9 signs your child is not ready for potty training

9 Signs Your Child Is Not Ready for Potty Training

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Drawing from my journey as a mom of two and a breastfeeding counselor, I know firsthand that the signs your child is not ready for potty training aren’t always straightforward. The excitement of ditching diapers is universal among parents, yet the readiness of our little ones can vary widely.

signs your child is not ready for potty training

If your child seems to prefer the thrill of playtime over a trip to the potty, it’s likely their way of hinting they’re not quite on board with potty training yet.

Understanding your child’s reluctance, whether it’s an apparent lack of interest in the potty or a small act of defiance at the suggestion of a bathroom break, is key. These moments are not hurdles; they are insightful cues from your little one, indicating that a bit more time might be needed before starting potty training.

From my experience, potty training is far from being a competition with other kids. It’s a personalized journey that respects your child’s unique pace of readiness.

Signs your child is not ready for potty training

1. They don’t show any interest in using the potty or toilet

child not interested in potty training

When your child is gearing up to potty train and say goodbye to diapers, their curiosity often piques about the whole toilet situation. You might find them following you into the bathroom, waiting and staring as you go about your business! But not every toddler is going to be excited.

Look for cues:

  • They never mimic using the toilet.

  • Mentioning “potty” elicits zero enthusiasm or curiosity.

  • They haven’t started sitting on their potty chair.

Interest can be subtle, maybe just a glance towards the used toilet paper or a fleeting question. If your kid is indifferent about the potty, stop potty training. It’s a sign that they might not be ready to learn how to use the potty.

Another thing to watch for is their reaction when you chat about it. If you say, “Hey, do you want to go potty?” and they look at you like you’ve just suggested eating socks for lunch, it’s a pretty good clue.

Most kids take their time with this milestone. If they seem more interested in literally anything else, it’s fine to wait. After all, the goal is a happy, confident transition to the toilet – no need to rush.

2. They are not the right age

child too young to start potty training

Age really does matter. It’s tempting to start as soon as possible but of course, some things can’t be rushed. Most children aren’t ready for potty training until they’re around 2 to 3 years old as their bodies and minds need time to develop the necessary control.

  • Under 2 years: Children usually do not have the bowel or bladder control to handle potty training.

  • 2 years and up: From now on, you can start looking out for signs they’re ready, like staying dry for a couple of hours or showing interest in the bathroom.

Remember, the average age for starting potty training hovers around 27 months, but don’t worry about sticking to an exact number as there’s no set age. Your child sets the pace, and they’ll let you know when they’re ready for toilet training.

3. They are going through a significant life change

child going through significant life change like starting nursery

When life throws a curveball, adults aren’t the only ones who feel the weight of adjustments – kids do too.

  • New baby: The arrival of a new sibling can be a big deal for your child. Their role in the family shifts, and it’s a lot to take in. Introducing potty training now might overwhelm them further, as they’re still adapting to not being the only apple of your eye.

  • Moving house: Relocating is a major event at any age. For kids, their world is shifting, which can unsettle their routine and sense of security. Starting potty training amidst a new environment might lead to more stress.

  • Nursery or daycare: A new educational setting is a large leap. It’s a mix of excitement and nerves, meeting new friends, and learning new rules. It’s better to give them time to adjust to these big changes before adding the responsibility of potty training.

  • New caregiver or babysitter: When your child is faced with a new caretaker, it requires an adjustment period. Potty training on top of this could be asking too much too soon.

So, if you sense a big change around the corner, or you’re in the middle of one, it may be wise to hold off on potty training.

4. Their poos are hard or unpredictable


Trying to pass a hard, dry stool is no fun. Constipation can make the whole potty experience a bit of an ordeal for those little bums. Bowel movements should be soft and not cause pain to pass.

Frequency matters too. Less than three bowel movements a week could suggest things aren’t moving as they should.

Trying to kick off potty training under these conditions might not only be tough but could make things a bit worse. It can lead to your child holding back from bathroom trips.

5. They can’t pull their diaper or underwear up and down by themselves

child can't pull up own diaper

One key ability you’ll want to look for is whether they can manage their diapers or underwear. This might seem like a simple thing, but it’s actually a pretty big deal for little kiddos!

