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?


AlyssaEimers's picture

It is very important to wait until the child is ready. All three of my girls have potty trained in just a few weeks. Wait until they are all the way ready, then dedicate one week to just focusing on training. Good Luck everyone!

TiggersMommy's picture

I think this is a great article for those parents who plan for potty training to be a quick painless three day process. That happens to be the case for some lucky individuals who choose to take that route and have success. Personally, I've taken a very different approach to potty training. Some might say I've been "potty training" since my daughter was several weeks old. We've been using Elimination Communication part time and its been wonderful. Our 20 month old daughter has pretty much always *liked* to use the potty. We've never forced it on her. Its just always been an option and at a very early age she caught on to how its used and the joy of not soiling herself. We now let her run around the house without bottoms and she chooses to use the potty 95% of the time. Occasionally she'll have "accidents" but probably no more frequently than a full potty trained 2 year old. We're now in the process of teaching her how to pull her undies up and down. Its all a process and there are multiple ways to approach that process. You don't *have* to wait until your child has met all the requirements of some checklist. If you start to introduce the potty early it can be a very easy, natural, enjoyable learning experience.

MissyJ's picture

Submitted by MissyJ on

I've definitely been among those frustrated in trying to "encourage" potty training before my oldest were ready. Once they were, the process went quickly. Things went much more smoothly by following that same plan with my younger ones.

As for Elimination Communication -- I find it a very interesting concept. I did not realize that you could do it only part time and thought that it was more an "all or nothing" approach. I'm going to drop you a note as I'd love to hear more about your experiences. I know we have some other EC parents onsite as well! You can connect with them on our Elimination Communication support forum.

Potty training is both a challenge and cause for celebration! Granted, in doing so -- it is one more small step towards independence! All too soon, they'll be asking for the car keys!