Did you just start potty training your toddler and are now worried you started too soon?
Has the potty been out for a week but your toddler has yet to take a single meaningful visit to it?
We begin potty training full of enthusiasm to finally ditch the nappies and convinced that if we don’t get them on the toilet by age three then we’re getting it wrong as a parent.
But the thing is, every single child is different. You could slog it out for three months as your carpet becomes dotted with patches of wee and poop, or you could get this done in just a few days, because you waited until your child was actually ready.
There are several key signs that your toddler is just not ready to begin potty training. It is a milestone that you just should not force, not least because of the unnecessary stress it will place on you.
Like so many moments in my parenting journey I had a plan for when I would get potty training my toddler 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.
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But then there we were in December and we were 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 (this post contains affiliate links, this means I get a small slice of the sale but it costs you no more to purchase the product).
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.
Ignore wet nappies overnight, as many kids will still need to wear pull-ups to bed after they have successfully potty trained.
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.
It’s all about being able to communicate, in both ways, about what your child should do and when they need to do it.
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?
So what do I need for potty training
Once these issues are out of the way, you’ll want to be prepared with a few items to get you started on the potty training journey! Here’s a list of items I had when we embarked on potty training once my child was ready:
Underwear (preferably let your child choose it or get some with their favourite TV character on so that they are excited to wear them)
A reward chart (this is really useful when your child is a little stubborn)
Toilet step (helps your toddler get on and off the toilet by themselves)
Car seat pad (to protect your child’s car seat in case of accidents. I recommend putting your child in a nappy for long journeys of more than an hour)
If you would like tips for potty training, including the easy method that worked for me, check out these posts: