"Navigating the Potty Training Waters: Finding the Optimal Age for Your Child"
Finding the age at which children should be potty trained is not as easy as parents would like it to be: a standard date or age at which the potty training process should begin. The timing of potty training children varies as much as well… children do.
The Potty Training Journey: A Unique Expedition
Potty training is like a journey into uncharted territory. While there isn't a one-size-fits-all answer to the best age to start, understanding your child's signs of readiness is the compass that will guide you through this adventure. So, let's embark on this expedition together!
Early Explorers: Starting Around 18-24 Months
Some kiddos are ready to don their potty training boots early, around 18 to 24 months. Signs that your little one might be an early explorer include:
- Showing Interest: Your child might express curiosity about the toilet or imitate older siblings or adults using it.
- Staying Dry for Longer Periods: If your toddler can keep the diaper dry for more extended stretches, it's a sign their bladder control is improving.
- Ability to Communicate: Verbal or non-verbal communication about their needs is crucial. Your child should be able to let you know when they need a diaper change or use the potty.
- Desire for Independence: If your little one is showing an interest in doing things independently, like dressing themselves, it might be a good time to introduce them to the potty.
Midway Mavens: Exploring Between 2-3 Years Old
For many children, the potty training adventure kicks into full gear between the ages of 2 and 3. Signs that your child might be a midway maven include:
- Increased Independence: Toddlers in this age range often become more independent and assertive, making them more willing to try new things like using the potty.
- Understanding Basics: If your child can understand simple instructions and follow routines, they might be ready for potty training.
- Showing Discomfort with Dirty Diapers: A dislike for dirty diapers can indicate an awareness of bodily sensations, signaling potential readiness.
- Ability to Communicate Clearly: Clear communication is essential. Your child should be able to express when they need to go or have gone.
Late Bloomers: Ready Around 3 Years and Beyond
Others might be late bloomers, and that's absolutely fine! Late bloomers often show readiness signs around 3 years or even later. Signs include:
- Expressing a Desire to Use the Potty: Verbalizing the desire to use the potty or wear underwear is a strong indicator of readiness.
- Extended Periods of Dryness: The ability to stay dry for more extended periods is a positive sign.
- Understanding Cause and Effect: If your child can connect the act of using the potty with the positive outcome of being praised or rewarded, they might be ready.
- Following Simple Instructions: The ability to follow simple instructions is crucial for successful potty training.
Factors Influencing the Optimal Age:
- Individual Developmental Pace: Every child is unique and develops at their own pace. What works for one child might not work for another.
- Family Dynamics: Your family's lifestyle and dynamics also play a role. If there are older siblings, your little one might show interest earlier due to imitation.
- Cultural Influences: Cultural practices and beliefs can influence the timing of potty training.
- Parental Readiness: Your readiness as a parent is equally important. Potty training requires consistency, patience, and positive reinforcement.
The Optimal Age: A Sum of Readiness Signs
The optimal age to start potty training is less about a specific number and more about your child's readiness signs. Ideally, starting between 18 and 24 months or around 2 to 3 years tends to align with many children's developmental milestones. However, late bloomers should not be overlooked, as they may be just as successful with a bit more time.
Tips for a Successful Potty Training Expedition:
- Follow Their Cues: Pay attention to your child's cues and signals of readiness. Pushing them too early may lead to frustration.
- Create a Potty-Friendly Environment: Make the bathroom an inviting place. Let your child choose a potty or a seat for the big toilet and decorate it together.
- Use Positive Reinforcement: Praise and positive reinforcement go a long way. Celebrate every small victory and make potty training a positive experience.
- Be Patient: Patience is the golden rule. There will be setbacks and accidents, but a calm and understanding approach will ease the process.
- Consistency is Key: Establish a routine and be consistent. Regular potty breaks and positive reinforcement create a structured environment for learning.
The Journey Begins
In the grand scheme of parenting, potty training is a milestone that marks the beginning of your child's growing independence. Remember, there's no magic age – it's about following your child's lead, creating a supportive environment, and embracing the uniqueness of their journey. So, fellow explorers, whether your little one is an early adventurer, a midway maven, or a late bloomer, enjoy the ride as you navigate the potty training landscape together!
For the Concerned Parents of Late Bloomers.
