Four Signs Your Toddler's Not Ready for Potty Training

by Kazue Koyanagi

Not Ready for Potty TrainingDoes it seem like the other moms or dads in your playgroup are done with potty training? Is your neighbor's two-year-old using the toilet? Is this putting pressure on you to get your child potty trained?

You'd like to wash your hands of the mess and expense of diapers, too. While you may be gung-ho about getting the potty training started, your child might not be on board.

Most toddlers give hints that they're ready for potty training sometime after their second birthday.

Signs of readiness include these key factors:

  • Your toddler says "yes" more and "no" less.
  • She has words for "pee" and "poop."
  • He shows an interest in neatness, cleaning up and organizing things.
  • Walking is not a challenge and your child willingly sits still in one place.

Your Child's Not Ready to Potty Train If...

You've read through potty training readiness articles. They seem to indicate that your tot's ready to potty train but when the rubber meets the road, or in the case the bum meets the chair, you realize your mistake. Your toddler might let you know loudly or more subtly that toilet training should be postponed.

Not Ready If...Asks for a Diaper

As soon as you take the diaper off, your child asks for it to be put right back on. Potty training is a big responsibility for a child. Your child might not feel ready for the pressure.

You can help that stress by making potty training less of a big deal. Try praising sitting on the toilet instead of going in the toilet. "Good job! You sat on the potty so well!" If something happened just mention that as an aside, "Oh, you peed. Let's clean that up and then finish our story." Heap on the praise via gossip. Later in the day tell your partner of friend about your child's success.

Not Ready If...Cries, Yells and Struggles

Your child's upset when you take off the diaper or try to go into the bathroom. They cry, scream and struggle to get down and away.

They're saying, rather dramatically, that they're not ready. You will probably need to postpone for a time until your tot's more willing to be in the toilet training process.

You don't have to sit back and twiddle your thumbs, though. Instead, you can actively encourage cooperation. Make the potty chair a fun place. If your child likes reading, have "potty books." Use the potty as a place to read a fun book together, even if they're still clothed or wearing a diaper.

Not Ready If...Goes Potty Anywhere Besides the Potty

A child who hides to poop is physically ready. They recognize the sensation and are able to get somewhere before pooping. They're ready to do this, but not with you yet. Reading potty stories often helps kids move from hiding to toilet.

Not Ready If...Holds Poop or Pee

Does your preschooler sit on the potty for a few minutes and the second they get off, have an accident? While sitting on the potty, they're tense. Once allowed off, those muscles relax. You might have success by distracting your child: "Let's sit and relax," or "Let's read a story."

Other reasons a child withholds include:

  • A bad experience. A rash or constipation could have made elimination painful.
  • Lack of privacy, especially in a school setting.
  • Feeling unsteady. Are your child's feet planted firmly on the ground? Some children feel more secure when they face backwards and can hold onto the toilet's tank for balance.
  • Afraid they won't poop and you'll be disappointed.
  • Afraid of being flushed away. Toddler's spatial abilities aren't the best. You've watched your child try to crawl through a tiny space. Since some things can go down the toilet, why not a child?

We have some good news for parents whose tots don't seem ready for potty training as soon as the rest of the playgroup. Most kids who wait a little longer to start often figure it out much quicker.

How old was your child when you started potty training? Do you have tips to share with others just beginning?