Potty training: 5 signs your child is not ready

Like so many moments in my parenting journey I had a plan for when I would get potty training over and done by.

I wanted it done and dusted in the summer, so that any accidents were easier to dry in the warm weather and there were fewer layers of clothing to be soaked.

But here we are in December and we’re only just cracking it.

As parents do you, like me, find yourself worrying all of the time about whether your kids are hitting their milestones and at the right stage of development for their age?

I’ve found in my eagerness to move the children on to their next stage of development, I sometimes rush them before they’re ready. I’ve learned with potty training, there is no point in rushing before your child is ready. It’s way too messy a process.

Here are the signs your child is not yet ready for potty training.

1. They poo poo the potty

Listen to your child. Yes you’re the adult and what you say goes 99 per cent of the time. But if your child is screaming, crying and repeatedly saying “no” to the potty and the toilet, give them a break.

The last thing you want is for them to have a negative association with the potty. Give it some time and reintroduce the potty slowly. Have it in the bathroom or even in the living room, somewhere your child can see it, before you ask them to use it again.

Get them used to its physical presence in their life. Let them watch you wee (I know, that was your one moment of alone time until now). Do everything you can to normalise the process without making them do it.

Then suggest they use the potty one day, and see how they take that. Offer a reward if they do. If they are really upset by it again, pause for a week. Keep trying and they will get used to it, just don’t make it into a battlefield.

2. They have lots of wet nappies

If your child’s bladder capacity is ready then they should be able to hold their wee for about two to three hours. If they’re still going shorter bursts, maybe hold fire until their body is physically up to it.

3. They don’t tell you their nappy is dirty

If your child is totally happy sitting in their own filth without mentioning it, then they will struggle to communicate with you about when they need to go to the toilet. They need to recognise the sensation of needing to go to the toilet and what it feels like when they do.

If a child is telling you right after they’ve done a wee or a poo, they may be getting close to being ready. If they tell you they need a poo, this is a good sign that they’re ready to give potty training a go.

4. Multiple accidents

I don’t mean the odd wee on the carpet. I mean 10 wees on the carpet and zero in the potty in the space of a couple of hours.

Some children just don’t have the muscles to control their bladder yet. They also just might not be ready to take that mental leap yet.

The more you labour the point, the more frustrated you will become with all of the accidents.

Yes it is a messy process, but it shouldn’t be this messy. If you’re on the right track, at least half of the bowel movements and wees should be going in the potty after a couple of days.

If they’re not, take a big step back and try again later.

5. You’re about to go on holiday

Combining a major step like potty training with something out of your normal routine is a bad idea. It’s not going to help your stress levels and your child will not really be learning anything because they’re not in their usual environment, so they’re not comfortable enough to absorb the new information and way of doing things.

It’s ok to put it off for major events like holidays and weddings. Try to block out a week or two where you don’t have much on and will be staying close to home, this is the best time to tackle the potty.

Remember that it’s ok to take a step back and wait a week or more. It’s ok if your toddler is still in nappies for now.

Why labour the point and stress both of you out?

We’ve had a bit of a stop-start thing going on with our potty training journey but it finally seems to be working out. I’ll update with all of my tips for potty training soon.


5 signs your child is not ready for potty training

5 signs your toddler is not ready for potty training
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