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Potty training – is my child ready?

Article written for Your Parenting Magazine

Q&A: My 18-month-old has started taking her nappies off by herself. Does this mean I should start potty training her?

potty training

Your daughter is showing one of the signs that indicate potty training readiness and this could indicate that she is ready for potty training. Though 18 months is quite early for potty training, in the 1950s when nearly all kids used cloth diapers, 95% were potty trained by 18 months. Now that nearly 95% of kids are wearing disposable nappies, the average age for completion of training is now anything from 18 months to 36 months. There’s no magic age at which children are ready to start potty training and age is not as important as readiness.

Try to look out for other signs of readiness before starting a potty training process. Here are some other signs that you can lookout for in determining her potty training readiness:

  • Can she walk or run steadily?
  • Can she follow simple directions?
  • Is she interested in the toilet or others’ bathroom habits?
  • Is she staying dry for 2 or more hours at a time?
  • Does she have regular and predictable bowel movements?
  • Can she sit down quietly in one position for two to five minutes?
  • Can she tell you when she wants to go to the bathroom?
  • Can she follow simple instructions like “please sit on the potty”?
  • Most importantly can she understand what urinating or bowel movement is? Awareness and understanding is one of the most important steps in successful potty training.

Also consider your own readiness for the potty training process. It will require quite a lot of commitment, time and planning from you and you will need to stick to the process if you want results. If you’re expecting a baby, moving house, changing jobs or going through a stressful situation at the moment, consider waiting until some stability has settled in your daily routine before tackling potty training. Both you and your daughter need to be ready to start the process.

If most of the above signs are not yet present, she (or you) might not be ready yet. In which case I would suggest using cotton panties over her diaper, making it more difficult for her to take off her own nappy. Or consider putting on onesies underneath her clothing until she is ready to potty train. Also, start reading potty training books and talking about toilet routines with her to enhance her awareness and understanding in preparation for potty training at a later stage.

Answer provided by Lomé Koekemoer, psychologist and parenting coach.

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