Teaching your child to use the potty is a big deal. A big deal for parents as we no longer need to spend money on diapers and we know our kids will be independent when they start school. Especially because some preschools request their students be ready to use the toilet by a certain age. It is also a big deal for toddlers, as it is a step towards independence. It is something big and new that they can do on their own. So which is better to achieve that goal: potty training or potty readiness?

The thing is, potty use is given a lot of weight. There is a lot of information out there that tells parents their child should be trained by x age or it is too late. Or you hear stories of friends and family whose kids were all trained by a certain time and then you worry that there might be something wrong if yours isn’t.

Because of all this information out there, parents often start potty training on their own timeline and not their child’s. I even read an article today that said to ignore potty readiness and just do it. Tell your kid what is happening and make it happen.

Is it better to just decide to potty train or look for potty readiness?

So which is better, potty training or potty readiness?

Potty training is about choosing a time to start teaching your child to use the potty or the toilet and putting your focus on that. Some potty training methods suggest you take the diapers away and go bare-bottomed and others suggest plying your toddler with liquids and doing toilet breaks every 20-30 minutes. The theory behind nakedness is to help the toddler become more aware of when they pee because they’ll feel it as they go. But, I’m going to get controversial here and suggest that if they need to be made aware like that then really they aren’t ready. When it comes to plying with liquids and taking to the toilet regularly there are a few issues. Firstly when we keep taking a child to the toilet we are telling them what they need to do, not helping them learn to listen to their body. Secondly, when we are plying them with liquids we are increasing the likelihood of accidents. Accidents can be quite upsetting for toddlers.

Potty readiness on the other hand is about looking at all the signs to determine whether a toddler is ready to start the process – physically, cognitively and behaviorally and then gently guiding that readiness and interest in the toilet/potty. Potty readiness essentially work with the belief that all children will use the potty when they are ready and each child has their own schedule – some earlier, some later but all will use the toilet at their own pace.

Using the potty or toilet can trigger fears and anxiety, especially when toddlers aren’t ready, especially when it comes to popping. Like if poop comes out what else can? Or worrying about how their parents will feel if they aren’t successful. If parents are pushing the toilet training within their timeline it can increase anxiety and can trigger issues like withholding poop or pee and potentially constipation. At Building Confident Families we have had many clients come to use after using popular potty training books for just these reasons.

With all that said, we’d like to encourage families looking to embark on the potty training journey to focus on potty readiness and make using the potty their toddler’s accomplishment and not worry about a timeline. After all, toddlers know that we want them to be able to use the potty, but they need to feel comfortable doing it when it is right for them.

For more information on potty readiness, please join us at one of our Potty Readiness webinars.