Sometimes parents panic when their friend’s children are the same age or younger than their 3-year-old and have all been potty trained yet their child shows no interest in using the toilet. The parents become increasingly concerned when they learn that all of the 3-year-olds in their child’s class have mastered the potty while their child appears to be the only child in diapers.
As previously stated, many kids start to show an interest in the potty around 2 years of age, research indicates that only 40 to 60 percent of children are actually fully potty trained by 36 months of age. Many parents will project that their child is fully potty trained when research indicates the numbers are lower than what is publicly presented. This can cause unnecessary concern for parents who think their child is behind the norm but is actually well within the normal range for most children. There is a wide range of what’s normal as children’s potty training path varies based on temperament, developmental readiness, interest, and even gender, explains Abigail Klemsz, M.D., a pediatrician at Riley Children's Health. Dr. Klemsz points out that each child has a unique potty training path and trains at different ages as all six of her children did.
Dr. Kiemesz gives the following cues to be aware of to determine that your child is ready to potty train if none of the following cues are present then do not try to force things and train too early or it’s going to be a long battle. Consider questions such as:
- Does your child ask about the toilet?
- Does he let you know when he’s going to pee or poop?
- Is he able to stay dry for a couple of hours at a time?
- Can he follow simple directions?
- Can he pull up his pants (it’s okay if he needs help)?
If you answered, “yes” to most of these, your child is likely developmentally capable of getting the potty process started.
Dr. Klemsz states that regardless of the method you choose the process is dependent upon the child and their actions. The biggest job for the parent is to remain positive keep potty training fun and stress-free and ensure that it’s not a negative process. Parents should give lots of positive reinforcement for success, such as hugs, praise, and toy trinkets. Make sure that kids associate using the potty with fun and pleasant experiences. When the inevitable accident occurs keep reactions neutral and do not make a big fuss or show signs that you are disappointed or in some way, your child has failed. Negative or unpleasant feelings the child might associate with the process can derail your child from the entire endeavor. The parent should be supportive and have an active role in the potty training efforts such as reading a book to your child while sitting on the potty waiting.
Still No Interest in the Potty at 36 months
What if, despite your 3-year-old’s developmental readiness, she wants nothing to do with the potty? “Make diaper changes very business-like,” says Dr. Klemsz. Whereas previously, diaper changes may have been a chance to connect and cuddle, it’s time to transition your behavior around going to the bathroom. “Dump poop in the toilet to give your child a signal that that’s where pee and poop go,” adds Dr. Klemsz. And if you haven’t done so already, let your child into the bathroom with you so she associates the toilet (not diapers) with going to the bathroom.
Work through fears
Pooping on the potty can be a scary concept for children. To combat the fear, show your child there is no danger versus just telling your child. “You can’t rationalize with a 3-year-old about this,” says Dr. Klemsz. Instead, put your child’s doll on the potty and demonstrate how she is okay with the activity. Or let your child see you on the potty and point out that you are just fine.
Keep things flowing
Beyond the common fear of pooping on the potty, children are simply not used to passing stool in a seated position, so it may be hard for them to get the hang of it. Help keep things flowing through your child’s system by giving him lots of fluids and fiber-filled fruits and vegetables. That should make the act of going to the bathroom easier. If you notice a significant change in your child’s normal pattern (say he used to poop once a day, and now he’s not pooping at all), talk with your pediatrician about constipation solutions. Your doctor may also want to see your child in order to make sure there is no other underlying issue. “Sometimes it just takes backing off on the training for a couple of days to get your child back on track,” says Dr. Klemsz. After all, stress about potty training can lead a child to hold it in, which can cause constipation, and ultimately pain when pooping.
Give it time
For parents who are concerned their child is late to use the potty, give it time.“You have to provide the structure, the potty or toilet, and the encouragement, but your kid has to want to do it,” says Dr. Klemsz. Remember that if there are a lot of stressors in your child’s life (like a recent move or a new sibling), it can make potty training tougher. But as long as you give potty training a fair shot, “for most kids, they’ll take to it somewhere between ages 3 and 4,” says Dr. Klemsz. In the meantime, she offers this sage advice: “Instead of looking at potty training as a chore, look at it as a chance to get to know your child better—how she learns and how she adjusts to stress. You’ll learn a lot about your child’s personality and the lessons you learn about your child during potty training will inform how you guide her through other challenges from then on.”