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When to Potty Train

Dawn Meehan on When Not to Potty Train

I've had many people ask me the very same question posted by Marcy H. here on Circle of Moms: when is the right time to start potty training? Since I've potty-trained six kids, they figure I'm an expert. I'm not sure I'm an expert, but I do have a wealth of experience in the diaper-changing arts. So, I came up with a list of the things I consider most important when deciding when to start potty training.

Keep reading.

1. Don't push potty training before your child is ready. I made the mistake of doing this with my first child. When my firstborn son turned two, I decided, somewhere in my new mom brain, that two was indeed the official age to begin potty training. Unfortunately my son did not share my enthusiasm and thus began a very long (nearly three-year) stint of trying to get him to pee on the toilet. Well, actually I tried to get him to pee IN the toilet. Peeing ON the toilet is what he and all the other males in my house do now.

2. Don't let others push you into potty training before your child is ready. When your well-meaning mother tells you, "You were potty trained by the age of," put your fingers in your ears and sing, "La la la la la la la, I'm not listening!" When your best friend tells you that her child is potty trained, say, "That’s great!" and resist the urge to compare your children. Just as babies learn to walk and talk at different ages, so they also potty train when the time is right for them.


3. Don't let the idea of a musical potty seat, potty training books, or special underwear push you into potty training before your child is ready. If your child is really ready to start using the potty, he'll do it with or without the latest potty training gadgets. If he isn't ready, even glow-in-the-dark Elmo underwear that sings a potty song and dispenses M&Ms won't work.

4. Don't let the worry that yours will be the only child in school who still wears diapers push you into potty training before your child is ready. After my bad experience potty training my first child, I decided I'd had enough torture in the potty training venue, so when my second child came along, I figured I'd let her wear diapers until she went to college. Luckily I didn't need to wait that long. She wanted princess underwear and that was that. Overnight, "poof" she was trained. And I promise you, your child will eventually train as well. I have yet to hear of a child in junior high who still has mom come in to change his diapers.

5. Don't let the thought that your child is capable of training, but just being purposefully stubborn, push you into potty training before your child is ready. I made this mistake with my first child. He could stay dry sometimes. He could go on the potty seat sometimes. I assumed that meant he was capable of potty training; he was just being defiant/lazy/difficult when he had an accident. I was so wrong. Little kids' bodies mature at different ages, and just because they can make it to the bathroom sometimes, does not necessarily mean they are physically ready for potty training. Making the kids feel like it's their fault, or that they're too lazy/busy/stubborn to get to the potty seat is about the worst thing you can do in your potty training efforts. If they aren't ready, they aren't ready, and the only thing that forcing them to sit on the potty seat every 10 minutes will do, is train you to look at your watch every 10 minutes.

I'm happy to say that potty training all five of my other children was a breeze! It was a pleasant experience for everyone involved because I waited until they were completely ready on their own. Each of those five trained at different ages between two and nearly five, but each trained in a few days time; in their own time.

Author and award-winning mommy blogger Dawn Meehan is the creator of the popular and hilarious Laugh your way through your pregnancy with Meehan's humorous book: You'll Lose the Baby Weight (and OTHER LIES about pregnancy and childbirth).

