Usually you see the first signs of potty training readiness on a Monday. By Friday, you are ready to work with your child and by Sunday, you will be celebrating. NOT!
In potty training, as with all developmental landmarks, there comes a time when you start to wonder, “Is now the time?” Is now the time to feed your baby solid food? Will your baby be crawling soon? Should you begin potty training? Just because you’re asking doesn’t mean the answer is “Yes, now.” However, when you begin asking the readiness question, it is a good time to start observing your child.
Watch and wait for these four areas of readiness: physical development, language development, emotional development, and cognitive development.
• Your child can stay dry for short periods of time.
• Your child can communicate the need to potty before she goes.
• Your child is curious and motivated.
• Your child understands the sequence of before, during, and after, as well as the big picture “This is the way to potty—good-bye diapers.”
A list of readiness behaviors follows for each area of development.
Physical behaviors are important for potty training readiness
Potty training requires your child to understand the inner and outer workings of his body. He begins to understand how his body feels before pottying and make a connection between those feelings and certain actions. He learns that a full bladder makes him pee and pressure on his bottom makes a poop.
Usually if children are busy mastering other physical milestones, they are not ready to move forward to a new one like potty training. Running and climbing usually precede pottying because they bring your child pure joy in and of themselves. Give your child time to enjoy physical movement before asking him to use those movements to meet other goals.
The physical behaviors:
• Your child stays dry for at least two hours during the day.
• Your child wakes up dry from naps.
• Your child will pee or poop regularly—before bath time, or an hour after breakfast.
• You see telltale signs when your child is pottying—he stops playing, makes a certain face, or squats in a more private part of the room.
• Your child can walk to a designated place to accomplish a goal.
• Your child can remove pieces of clothing to use the potty.
Emotional behaviors are important for potty training readiness
All learning for young children involves an emotional component. Your child makes a personal connection to every new skill: “This is fun.”… “This makes me happy.”… “I want to do this again!” This component is especially important, because potty training involves some risks—age-appropriate risks, but risks just the same.
During potty training, your child may face disappointment, confusion, mistakes, and fears. Temperament, timing, environment, and routines are all precedents for how your child learns to handle age-appropriate dilemmas. If your child is intrigued by the potty process, the thrill of mastery will overshadow the obstacles along the way.
The emotional behaviors:
• Your child asks questions about pottying.
• Your child wants to follow others into the bathroom.
• Your child tries to imitate adult potty behavior.
• Your child likes clean diapers—she asks to be changed at appropriate times.
• Your child cares about the outcomes of her actions—she expresses likes or dislikes after she does something and if reminded will remember those preferences the next time.
• Your child is willing to sit still to master a task.
Language behaviors are important for potty training readiness
Language changes your child’s world. With language, your child organizes ideas into a sequence of before, during, and after. Your child talks about past events—for example, what happened last time he sat on the potty. He also makes predictions about “What happens if . . . ?” such as, “If I ask for help, someone helps me.”
Through language, your child takes control of his world. He describes needs and wants. He asks for help. Language also opens the door for imagination. Your child can now replay situations again and again in his play as he internalizes new skills.
The verbal behaviors:
• Your child knows his body parts.
• Your child can tell you, first when he’s pottied in his diaper, and then before he’s pottied in his diaper.
• Your child follows simple directions—“Quick, run to the bathroom!”
• Your child tells you what he needs.
• Your child says he wants to “do it myself.”
Cognitive behaviors are important for potty training readiness
Language leads to more elaborate thinking. Your child makes plans. She coordinates actions and people to accomplish her goals. Actions have a purpose and the world responds to the things she does. She knows she can be cute and capable and plans her actions accordingly.
Unless your child is chasing a bright red ball into the street, your child begins to think and act at the same time. She is aware that she is an active participant in the potty training experience. She now chooses actions that reflect her motivations.
The cognitive behaviors:
• Your child is curious about how her body works.
• Your child sees the connection between her body and the potty.
• Your child understands sequencing—before, during, and after.
• Your child lines up her toys—understands order—things in “right” places.
• Your child thinks ahead—she can stop doing something if she needs to potty.
• Your child comprehends that potty books and videos are relevant to her actions at this time.