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When's the right time to start potty training?

Emma Kenny, child psychologist, potty training expertEmma Kenny, Child Psychologist

Potty talk with child psychologist, Emma Kenny.

When is the right time to start potty training? Is there a set age at which you should start (or end)?

We’re going through the whole potty training saga at the moment with my son and I find myself asking these sorts of questions a fair bit.

Despite having potty trained my daughter with relative ease, I’m finding the tactics I used previously aren’t proving as effective. This time around it’s definitely a slower process.

As well as having the How to Potty Train book to refer to in times of need, I also managed to catch up with Child Psychologist (and potty training expert), Emma Kenny on this very subject last week.

The Brat Race (CM): How can mums and dads be sure that their child is ready for potty training?

Emma (E): Every child is different and so all children will start potty training at different times. There are often tell tell signs that can determine when your little one is ready. For example, does your child stay dry for more than 2 hours or more? Does your child ask to use the potty or toilet? Can your child put on some of their clothes unaided? Take a look at the 8 signs of readiness and if your little one is showing 3 or more they are ready to begin the potty training journey.

CM: How important is it to wait until the right time and not rush it? 

E: Waiting for the right time is very important. Every child takes their own time and there is no set age that they should begin potty training. Once they begin to show the signs that they are ready then that is the right time. Once this is the case give yourself a clear window in which to do this with no big events such as holidays coming up.

CM: How long should it take?

E: All children develop at different speeds, therefore some will take 2 weeks to learn with others taking a few months. It’s important not to make comparisons with other children as your child will get there in their own time.

CM: How old should a child be to start potty training? Should I worry if my child is nearly or more than 3-years-old and isn’t exhibiting the common signs of being ready?

E: It is important to remember that children start potty training at all different times. The key is to treat potty training positively and not force it upon them. Begin to talk about potty training in a positive light and explain how fun it can be.

CM: My daughter took 2 weeks to learn how to stay dry during the day, but it took longer for her to become dry during the night. Is this usual?

E: The important thing with potty training is about being consistent. Whatever potty training method you use in the day must be continued at night. Some little ones advance quicker in the day but staying consistent is very important to avoid any confusion.

CM: What is your advice for getting your child interested in using (and staying on) a potty? And how can parents avoid potty training becoming a negative experience for children.

E: Speaking positively about potty training is very important. Introduce your child to the potty and explain how exciting the journey is going to be. Try and have a potty in every room of the house so that it becomes a familiar object to the child. Create excitement round the potty, perhaps decorating it with stickers.

CM: What are your top tips for making potty training a success?

E: Rewarding and praising your child is very important. It can make kids feel more comfortable with new skills, keep interest and build confidence. Keep a reward chart so that they are able to see how well they are doing. Being consistent and not forming bad habits such as putting your child back into a nappy is key as once your child is in their potty training pants they will begin to feel grown up and so need to continue that way. Patience is important and just keep in the back of your mind that your little one will get there when they are ready!

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So there you have it, the expert opinion. Worried about the right time to start potty training? Don’t be.

As Emma says, there is no set age at which to begin encouraging your child out of nappies.

While there are some things we can do to get our child interested in using a potty, it ultimately comes down to the individual child.

I guess the most important thing is that your child knows how to use a toilet and can stay dry during the day by the time they start school.

Emma Kenny has teamed up with HUGGIES® on a UK-wide bus tour to provide advice and support to parents who want their children to graduate from nappies to ”big boy/girl pants’.

16 Comments

  1. I can remember searching for advice like this while I was potty training! Patience is most definitely needed and yes you do need to wait until your child is showing signs of readiness. Unfortunately my little girl started nursery at 3 and still wasn’t ready so she was sent home until she was trained!! She was slow and didn’t learn until nearly 4, but we now know that she has medical problems which means she doesn’t ‘feel the need’ like most people do. I’m happy to report that all my other children picked it up pretty quickly though 🙂

    1. I think waiting until they are ready is vital. I know some parents who get hung up on the age of their child in relation to potty training and get stressed if their little one has started by the age of 2-and-a-half. I don’t think it helps to put that sort of pressure on yourself or your child.

  2. a very timely blog post for us as our little girl is beginning to show the signs. My two boys were very different so it really is so true that each child is unique and goes at their own pace. x

    1. I thought that this stage would kind of be the same for all children, but I realise now that it really is different for each child. Good luck with the potty training.

  3. I’m really struggling, because my son shows all of these signs and has done for a while but just blatantly refuses to do it during the day (well, he’ll occasionally sit on toilet or potty, but unless it’s part of his morning or evening routine, he just refuses to actually do it consistently and ongoing). . He knows what he’s meant to do, we’ve got reward systems in place, we’ve tried removing toys, he’s got pants he likes, he knows that’s what we do, what his cousins do, what everyone else at nursery does, he knows that babies need nappies because they can’t do it and he can. If he doesn’t want to use the potty or toilet, he just tells people ‘I’m too little, I’m a baby, I can’t use the toilet’, even though he did the last time.

    We’re going to have to do cold turkey with pants over Easter (I work full time, and he’s in 2 nurseries). He’s 38 months, so is capable, I’m just sick of him being obstinate and refusing when he can obviously do it. Especially when at nursery he had 2 days last week of taking himself off to the loo a couple of times when he needed to with no problems. He just then refuses for 2 days after that. And he doesn’t care about being wet or mucky which doesn’t help.

    Mind you, we’ve cracked night times without trying. He’s been dry at night for about 6 months, and will (eventually after 30 minutes post waking) go for his morning wee. Totally upside down, my son! Drives me mad.

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