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Is My Child Ready to Potty Train?

Updated on May 21, 2011
My girl is two and (almost) ready to go (potty)!
My girl is two and (almost) ready to go (potty)!

Help for Potty Training Parents

I have a two-year-old daughter. She’s almost two-and-a-half now, and she’s not potty trained yet. Her daycare wants her potty trained by the time she’s three, so I’m trying my best to get her ready. I’ve got the potty chair, the stickers, and the M&Ms. I’m all ready to go. But I don’t think she is.

You see, a short time ago, she started pulling down her pants and taking off her own diaper, and I thought, ‘Okay. This is it. She’s ready for potty training.’ So I got out the chair. She knew what it was immediately because it looks just like a real toilet (except real toilets don’t have a sticker dispenser).

I started to pull her pants down and put her on the potty. She didn’t want any part of it! I thought for sure I had completely misread the signs that she was ready for getting out of diapers, so I sought help from online forums and books - anything I could get my hands on to tell me whether or not my child is indeed ready for potty training.

Elizabeth Pantley’s book, The No-Cry Potty Training Solution, is one of the best I’ve found so far in my search for knowledge. It’s full of helpful information on deciding when and how to start potty training. What are the signs that a toddler is ready to potty train? Here are a few and how they relate to my own experiences as a potty training mom.

1: Your child tells you when he/she has a wet or dirty diaper.

My daughter doesn’t always do this. She always comes to me and asks to have her diaper changed in the mornings, but she doesn’t always let me know at other times of the day. Sometimes hours go by, and I know she must have done something in her diaper, but she doesn’t tell me when I ask her, and I have to check for myself.

2: Your child goes off some place private to have a bowel movement.

My daughter has just recently started doing this. She will, without warning, leave the room. And if my husband or I try to follow her, she throws a fit and shouts at us to go away. If she can’t leave the room, she will go off in a corner by herself.

Safety 1St Smart Rewards Potty
Safety 1St Smart Rewards Potty

This is the potty we chose for our girl. It was really highly rated, and I love the real flushing sound and the sticker reward system!


3: Your child can listen well and follow instructions.

This is an important one because helping your child learn to use the potty requires a lot of instruction (Go to the bathroom, pull down your pants, sit on the pot, wipe off, flush, wash your hands). If a child doesn’t listen to you and/or doesn’t understand what you are saying, you will have major potty training problems.

My daughter listens well when she wants to, and she follows direction well (again - when she wants to). I just have to learn to convince her that she really does want to use the potty!

4: Your child can take off and put on his/her clothes by him/herself.

I know I, as an adult, don’t really think about all the technical skills that are involved in going to the bathroom. At least I didn’t until I started trying to get my little girl to use the potty herself. It really is a complicated process, when you get right down to it.

My daughter has just recently begun to put her clothes on herself (although she still tries to put her pants on her head and her shirts on her legs, for some unknown reason). She can easily pull her pants down by herself (at least the stretchy elastic-waist ones). She has more trouble getting them up by herself, though (her bottom always gets in her way in back, and she never can seem to get past it).

5: Your child is at least 24 months old

I know there are some people who have their children potty trained by the time they’re 18 months old (usually these are second/third/fourth children who see their older siblings using the potty and want to imitate them). I imagine my younger daughter (almost exactly two years younger than my oldest) will be potty trained much sooner just because she sees her older sister using the potty. She’s already trying to hold her bottle herself, and she’s only three months old!

Pediatricians recommend waiting until your child is at least 24 months old - just because of the extra cognitive and physical/motor development. Younger children may have trouble understanding commands and/or manipulating their clothes by themselves.

The No-Cry Potty Training Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Child Say Good-Bye to Diapers (Pantley)
The No-Cry Potty Training Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Child Say Good-Bye to Diapers (Pantley)

Clueless about where to start when you're potty training. Read this book. It's got great tips for parents who are new to the potty training experience.


Your child may be ready before you are

One important thing Pantley mentions in her book is the fact that parent readiness to potty train can seriously influence the child’s potty training readiness. If you are not ready, your child won’t be.

Am I ready to potty train my daughter? In a way, yes, but also no. I want her to be independent and grow and develop the way she’s supposed to. On the other hand, I love changing her diaper. Really, I do. I love that time of being with her and helping her, and I will miss it. I guess I just love being needed. Still, I’m excited about being able to help her through this potty training experience, and I want her to succeed more than anything!

The Final Verdict

Are we ready for potty training? I think not, but we're getting there!

My daughter used her potty chair for the very first time last night. I was so proud!

I think we both still have some growing to do before we will be cognitively ready to go through with the potty training process. It won’t be long now, though! And I imagine that once we actually officially start, it won’t take her long at all to get the hang of things.


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    • profile image

      Brandy 4 years ago

      I also had trouble knowing exactly when they were ready and the signs they showed until I read this book

    • workingmomwm profile image

      Mishael Austin Witty 5 years ago from Kentucky, USA

      Best wishes, DIYmommy, for a smooth potty transition!

      We're still working with my four-year-old (although she does have some dry days in her "big girl panties"). Patience is definitely needed in situations like these. :-)

      And now my two-year-old is starting to show signs of readiness, so here we go again!

    • DIYmommy profile image

      Julie 5 years ago

      With a 3 month old newborn now at home, I know that potty training is just around the corner. This is our first child, so it'll be our first time potty training. Nursing with him went fairly smoothly, but I'm always anxious that, when the time comes to potty training, that it won't go as smoothly as nursing him. Thank you for the great hub here!

    • LauraGT profile image

      LauraGT 5 years ago from MA

      Hi workingmomwm. Sorry you're still struggling. But, I think this is something that is very important to be child-led (with lots of positive reinforcement and encouragement from mom and dad). Unfortunately, this is not something you can "make" your child do and trying to force it often just makes it worse. I don't think it is at all unusual for 3 year olds to still be potty training, and many 5-6 year old still have lots of regression/trouble, so you are not alone! It will happen! It does seem like different things work for different kids. Sticker charts, tattoos, chocolate, a big "prize" at the end of the day (for my son it was the promise of a scooter if he stayed dry all day!) I think peer pressure can work wonders too, and lots of opportunities (but not pressure!) I know it's so easy to get stressed about this, and I feel your pain (most parents do). Hang in there!

    • workingmomwm profile image

      Mishael Austin Witty 5 years ago from Kentucky, USA

      Hi, Laura. Thanks.

      Alas, the progress we were making (she even did #2 in the potty once) quickly disintegrated. Now she's 3, and she REFUSES to use the potty. Seriously. I don't want to force her and traumatize her, but I also don't want to have arguments with her about using the potty.

      Recently, though, she's shown some interest in it again, so maybe ...

    • LauraGT profile image

      LauraGT 5 years ago from MA

      My daughter is almost 3 and very much in an in between stage. But, after struggling with my son, I've decided to just let my daughter take the lead. I much rather wait until she really is ready and will potty train quickly than go by any artificial measure, like age, to determine "readiness." I hope you've had success!

    • workingmomwm profile image

      Mishael Austin Witty 6 years ago from Kentucky, USA

      Hi, Danette. Thanks! We are definitely taking it slow!

    • Danette Watt profile image

      Danette Watt 6 years ago from Illinois

      Although my own kids are long past this stage, I remember going through some of the same uncertainty of 'is he ready or not?'

      Take it slow and follow her lead. When she's ready, she'll do it and by then it will be a breeze because she will be so ready.

      Good luck! And your daughter is adorable!