delaying potty training to age three or beyond.

What gives?

Are today’s children less capable of potty training than their parents were? Are they developing at a slower pace? We all know that this couldn’t possibly be the case.

So how do you know when your child is ready? What does readiness really look like?

  1. Your child is 18 months or older. The Canadian Pediatric Society states that physiological readiness for potty training – the ability to control bladder and bowel function – occurs around 18 months of age. In fact, waiting too long to begin potty training may be detrimental to the development of long-term control. A study published in the December 2009 issue of the Journal of Pediatric Urology concluded that children should begin potty training prior to the age of 32 months in order to reduce the risk of urge incontinence.
  1. Your child can recognize a sensation such as hunger, thirst or tiredness, and convey it to you in words or gestures. This shows that your child possesses sufficient bodily awareness and communication skills to recognize and express the need to pee or poop. If your child already shows awareness of bladder or bowel function – for example, by hiding in a corner to poop, or grabbing her diaper area when she’s peeing – she is definitely ready for potty training.
  1. Your child can learn new skills through repetition, and follow short sequences of instructions. Can your child sing a few lines of a song, or fill in words at the end of a verse? Can he put his toys back into his toy box? Can he follow a sequence of instructions, such as “Go find your shoes and bring them to me”? If so, then he is capable of learning – through repetition – the necessary steps to using the potty.

And then there are the signs of readiness that don’t matter. If your child displays any of these signs, consider them a bonus; but don’t delay potty training in their absence. Some children will never show these signs!

  1. Your child can pull her pants up and down by herself. You may have heard that if your child cannot use the potty completely independently, that it is you who will be potty trained, and not her. Think about this for a moment. Do you wait until your child can feed herself independently before you offer solid foods? Do you prevent your child from taking her first steps until you know that she can make her way across the room without your help? Of course not! Your job as a parent is to scaffold – to provide the necessary assistance while your child learns a new skill, and then gradually remove your support and allow your child to take on more and more responsibility. You already pull your child’s pants up and down when you change her diapers – is it really a huge effort to help her with her pants when she’s learning to use the potty?
  1. Your child has dry diapers for periods of two hours or more. Many children do not develop the habit of holding their urine until they are required to do so by the removal of diapers. Frequent wet diapers are not necessarily a sign that your child isn’t ready to potty train.
  1. Your child dislikes wearing a wet or soiled diaper. This has more to do with your child’s unique personality than his readiness for potty training. Some children despise being dirty, while others are perfectly comfortable sitting in their own feces and urine for as long as you will allow. Don’t wait for your child to become repulsed by wet or dirty diapers – it may never happen.
  1. Your child shows interest in the potty – meaning she shows interest in watching you use it, or in using it herself. Wanting to flush the toilet or unroll the toilet paper is not a sign of potty readiness; it’s a sign of being a toddler. If your child shows genuine interest in the potty, consider yourself lucky. If she doesn’t, that’s okay – you simply can’t expect her to show interest in something that isn’t yet relevant to her. The potty will become interesting once she is required to use it.

Carli Sussman is a Sleep & Parenting Consultant who specializes in helping families get the sleep they need. She provides one-on-one sleep coaching, potty training and nutrition consulting services to families in the Vancouver area. Carli is a well-known parenting, fitness and nutrition blogger whose blog, One Fit Mom, was rated as one of the top 20 pregnancy blogs of 2012 by

For more information on sleep and parenting services, please visit

You May Also Like