The Best Potty Training Tip in the World: Just Wait

As soon as most people have a baby they begin to think about the milestones that their little ones will achieve over the next couple of years. It's normal to look forward to all those steps of development. There will be first smiles, first words, and first steps and then — perhaps most liberating of all for parents — potty training. When you’re ankle-deep in diapers and getting tired of changing your squirmy little one, you might begin to think more and more about how soon your babe will be out of diapers and using the big potty all on their own. As it turns out, it’s often later than most parents hope. 

stack of baby diapers
Image via Pixabay/ designedbypk

While most parents start potty training their child when they are somewhere between 18 months and 3 years of age, the average age that a child actually learns to use the potty is around 27 months.

It’s not until between 3 and 5 years of age that they become fully potty trained during the day and both during naps and throughout the night and leave diapers totally behind.

Doctors don’t usually recommend trying to potty train a child before 18 months of age as children often don’t have the bladder and muscle control that makes potty training possible. Babies that young often also lack the verbal ability to accurately express when they need to go. 

So, if you have a little one who's on the cusp of the recommended age, and you’re getting tired of diapers you might wonder if NOW is the time to potty train. While the idea might seem attractive the answer isn’t always yes.

While you can start potty training before a child expresses that they’re ready, experts say that the process will likely take longer, come with lots more accidents and potentially lead to long term challenges around holding and accidents. 

Rather than beginning based on your readiness to leave diapers behind, experts recommend looking to your child instead for their signs of readiness. If they show a few signs of readiness you can begin to think about potty training but, the more time you wait and the more signs they show the more likely you are to be successful and to have a smooth transition from diapers to underwear.

So, what are the signs of readiness? Experts say to look for some of the following:

  • Facial expression or a change in behavior when they have to go or are going to the bathroom
  • Being able to verbally express when they are going to the bathroom or when they need to 
  • Having a desire to sit on the potty or to wear underwear
  • Having longer dry-diaper periods
  • Waking from naps with a dry diaper
  • Being able to follow one to two-step directions

So, parents, the main takeaways here are that just because your child is at an age when other children may begin to potty train doesn't mean that they necessarily are ready to begin.

Listen to your child, watch them for cues and signs of readiness, and know that the more ready they are, the smoother the whole process will be for everyone involved.

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The Best Potty Training Tip in the World: Just Wait

Julia Pelly has a master's degree in public health and works full time in the field of positive youth development. Julia loves hiking after work, swimming during the summer and taking long, cuddly afternoon naps with her two sons on the weekends. Julia lives in North Carolina, with her husband and two young boys. You can find more of her work at JuliaPelly.com ... More

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