Potty Training: When Should You Do It?

Now that more schools are open to face-to-face classes again, some parents with toddlers are faced with a dilemma: is it time to potty-train the kids to prepare themselves for school like daycare?

Some schools implement strict potty-training policies, including not allowing them to wear diapers. In other words, they expect these kids to be knowledgeable in using the bathroom once they enter the premises. However, in reality, the best daycare programs work closely with parents for potty training.

This matters for two reasons. One, it speeds up the learning process. Second, you don’t want potty-training behaviors and lessons to differ in the house and at school. It can confuse the children.

But it is also important to answer another question: is there a right time to potty train, anyway?

When Is the Right Time to Potty Train a Child?

Some parents believe that their children should already know how to use the bathroom at 2 years old. The common wisdom is that the best time is when your child shows interest, usually between 18 months and 3 years. Many parents are choosing to wait until their child starts preschool, either because they value not having to change diapers during the day or because they believe starting early will lead to quicker success.

Many child psychology experts agree with this line of reasoning. It turns out learning how to relieve themselves require fine motor and cognitive skills. They must have a sense of time, an awareness that they have just peed or pooped, and the ability to pull down their pants. These abilities don’t develop until they’re around two or three.

Others Say Wait Until They’re Mature

Others argue that a preschool-age child isn’t necessarily ready because they may not be physically able to stay dry for extended periods since the bladder is very immature in children younger than four. They may need bathroom breaks every 20 minutes.

Some kids may also develop a bladder dysfunction. It’s either they cannot hold their pee for longer periods, or they struggle to release. Usually, when they have an underactive bladder, they can avoid going to the toilet for six hours. However, they strain because the bladder muscles are weak. According to Nationwide Children’s Hospital, they cannot contract even if the brain is telling them to do so.

In addition, younger children haven’t yet developed the same body awareness as older kids do. They might not know when they’re about to urinate or pass stool unless it actually happens. This can lead to accidents.


The Challenges of Premature Autonomy

Another problem is premature autonomy. If you start too early, you run the risk of making power struggles and having your child demand that he be allowed to go by himself. This can lead to embarrassment and reluctance to participate in everyday activities like swimming or using playground equipment.

According to public health experts, this reluctance can also affect potty training itself and overall toilet habits such as handwashing and flushing. When parents begin training before their child is fully ready, it often results in incomplete training, not to mention tantrums when Mommy or Daddy attempts to help.

However, waiting until your child is ready also means many frustrating days of accidents and setbacks, especially if you’re in the midst of starting or switching daycare programs.

Toilet training readiness varies from child to child. If you can identify your child’s signs of readiness, then potty training will be much easier for everyone involved. To help you decide if your child is ready for toilet learning, here are some signs of development commonly associated with potty training readiness:

  • Likes wearing underwear
  • Can pull down their pants independently
  • Copies others when they use the toilet
  • Can follow simple instructions, such as “Go sit on the potty.”

If your child is showing signs of readiness but you’re still unsure if he’s ready for toilet training, talk to his pediatrician. Ask about developmental milestones and if the child is prone to or has a condition that affects their ability to be properly potty trained. For example, if the child has a bladder dysfunction, you might need to adjust your training to accommodate that.

You can also ask when you should start using the potty. If, by chance, your child is not yet physically or developmentally ready, don’t force it. Give him time to mature even more before trying again. By waiting until your child shows clear signs of readiness (and cannot regress), both of you will benefit in the end. #

About the Author


Scroll to Top