Here’s why this skill matters:

  • Independence: Potty training is all about learning to use the toilet by oneself. Being able to pull down pants or pull-ups is part of the deal. You won’t always be there to help in public restrooms or at preschool.

  • Timeliness: Kids often wait until the last second to announce they need to go. If they struggle with their clothing, they may have accidents simply because they couldn’t get ready in time.

To help your child, you might want to:

6. They aren’t staying dry for more than 2 hours

child unable to stay dry for more than 2 hours

If you find that they’re consistently sodden shortly after a change, it might be a sign to delay potty training.

  • Bit too early?: Little ones around the age of two typically start showing the ability to stay dry for a couple of hours. If they are damp more often than not, they’re likely not quite there yet.

  • Daytime and night time: This isn’t just a daytime thing. Consider how they fare during a nap or at night. If their diaper is wet multiple times during these periods, it may not be the right time to start.

  • Consistency is key: If your child is in daycare, check in to see if their experience mirrors what’s happening at home. A mismatch might mean it’s too soon.

  • Accidents are okay: Remember, accidents will happen, and it’s all part of the learning curve!

7. They don’t show much awareness of being wet or dirty

child unaware of diaper being wet or dirty

Starting the journey to using the potty depends a lot on self-awareness – your child recognizing and wanting to change out of that uncomfortable, damp diaper.

  • Awareness of wetness: Does your kid stay content in a wet diaper for extended periods, even when sleeping? Often, children ready for potty training will indicate discomfort or ask for a diaper change.

  • Reactions to dirty diapers: Your toddler may not yet be bothered if their diaper is soiled. A grimace, fuss, or tug at the diaper could show that they’re ready to start learning about the potty.

Young kids develop at their own pace. If you have a little boy, it’s worth noting that sometimes boys take a tad longer to express this awareness. Give it time and trust that your kid will get there when they’re ready.

8. They can’t communicate clearly with you

child unable to communicate about potty training

One example of the telltale signs that your little one might not be quite ready to start potty training is if they’re having a tough time expressing themselves, particularly when it comes to bathroom needs. Being able to tell you when they need to go is super important for successful potty training.

What to look for:

  • Does your toddler try to let you know in some way before they need a diaper change, or do they remain unfazed even in a soiled diaper?

  • Can they use words, phrases, gestures, or facial expressions to indicate the need to use the bathroom?

9. They are scared of or resist the potty

child scared of potty training - mom making it more fun

If potty time provokes tears or a firm “no thank you,” it’s okay and totally normal. Some toddlers just don’t feel comfortable with the idea of a big transition from diapers to the potty.

Reasons for fear or resistance:

  • Anxiety about using the toilet or discomfort with the act itself.

  • Feeling uneasy with the expectations of potty training.

  • They need a sense of control in their little world.

How to reduce potty fears:

  • Offer a smaller, child-friendly potty chair.

  • Think of fun ways to demonstrate with a doll or toy that uses the potty.

  • Encourage them to decorate the potty with stickers to make it their own.

  • Use a book like Princess Polly’s Potty or Pirate Pete’s Potty

Don’t rush to potty train!

As a breastfeeding counselor and a mom who potty trained both my kids, I want to leave you with a bit of encouragement. Potty training, much like any other milestone, unfolds in its own time. It’s a significant leap for both you and your child, akin to stepping up to the next class in school – exciting, yet filled with new challenges.

  • Timing is everything: While many children might be potty trained by age three, remember, there’s absolutely no need to rush.

  • Key signs matter: Be on the lookout for key signs your child is ready for potty training, such as showing interest, staying dry for longer periods, and having regular bowel movements.

  • Fun and games: Introducing playful elements like sticker charts or a celebratory dance can make potty training more enjoyable for your little one.

Above all, arm yourself with patience and a bundle of hugs. Embrace this learning curve with understanding and love. When you spot the signs your child is not ready for potty training, know it’s perfectly okay to pause and try again later.

Not ready for potty training FAQs

Being aware of pee and poop in their diaper, and asking mom or dad to sit on the potty.

Delayed toilet training is concerning if not started by parents by age 4.

Not being potty trained by age 5 is considered abnormal for children.

Most children should be fully potty trained during the day by age 4.