Time for a Potty Training Break

Your Child Might Not Be Ready for Potty Training

A happy toddler sitting on a potty chair, looking away
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What should you do when your attempts at potty training do not seem to be working? Your child may use the potty if you take her to it at timed intervals, but she won't use it on her own. Instead, she may simply urinate where she is and doesn't seem to mind. You're probably growing frustrated at needing to catch her throughout the day to take her to the potty. What should you do?

The answer may be surprising. What you should do is stop toilet training. This is not a setback, think of it more like taking a break. The reason your child isn't using the potty is likely that she isn't ready to potty train yet.

Potty Training Readiness

Before the age of 18 months, most toddlers do not have the bodily control of urination and defecation to consciously delay it until they can get to the potty. If you catch your child at the right time and put her on the toilet, she will use it, but that doesn't mean she is ready to get there in time on her own.

There are many signs of readiness for toilet training and among them are:

  • Interest and desire: This means that your toddler wants to go to the potty and is not indifferent to peeing when she isn't on the potty. She realizes that is an accident rather than what she wants to do. She should be talking about the potty and asking questions. She should show curiosity about potty things like the toilet, underwear, toilet paper, and the flush handle.
  • Longer periods of dryness: This means not giving her excess fluids to force your toddler to need to go. If she's staying dry on her own for two to three hours at a time, then her bladder capacity is increasing, which is important for successful potty training. By not forcing fluids, it makes for more opportunities for success and less opportunity for failure.
  • Awareness: This means she recognizes when she's wet or poopy first, and then later in time recognizes the urges that come before she's wet or needs to defecate. She also has to be able to connect the urges to the act and be able to move herself to the bathroom after making that connection. Usually, awareness isn't developed until a child is 1 year old, and at that time she is also learning to walk. But it can still be months before she can put together the urge to go, the ability to go, and the other skills of resisting distraction, removing her clothes, and sitting still on the potty.

    The Toilet Training Process

    If you take the process of using the bathroom and break it down into its many steps, you can see why potty training is such a process for a young child's mind and why it takes time and practice to gain mastery.

    Alternate methods of early potty training are more parent-centered than child-centered, such as infant potty training, and require you to catch your child urinating. But for many, it's best to take a break and return to potty training when your child's mind and body are completely ready to take on the task. It will be much less stressful for both of you if you can wait.

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