Wondering if you’re potty training too early or if you should quit and take a break? Learn 6 signs your child is not ready for potty training.
Somehow, potty training has not gone as easily as you had hoped.
Despite your best efforts to introduce the potty and acknowledge your child’s readiness and development, she isn’t having any of it. She has accidents galore, couldn’t care less about soiling herself, and fights you about sitting on the toilet.
Other times, you think she is ready, what with showing interest in the potty and even playing “pretend” with her stuffed animals. She’ll read books about the potty, and loves her new underwear. But when it comes to actually using the potty, she refuses to even sit on it.
You consider letting it be and following her lead, but then worry that you’ll miss the window of opportunity to potty train. Taking a hands-on approach is one option, but this leads to more frustration and headache, especially after so much effort.
You know that a child has to be ready for potty training to be a success. But how do you know if yours is actually ready, or whether this is a power struggle between you two?
6 signs your child is not ready for potty training
If you’ve struggled with potty training—even considered whether to quit or take a break—this list is for you.
Below, I share 6 signs your child is not ready for potty training. If you can spot these signs in your home, especially many of them, it might be worth taking a step back or changing your approach.
Because at the end of the day, potty training should feel easy. Yup, easy. If it doesn’t seem to “click,” then it’s likely harder than it has to be.
Given how variable potty training can be among kids, take a look at these signs that maybe she’s not ready quite yet:
1. Your child doesn’t mind dirty diapers
Babies and young toddlers seem completely unfazed with their diapers, whether they’re dry or loaded. Sure, babies might cry from a dirty diaper, but more likely from a rash than their way to say they’ve peed. And toddlers seem more eager to move and play than be bothered about a full diaper.
At some point though, they’ll become more aware of their diapers, especially when it’s soiled. They might pull on it, try to yank it off, or even tell you that it’s uncomfortable.
But without this awareness, your child won’t have the motivation to use the potty.
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2. Your child is wet all the time
One milestone your child needs to master is the ability to be aware of and control her bowel movements. When you and I have to use the restroom, we can hold it for a little while before we reach one. We also tend to go at predictable times or after certain circumstances.
But a child who isn’t ready for toilet use will simply be wet or soiled all the time. She’s inconsistent with peeing and pooping and doesn’t have predictable times when she goes. In fact, she seems to go whenever and wherever.
For potty training to be successful, she should be dry for longer periods between changes—about an hour or two is a good start. And if she’s dry after a nap, then that’s a great sign that she can wait until she’s on the toilet to go.
3. Your child has no awareness or interest in using the potty
Not all kids have to be super excited about the potty to show that they’re ready for potty training. But even then, they should still have some awareness or at least curiosity about using the potty.
For instance, your child knows what “pee” and “poop” mean, and should be able to communicate with you what she’s doing. She tells you that she needs to pee, or that she just peed a while ago. And she should be aware of how the potty works and will give it a go.
But if she refuses to sit on the potty or has no motivation to use one yet, she might not be ready for now.
4. Your child can’t undress himself
One requirement with using the potty is the ability for your child to undress himself, particularly his bottom half. Sure, unbuttoning jeans might still be hard for him, but he should be able to pull loose, elastic pants on and off.
If this is still a challenge, then you might want to wait a little bit before starting potty training.
5. Your child won’t sit on the potty
Getting your child to even sit on the potty can be a challenge. If you find that she can’t sit for at least a good 3-5 minutes on the potty—even dressed—then she might not be ready.
Part of getting used to using the potty is being willing to sit for a long while on it. Even if nothing trickles out, she was at least willing to give it a try long enough for something to potentially happen.
One trick that can help is to sit her on the potty while she does something else to “distract” herself. You might read her a book, play with a toy, or even let her watch a television show on a tablet while she sits.
6. Your child resists the potty
By far, one of the biggest signs your child is not ready for potty training is her resistance to it.
She might bawl at the idea of being bare-bottom for three days, or feels anxious or afraid of sitting on the potty. Perhaps you fight about pooping in a pull up, or have power struggles every day. It’s not that she doesn’t care about the potty, but she outright wants nothing to do with it.
She might even be physically ready to use the potty, but because this has become so contentious between you two, sees it as a loss of control. She can feel so defensive about potty training that she won’t even give it a try.
In these circumstances, it’s best to let it go, even for just one week at a time. Literally don’t bring potty training up again, even if you have to give yourself pep talks so you don’t argue with her. Then, after you’ve gone on a “break,” bring it up then, or wait for her to lead the way.
Potty training readiness varies among all kids and isn’t indicative of any sort of “advanced” level. We’re all built differently.
For instance, if dirty diapers doesn’t faze your child or she doesn’t stay dry for long periods, she might not be ready just yet. Maybe she can’t pull her pants up and down, or doesn’t tell you she has to pee or poop (or that she already has).
Not only does she refuse to sit on the potty, she’s outright resisting it. This might be out of fear or anxiety, or because of power struggles that keep her defensive.
Rest assured that if she isn’t ready for potty training, it’s not the end of the world. She won’t wear diapers forever, trust me.
Sometimes you wait for things to line up, while others, it’s about backing down and not making a big issue of it. And perhaps the most telltale sign that you’re on the right track is that potty training actually feels easy once and for all.
Get more tips:
- How to Potty Train Gradually
- 8 Simple Ways to Prepare for Potty Training
- The Do’s and Don’ts of Preparing for Potty Training
- Potty Training Books to Ease Your Child’s Anxiety
- How to Potty Train a Toddler (Without the Power Struggles)
Don’t forget: Join my newsletter and sign up for the FREE 5-day email course, Peaceful Potty Training: