Potty training – both knowing when to start and the actual getting it done part – was the unexpected winner of the “most challenging thing we’ve done as parents.” When it came to potty training, our very strong-willed son, we struggled, researched all the strategies, and in the end, found that it came down to one thing: waiting for him to be ready to potty train.
Some experts will tell you that there’s no such thing as a child being “ready.” They claim if you follow the right strategies, you can potty train a child before they even turn two. This can be true, but I think it depends on the child, as with everything parenting-related.
For our son, there was a definite need to wait. We stopped potty training after trying when he was just short of 3 years old. He’d seemed interested and “ready.” But two days in, we were both crying out of frustration, and he had decided that peeing on the floor was much more desirable. So we took a time out, and it turned out that stopping and waiting until he was genuinely ready was the best decision we could have made.
Signs You’re Potty Training Too Early
So how do you know when your child is ready to potty train? When is it too early? What are the signs? Let’s chat about it!
Sign #1: They Can’t Tell You When They Need to Use the Potty
We did a hybrid potty training method, using the popular “Oh Crap! Potty Training” method. According to the “Oh Crap” book, a significant potty training milestone is when your child can sense they have to go potty and can tell you or run to the potty on their own. If they’re too young to have control over their bladder and/or are too young to understand the sensation of needing to use the bathroom, your child is not going to be able to tell you — or themself — when they need to go.
This is a pretty crucial part of the training. If your toddler doesn’t quite understand the feeling of needing to go and isn’t able to communicate this to you in some way — verbally, through sign language, or something else — you probably see a lot of accidents and little to no progress over time. If this sounds familiar, it could be time to take a break.
Sign #2: They Still Have a Lot of Wet and Dirty Diapers
Remember how many diapers your baby went through with your newborn? It felt like a ton, and it probably was since most breastfed newborns have about six or more wet diapers in a day. As kids grow older and reach the toddler phase, their bladders get larger, and their pelvic muscles start to develop, giving them more control and the ability to hold it until they can get to the potty.
Since this bladder control is something that develops with age, it’s hard to fight this milestone. So if you notice that you’re still changing the same amount of diapers every day, it may be a sign that your kid’s bladder and muscles aren’t quite there yet.
Sign #3: They Have Zero Interest in the Potty
Interest in the potty was a big one for our son. He went from not caring one bit to practically trying to climb onto it himself. Your child’s interest and desire to use the potty can be important if they’re on the stronger-willed side. If they’re still acting as though the potty doesn’t exist or don’t show any interest in what you’re doing on the potty, it may be hard to get them excited about using it themselves.
Sign #4: They Couldn’t Care Less About Hanging Out in a Dirty Diaper
Having the consciousness and maturity to want privacy while using the bathroom isn’t something we thought about initially, but it’s an easy-to-spot indicator of potty training readiness. If your child is delighted to sit around in their stool, it’s probably going to be a bit more challenging to motivate them to stop what they’re doing and go to the bathroom or tell you before they go.
At some point, kids start to become conscious of what they’re doing and may begin to hide in the corner for privacy. They also may tell you they have a dirty diaper and even ask you to change it. If nothing along these lines is happening, it could be a little soon to start trying to get your toddler to stay still and sit on the potty.
Some will insist it’s not too early to potty train but trust your mom intuition and your child’s reaction. Unless you have to potty train for daycare or school, pushing your child out of diapers too early could be more stress than it’s worth for you and them. If you see some of these signs and a lot of resistance, pack everything up for a few weeks, and try again when you and your child are ready!