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

Image Source: Shutterstock
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CoMMember13629880283941 CoMMember13629880283941 5 years
So alot of you out there will be sending your kids to pre-school/nursery or what else you call it not potty trained? When are you going to realise that children fit into your world and not the other way round? As soon as the child is able to sit on its own unsupported,potty training should commence.After meals is the ideal time as warm food/drink tend to stimulate movement in the untrained bladder/bowel. I started my childrens potty training at 10mths.By the time they were 18mths they were dry during the day.At 2 and a half years they were dry at night as well. You are the adult,you make the decisions not an imature child who will never have the where with all to make such a decision as to " when the time is right"! You are the parent not some author of a book/article.Start exercising your parental rights and knowledge of you child and lifstyle,make your decision and up hold it with pride because you can justify it
CoMMember13629880283941 CoMMember13629880283941 5 years
What a load of tosh!!!
jessicaconklin jessicaconklin 5 years
I have a problem with tip number 4 on how u say not to push your children into potty training even if there are the only kid in school who still does well where I live your child must be potty trained before they can go to school so in order for my daughters to start their eductation they must be potty trained by three years old
ChelleBryantLee ChelleBryantLee 5 years
Yes an excellent article and definitely something I will keep in mind for my second as I'm sorry to say I did fall into the trap of a couple of these with my first and suffered the consequences. Great advice! Thank you :-)
DanielleLewis4272 DanielleLewis4272 5 years
This article was awesome! I have 2 children my son is 3 1/2 and my daughter just turned 2. My mother in law pushed me to train my son when he was 2 1/2 I started with stickers when he pee'd and then she pushed me to get him to poop, so I offered "potty presents" but then he thought every time he uses the potty he gets a toy! (I do not have that kind of money) luckily by 3 he got the hang of it and now he is completely trained, but my daughter is different, she does NOT like diapers, I tried the new huggies slip ons and even princess pull-ups, she just doesnt want to wear anything so she ends up pooping on the floor (most the time outside, gross I know, I am not proud) I dont know what to do. I tried getting her a potty chair and putting it in the living room and even next to me when I go. any suggestions?
RonelleClarke RonelleClarke 5 years
Fantastic. I needed to hear that. I had 2 babies trained by 2yrs, but the youngest is 3 1/2 and i will wait till she's ready. Thanks.
JacquelineSleeper JacquelineSleeper 5 years
Did you use disposable or cloth? I theorize that children that wait till they are 3 + to potty train do so because they have no reason to care because they keep them dry. What are your thoughts?
marisewarren marisewarren 5 years
Thankyou!!!! ;))))
CoMMember13612228147026 CoMMember13612228147026 5 years
Great article and tips on the pressure to potty train when not ready. As for the comments are never 'sure' that your child is ready to potty train. As the article mentioned, all children develop individually and are physically, communicatively and emotionally ready at different times. maybe one area of development can be more 'ready' than the others, such as physically versus emotionally or vice versa. There are the physical signs, such as remaining dry through sleeping times or more than two hours and beginning to notice the release and holding of those muscles. Emotionally, they could begin to show more interest in the potty and others going to the bathroom or underwear. Communicatively, they could begin to let you knw that they need to go or went. It's always great to make going potty a 'big' kid thing and I always like to explain that it's your body's garbage and it needs to be thrown away in the toilet like we throw are garbage away in the can. If you feel your child is ready and start potty training, once it becomes a power struggle or is frustrating the both of you (not the cleaning part, but the 'fighting' part) then your child may not be quite ready and it's okay to relax about it. Try not to backtrack any progress you've made, but don't push! As the article stated, it'll happen. What is important is assisting them in being proactive to clean up their mess. Accidents happen and it's ok, but we need to clean it up. Accomplishments should be celebrations!
ToshaPenney ToshaPenney 5 years
I Totally agree with all of this!! I have 3 kids and my oldest was 3 yrs when she actually started potty training but she was fully ready and it only took a few wks. And after that she had Very few accidents. I had everyone telling me "oh she is ready at like 1 1/2 and 2 but i kinda just waited till I thought she was. so Im going to do the same with my other two.
LeslieParrack LeslieParrack 5 years
