Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Signs of Readiness to Potty Train in Your Child

I had the privilege of writing for the e-book Parenting Responsively along with 11 other ACPI parent and family coaches.  Over the next few weeks I will be reprinting my chapter.  I hope you will enjoy it.  If you would like to order the entire book you may do so on my website for $9.99 - Strong Roots Family Coaching.  Enjoy

(View the previous post on Potty Training without the Power Struggle)

                Every child is unique and different.  A child that excels in one area of his life may lag behind the “average” child in another area.  For this reason, you should look for signs of readiness once your child has expressed interest in using the potty.

                When determining if your child is ready to begin toilet training, you will be looking for signs that your child is both physically and emotionally ready to take that step.  The physical signs of readiness are often harder to read, but it's essential that they are there if you want to train your child without a lengthy struggle.  If your child is physically ready, he will demonstrate that he has control of his bladder.  This control begins when his body naturally holds onto urine instead of letting it go right away as an infant would.  You will know he has enough control to switch to underwear when his diaper is dry for 90 minutes or more and then is suddenly full.  Another indication that your child may be physically ready to make the switch to underpants is when he is willing to sit on the toilet, but will not go until the moment he has his diaper back on.  This too shows bladder control. Unfortunately this stubbornness is also a sign he is not emotionally ready.

                Emotional readiness exhibits itself in a few ways.  Often your child will begin to get self-conscious when he has to have a bowel movement.  He might hide in a corner and silently go in his diaper, showing a desire for privacy.  Your child might also start telling you just after he urinates or right before, showing an awareness of his action.  He also might insist on being changed as soon as he has soiled his diaper.  This is showing he is beginning to be uncomfortable with the way things are.  The biggest sign that your child is emotionally ready to get rid of his diapers is the consistent and frequent use of the potty when prompted. 

                Sometimes the only way to discover if your child is really physically ready is to let him go without a diaper for a few hours and see what happens.  You can have him wear underpants or have him go naked from the waist down for at least 3 hours.  If you find he urinates every 30-45 minutes, he is not ready.  If he is able to wait for 60 minutes or more a few times, he may be ready. 

                Although I dislike generalizations related to gender, when it comes to potty training there is usually a difference.  Boys tend to reach the physical milestones of potty preparedness before they are emotionally ready.   Girls tend to become emotionally ready before they are physically ready. 

                If you attempt to potty train your child and he is emotionally ready but not physically ready, you will have a child that wants to stay dry, but just can’t. He tries to make it to the toilet, but just doesn’t have the control to hold his urine in.  This can cause extreme emotional distress to you and more importantly your child.  If you try to train your child and he is physically ready but not emotionally ready, you will find yourself in a power struggle trying to bribe or persuade him to use the toilet.  In both cases you will spend your entire day trying to “catch” your child before he goes and the potty training process will drag on and on as his dignity fades away.

                If you find yourself, like I did, in a situation where you have transferred to underpants and now know that your child is not physically or emotionally ready, stop the training. Go back to diapers and try again in a few weeks.  It does not do anyone any good to shame your child or make him feel bad about the lack of training success.  

Please return next week (or subscribe to this blog) to hear the rest of the chapter on Potty Training without a Power Struggle

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