Potty Training 101 – Is My Child Ready?

Did I just instill fear in you with that title? No one (at least no one that I know of) looks forward to potty training. Sure, we all look forward to the time after children are potty trained – when we know they can reliably hold it for more than 3 minutes after they say they need to go, when we don’t have to tote around 4 extra outfits all the time, and when we don’t have to know the exact location of a bathroom for every single place we go. But no one really looks forward to the act of potty training.

M is almost completely pee potty trained. She still prefers to poop in a diaper (usually at naptime), but hey, I’ll take it. For the most part, her accidents are few and far between. We’ve even been able to go places without any accidents. E just isn’t interested. And that is totally fine with me. They’re not even 2 yet, so they’re still on the younger side of potty training anyway.

The first step of potty training is figuring out if your child is ready. I assure you, a child will not be successful in potty training if they aren’t both physically and emotionally ready.

How do you know if your child is ready? They’ll do many (not necessarily all) of the things I’m about to list.

  • Do they keep their diaper dry for an hour or two at a time?
  • Do they wake up dry from nap and/or in the morning after a full night’s sleep?
  • Are they interested in what you’re doing in the bathroom?
  • Do they tell you when they need to be changed?
  • Do they tell you what they’re doing (pooping or peeing) as they do it?
  • Do they want to wear big girl or big boy undies?
  • Do they communicate their needs? (How will they tell you they need to go?)
There are ways you can help your child be ready, but nothing is going to make your child be ready until they just are. As I (and everyone else) have said before, each child is different and develops at their own pace.

There’s a few ways to help them get ready and help them be comfortable with the idea of potty training.

Since the girls were little, I’ve talked with them about what goes on as far as their bodily functions. When changing their diaper, I’d tell them what was in there (“There’s just pee pee in your diaper. No poop.”) and eventually, (when they were a little over a year old) they would often tell me what was in there before I opened their diaper (“No poop. Just pee.”) When they were noticeably pooping (you all know the face I’m referring to here. Every kid makes it or does some noticeable action when they’re going), I’d tell them that’s what they’re doing (“E, are you pooping right now? I think you are. When you’re done pooping, let’s go change your diaper”). This helps them understand what’s going on with their body, and potentially even begin to recognize the feeling they get when they need to go.

Another way is to allow the child in with you to the bathroom when you go. Obviously this is not something I do as a nanny, but a same sex parent, sure. Let the child come in with you and tell them what you’re doing. Not in graphic terms, but simple sentences (“Mommy is sitting on the potty because she needs to pee.” “Now, I’m going to wipe and flush and then wash my hands”. Children learn a lot through modeling behavior (ever notice a child pick up something [positive or negative] from another child? Same thing.) and it’s good to show them that there is nothing scary about going potty.

When I noticed the very first signs that M was starting to be ready to use the potty, I started picking up books at the library on potty training. There are definitely a few obvious favorites, but we read just about any book on potty training. A lot of potty training books have both boy version and girl versions. Our favorites are Princess Potty Time by Sue DiCicco and Big Girls Use the Potty! by Andrea Pinnington.


It’s also helpful to allow a child to choose their potty chair and their potty seat. Put the potty chair in a room you spend a lot of time in, not necessarily the bathroom. Let them touch it, climb on it and sit on it (both clothed and unclothed). Basically anything that’s safe. This way they’re used to it. Once they’re used to it, you can then teach them how to use it properly. When you go into the bathroom, take their potty chair with you. Let them do what you do, only on their potty chair instead of the “big potty”.

Think about it this way – would you like to randomly be taken into a room you’re not typically in, asked to take offyour pants and underwear, sit on something cold and unfamiliar to you that makes a really loud noise when a handle is pushed down, and asked to do a new task that you’ve never done before? Probably not. You’d be uneasy or scared. You want to do everything you can to make your child comfortable and see that there’s nothing scary about it and that they’re still safe and okay. You want to prepare them. You’re asking them to change something they’ve been doing their entire life. It’s a big deal. It will take time! Not to mention lots of patience!

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