Learning to use the potty can be a quick and painless experience, or a challenging hurdle, depending on your child’s readiness. When asking yourself if you should begin the potty training process, remember that just because you’re ready, doesn’t necessarily mean your child is ready. Pushing the process of potty training onto your child when they’re not fully ready can negatively impact a child’s confidence, thus resulting in more resistance and fear when it comes to using the potty. Therefore it may be useful to look out for signs that your child is not ready for potty training.
How do you know if your child is ready to take on this developmental milestone? Well, signs your child is not ready for potty training are pretty easy to spot, so be sure to spend a few days observing their behaviour closely before deciding if now is the ‘right time’ to begin.
Below are the 5 most common indications that suggest you may be better off waiting a little while longer before trying to introduce your child to the potty.
Signs your child is not ready for potty training
- Your child is unable to dress or undress themselves
- They don’t tell you when their nappy needs changing
- They’re unable to hold urine for long periods of time
- Your child is fearful or resists the potty/toilet
- You tried potty training, but after a couple of days they’re still having multiple accidents
When looking out for signs your child is not ready for potty training, there are 5 major behavioural patterns to look out for. Remember that all children develop at different rates, so do not worry if your child is still struggling with some of these tasks.
If these look familiar, you may have greater success if you come back to potty training at a later date, or else you risk experiencing potty training failure.
Let’s look at each in turn.
Your child is unable to dress or undress themselves
One of the most common signs your child is not ready for potty training is the inability to undress themselves. In order to sit on the potty, your child first needs to be able to successfully pull down their trousers and underwear, then pull them up again.
Tight clothing and buttoned trousers should be avoided when potty training as they are more difficult for young children to pull down or remove without assistance. Instead, stick to loose fitting and elasticated clothing. If removing or pulling down these items of clothing is still a challenge for your child, it’s likely a sign that your child is not ready for potty training just yet.
They don’t tell you when their nappy needs changing
When looking out for signs your child is not ready for potty training, not telling you when their nappy is full is an indication that you may need to wait a little longer.
If your child doesn’t seem to notice or care much about the fullness of their nappy, it’s likely that they’re simply not ready to start potty training yet. Without the awareness of a dirty nappy, your child won’t be interested in using the potty or be able to communicate to you that they need to go.
They’re unable to hold urine for long periods of time
You may be tempted to start potty training if you notice that your child’s nappy is wet all the time. Although using the potty may seem like a great solution to this, it is actually one of the signs your child is not ready for potty training yet.
Nappies that need changing often due to wetness are an indication that your child is unable to hold urine in for long periods of time. Between the ages of 2 years and 4 years, a toddler’s bladder doubles in size. This enables children to hold their urine for longer stretches of time. A good indication that your child is ready to potty train is when they’re able to hold their urine for around 2 hours at a time.
Your child is fearful or resists the potty/toilet
One of the biggest signs your child is not ready for potty training is resistance to it. Learning to use the potty means change; this is a big deal for children that aren’t quite ready yet.
A disruption to their everyday routine, plus the exposure to new sensations, such as wearing pants instead of nappies, can be overwhelming for children. Fear and anxiety are very real emotions for your little ones, therefore forcing the issue can lead to increased fear, resulting in power struggles, tantrums, and tears.
You tried potty training, but after a couple of days they’re still having multiple accidents
There will always be the odd accident, but after a few days of consistency and support, everything should start to click into place. If you’re noticing that after a few days your child is still having frequent accidents, it may be beneficial to start using nappies again until your child is more confident at communicating when they need to go to the potty.
What to do if you child is showing signs that they’re not ready for potty training
If these signs your child is not ready for potty training look familiar, the best thing to do is to hold off for a little while. If your first few attempts at potty training haven’t gone to plan, take a step back and forget all about it for a week or so. During this time, do not mention potty training, as this will put pressure on your child and potentially exacerbate any anxiety and fear that they may be holding onto.
Helpful tools for potty training
Should you be concerned that your child isn’t ready for potty training?
All children develop at different rates, so try not to worry if your child continues to show signs they’re not ready for potty training just yet. It’s common to face challenges and setbacks when learning a new skill, so be patient and understanding.
For further advice and support, check in with your health visitor or GP. They will be able to offer you guidance, and even refer you and your child to a clinic if necessary.
What are some common signs that your child IS ready for potty training?
We’ve looked at signs your child is not ready for potty training, but what about some of the signs that suggest they ARE ready? If you have observed your child behaving in any of these ways, it may be the right time for you to start your potty training adventure.
- Your child pulls at wet or dirty nappies
- Your child broadcasts the fact they need to go to the toilet
- Nappies stay drier for longer periods of time
- They show an interest in other’s use of the toilet
Ready to tackle potty training?
Learning a new skill takes time and patience, and it can be a daunting experience for both child and parent. Don’t forget that there’s no rush. Most children will get there in their own time and your child is not developmentally behind if they don’t immediately take to potty training.
The most crucial thing to remember is that with consistency, support, and patience, your child will eventually master this developmental hurdle.