Is your kid ready to potty train?

Experts say potty training will usually go pretty smoothly if your kid is truly ready to do it. Here’s how to tell.
A little boy sitting on a potty next to his stuffed lamb, also on a potty

Photo: @moab_ryker via Instagram

Most kids are ready to potty train when they’re between 18 and 32 months old. But regardless of age, you should be watching for signs of readiness, says Elizabeth Pantley, author of The No-Cry Potty Training Solution. Here’s how to know if it’s time to ditch the diapers—and what to do next.

Look for signs of readiness
Your toddler is ready if she:

  • Stays dry for an hour or two at a time.
  • Can do some things on her own, like getting her clothes on and off.
  • Has shown some interest in the potty and will sit on it for a few minutes.
  • Anticipates the need to go.

Start the convo
Introducing the idea of using the toilet well before training begins can help the process go more smoothly, says Pantley. It might sound young, but start preparing your kid at around one year of age.

  • Talk about diaper changes and explain relevant words, such as dry, wet and wipe. Always use the same words for pee and poo.
  • Put a potty in plain view, and let him play with it.
  • Let him observe you emptying a diaper into the toilet and using the toilet. Explain what you’re doing and let him flush.

Get them into it
Some kids are eager to leave diapers behind. Others have no interest or may be hesitant. Here’s how to pique your child’s interest.

Take the plunge!
How you go about training depends on the method you choose. But there are some general guidelines.

  • Tell, don’t ask! If he looks like he needs to go, say, “Let’s go to the potty.”
  • Kids should be relaxed for a bowel movement, says Pantley. Read, sing or chat while he’s on the potty.
  • Praise successes and clean up accidents calmly, without scolding.

A version of this article appeared in our Summer 2016 issue, titled “Ready or not”, pg. 62.

Read more:
Potty training: Setbacks and challenges
5 potty training problems (and how to solve them!)
How I finally got my five-year-old to stop wetting the bed

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