My daughter started acting like she was ready when she was 18months, we got all excited and thought she was going to train early, she went a few time and quit...She was 4 before she finally decided she was ready and over night we had no more diapers....My second child was about 20 months and was almost potty trained and got diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at 23 months and it was a total step back for him, he still trained at about 3 1/2, but requires pull ups at night because his if blood sugar spikes he will wet the bed....My youngest will be 3 next week and for the last 2-3 weeks is totally potty trained, we still do pull ups at night just incase, but he has very few over night accidents. My niece is 6months younger then my youngest, and we tried potty training her at the same time, but her daddy was rewarding her for just sitting there for a few seconds, so she is a little confused, she wants to use the potty but thinks just sitting there is "going potty"....I feel a lot of it has to do with their understanding of what is going on...My Godson was potty trained before he was 2 never had any accidents or anything, but at 13months he was saying that some water spots on the bed from the ice he was eating was pee pee, so his mom figured she would give it a try....
LisaWeeder21199 LisaWeeder21199 5 years
My son was 3 1/2. We started asking him if he wanted to go around 2 1/2. Sometimes he would, most of the time he wouldn't. Then just one day, out of the blue, he agreed. Took a week to get it right. Now he always goes to the potty and doesn't even need pull ups at night. He went from baby to big boy in a matter of just a couple of weeks!
WandaParks WandaParks 6 years
I had six children! I made that mistake with the first one. After that debacle, I didn't bother with the rest. Numbers 2, 3 & 4, trained themselves when they wanted to wear "big people undies." I don't even remember when the youngest two trained but I do remember it was stress free for everyone. (Except for those family members who stubornly believe that is an age limit to potty training - ie MUST be trained by whatever.) Don't let them push you - it is so not worth it!!
BeRNiCe6684 BeRNiCe6684 6 years
thank you for the tips! may god bless you more!
amandablack32122 amandablack32122 6 years
so what do i do when my 4 (almost 5) year old shows absolutely no interest of potty training or knowing when she has to go?
TaniaRodwell TaniaRodwell 6 years
I'm a sucker for mistake #5. We definitely started too early! Can I just go back to diapers if he wants to wear one without confusing him? Thanks for the awesome article!
RoseMcDaniel RoseMcDaniel 6 years
I have a niece that has a daughter who is 5 years of age and is always getting infections because they are not trained. I have tried to get her out of diapers but my niece just will not work with them. So they are still not trained. Is it normal for some girls to not get potty trained at this age. My own kids were trained between 18 months and 2 years. Not sure what I can do to help the toddler out.
TifffanyGravino TifffanyGravino 6 years
this was really helpful. thank you
soerayaherman soerayaherman 6 years
my daughter is now 1 year and almost 1 month old. Can i start now? cause she has a certain pattern that after she wakes up, she'll need to go within 15 minutes!
KaleyWeems KaleyWeems 6 years
Awesome article, at 18 months my little girl could say potty I bought two little potties one in my room and one in the all way now at two she sees it and remembers to pee in it. She loves it and I never forced I just let her sit on it at each diaper change and then the fun began.
louisebrennan louisebrennan 6 years
My little girl was toilet trained well before her second birthday. My phylosiphy is not to wait till they are 2 and then decide its "time". I started putting my daughter on the potty after every nappy change (when i was at home) from 6 months. when i went to the toilet i would take her with me and sit her on the potty while i went. this is all assosiative learning. When i saw that she had that look on her face or made a certain sound i would take her nappy off and sit her on the potty. if she did something or nothing i would always praise. If she did do something i would show her and say "yeah you did it!! If it is done on a daily basis it becomes part of the daily routine. I found that cloth nappies are more helpfull in this process as they let the child "Feel Wet" disposables absorb the wet and the child isnt aware they are wet. some people were saying to me 'oooh she's to young' but having a child that takes herself to the toilet or lets me know she needs to go at 18 months is proof enough for me the the younger you incorparate potty taining the easier it is.Always ensure it is a positive experience, singing songs when they are sitting on the potty and dont fuss if they do have acidents when in undies, just say "doesnt matter mum will clean it up" fussing will only discourage. Consistancy is the key! only if they are happy to sit on the potty that is, do not make them.
darlenewashington darlenewashington 6 years
I absolutely agree. My son turned two in Feb and sometimes he asks to go potty & he will go other times he asks to go & when he gets there he only wants to wash his hands. I let him go when he wants although i always asks him if he wants to go. Waiting until a child is ready will yield the best results as i have seen with many 2-3 year old at the daycare center that I work in.
KataSzarvas KataSzarvas 6 years
I agree with you! Great article!
FayeCurtis96794 FayeCurtis96794 6 years
Thank you AND all those that commented. I get frustrated too easy. I just need to relax and let it take place. My son started showing intrest in the last couple months, he's 21 months. He likes to play in the bathroom, and I have a 6 month old, so I don't feel like I always have time. But I feel like I have a new outlook on this. Just let him try and keep him focused in a light hearted manner. He sometimes pees on/AT the potty, but now he's starting to sit on it too. Which I like better, not so much of a mess to clean up. ESPECIALLY since we rent and they carpeted the bathroom??? Anyway, thanks again everyone! God bless!
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