Time for a Potty Training Break

Your Child Might Not Be Ready for Potty Training

A happy toddler sitting on a potty chair, looking away
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A mother writes: "My child is potty training today. We have stuffed her full of drinks and she pees about every 10 to 15 minutes. She has used the potty several times when we take her to it at timed intervals. She does not seem to understand that when she feels the urge, she should go sit on the potty herself. She pees wherever she is sitting (a few times on us) and does not seem to mind. I do not want to 'catch' her pee all day long.

What do you suggest we do??"

I get questions like this quite frequently. The answer I have, however, may not be one that many parents want to hear. What you should do is stop potty training.

Yes. Stop. But don't look at it as quitting or as a setback. Think of it more like taking a break.

The reason: Your child is not ready to potty train yet.

There are many signs of readiness and among those are:

  • Interest and desire, which means that your toddler wants to go to the potty and is not indifferent to peeing on your lap. She should be talking about it and asking questions and showing curiosity about potty "things" like the toilet, underwear, toilet paper and the flush handle.
  • Longer periods of dryness, which means not giving her excess fluids in order to force your toddler to need to go. If she's staying dry on her own for two to three hours at a time, then her bladder capacity is increasing, which is important for successful potty training. In addition, it makes for more opportunities for success and less opportunity for failure if she's not going to the bathroom every 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Awareness, which means she recognizes when she's wet or poopy first, and then later in time recognizes the urges that come before she's wet or needs to poop. She also has to be able to connect the urges to the act AND be able to move herself to the bathroom after making that connection.

If you take the process of using the bathroom and break it down into its many steps, you can see why potty training is such a process for a young child's mind and why it takes time and practice to gain mastery.

So, for now, unless you are practicing an alternate method of potty training that is more parent-centered than child-centered and requires you to "catch" your child peeing (like Infant Potty Training) take a break and return to potty training when your child's mind and body is completely ready to take on the task. It will be so much less stressful for both of you if you can wait.

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