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While we all have different reasons to start potty training our kids, being able to identify the signs that your child is not ready for potty training can save you both a lot of frustration.
The potty training experience can be a huge nightmare for parents and kids alike, and the pressure associated with this period only makes things worse.
The first thing that every parent needs to understand is that toilet training depends on your child’s development.
In other words, if your child is not developmentally ready for potty training, no amount of training will make them start using the bathroom independently and comfortably.
Like in many other areas of childhood, a “one size fits all” approach doesn’t work when it comes to potty training. While it may be a smooth sailing experience for your first kid, it can be a daunting task for your second.
Issues such as way too frequent accidents, or kids pooping in their pants way after they are “supposed to be fully potty trained”, are not uncommon, and they can make you question whether your child is ready for potty training.
As a parent, it is important to recognize the signs that your child may not be ready for the potty training milestone.
The good news is that certain physical and behavioral signs can let you know whether they are ready for the potty training journey, and there is scientific evidence to support that.
One of the most important studies to analyze readiness and probability of toilet training success suggests that parents should check whether their kids are capable of:
· “understanding and following instructions”,
· “having a broader vocabulary”,
· “using potty-related words”,
· “participating and showing interest in TT”,
· “saying no”,
· “completing tasks and being proud of new skills”,
· “putting things where they belong”,
· “expressing a need and showing awareness to evacuate”,
· “evacuating on a potty, related to urge to evacuate”,
· “participating and showing interest in TT”,
· “wanting to be clean and indicating wet/dirty pants”, and
· “pulling clothes up and down related to TT”.
Drawing on these studies, here are a few signs to help you determine your child’s readiness.
The physical signs that your child is not ready for potty training
Two kids, exactly the same age, can be ready for potty training at very different times. This is because the age at which children reach the potty training milestone varies from one kid to another.
Luckily, there are several signs that can show you whether you need to wait, or if your child is ready to start this experience.
Here are four physical signs to watch out for:
1. Lack of bladder or bowel control: A child who is unable to control their bladder or bowel movements may not be physically ready for potty training. Way too frequent accidents are a sign that you need to wait a little longer before starting on the potty training journey.
2. Difficulty sitting or standing: If a child has difficulty sitting or standing for extended periods of time, they may not be physically able to use the potty independently.
3. Inability to communicate needs: For your child to be able to signal that they need to use the potty when you first start the potty training process, they need to be able to communicate clearly in their own way.
4. Poor motor skills: If your child has not developed the motor skills that they need to use the potty independently (pulling down pants, sitting down, standing up, etc.), they may not be physically ready for potty training.
A few behavioral signs can also show whether you should start potty training or wait a little longer.
The behavioral signs that show that you need to wait
Here are six behavioral signs that a child may not be ready for potty training:
1) Resistance or refusal: If your child is resistant or refuses to use the potty, it may be a sign that they are not emotionally ready for the process, and that it may not be a good time to start potty training.
2) Regression: Many parents who start potty training encounter their kids’ regression, meaning that while the kids initially appeared enthusiastic and ready to use the potty, they may suddenly begin to have frequent accidents or to refuse to the potty. This may be a sign that your child is not emotionally ready to continue with potty training.
3) If you’ve bought your child the funkiest potty out there but they show absolutely no interest in the potty or in potty training, this may be a sign that they are not ready for this experience.
4) Lack of awareness: If a child is not aware of their bodily functions or does not show signs of discomfort when they need to go, it may be a sign that they are not yet ready for potty training.
5) An inability to follow simple instructions is a sign that you need to wait a little longer. This experience requires them to do things such as sit on the potty when they need to go, or to communicate their needs, and the inability to do so may be a sign that you need to wait a little longer.
6) Potty-related stress or anxiety may be a sign that your child is not ready for potty training. It is important to stop potty-training if it causes anxiety as your child can develop harmful patterns such as holding poop which will eventually harm them.
So, now that you know the signs to watch out for, how can you help prepare your baby for this milestone?
How to help prepare your child for potty training
“Not being ready for potty training” does not mean that you should do nothing and wait for “the signs” before starting the toilet training process.
Even if you think that you child needs more time, you can start familiarizing them with the potty, the toilet, and with the skills that they need (pulling down pants, etc) so that when they are finally ready, it will be smooth sailing for everyone.
Here are four things that can help.
1) Reduce potty-related anxiety
Potty-related fear is a thing, and it is often related to children’s fear of the unknown. And then, let’s face it, when you’re a kid, toilets can look and sound really scary.
This means that before your child can embrace potty training, you need to reduce their potty-related fears and anxiety.
Simple tricks like placing the potty where they can see it, or encouraging them to sit on the potty without any pressure (no need to undress or use the potty), can help them come to see the potty as less threatening.
You can also try pretend play around the potty to help your child learn to view it as non-threatening.
2) Show your child the toilet is normal
The more your child learns to view the toilet as something normal, the easier the potty training experience will be.
You can also help them better understand the toilet, for example by having them flush, or by explaining how toilets work.
3) Read books about potty training
There are really great books about toilets and potty training that use age-appropriate language to explain to kids how toilets work.
4) Help your child develop or reinforce the skills that they will need to use the toilet
Using the bathroom requires some skills such as being able to pull down pants, sit steadily, and so on. Finding ways to help your child reinforce these skills can prepare them for potty training.
While toilet training can be a frustrating moment, being able to identify the signs that your child is not ready for potty training will save you both a lot of trouble.