Potty Training “Readiness Cues”: Patience, Low Expectations, & Perseverance

I’m convinced there is no test of a mother’s patience greater than potty training. Regardless of the method used, every expert and every mom agrees: a key component to success is staying calm and keeping your cool – but when you’re in the throws of the first few days/weeks, that is literally the HARDEST thing in the world to do.

Asking me to show patience when my 2 year old pees on the fabric sofa not even 5 minutes after I took her to the toilet and she told me she didn’t have to go is like asking me not to scream as you back an SUV over my foot. It’s that hard.

This, to me, is the best explanation for why there are 3, 4, and even 5 year olds still wearing diapers. Potty training is HARD. The reason it’s so difficult is because it’s a super-test of patience. It’s not hard because the child is afraid to poop in the toilet, the child isn’t motivated to be trained, or the child just isn’t “ready”. It’s hard because it takes more patience than you’ve ever previously had to muster up. We (I’m including myself here) want everything RIGHT NOW. And most of the time what we want is available right now. If I have a question, I can google the answer in 15 seconds. If I run out of diapers, I can order them online and they’re at my door tomorrow morning. We live in a world where the purpose of every new technology is to eliminate the need for patience.

But then comes potty training. And there is NOTHING you can do to make it happen overnight. It takes time. It takes effort. It takes lots of accidents. And above all, it takes PATIENCE.

To me, the whole concept of “potty training readiness” is backwards. The question is not:

Is your child ready to be potty trained?

The question is:

Are YOU ready to potty train them?

It’s the PARENT who must be ready, not the child.

What are the signs of readiness in the parent?

  1. PATIENCE. The parent must be able to endure multiple accidents and possibly days of no success without growing angry or irritable.
  2. LOW EXPECTATIONS. Expectations are the root of disappointment. Lose the timeline – some kids potty train quickly and some don’t. If you set out expecting it to be a three day method,  you’re bound to get discouraged and give up.
  3. PERSEVERANCE. A parent who is ready to potty train has the attitude that there’s no going back. It is counterproductive to stop and start potty training multiple times. Once you start, you need to see it through. This takes a stubborn determination.

Do you possess those three qualities at this time in your life? If so, then you’re ready to potty train! It doesn’t matter if your child is eighteen months or thirty-six months. It doesn’t matter if they can or can’t talk or if they can or can’t pull their own pants down.

This isn’t about them – this is about YOU.

I chose to potty train my kids early. By early, I mean before age 2. I started training my first, a girl, at 16 months and my second, a boy, at 18 months. My daughter was very easy (in retrospect… at the time it of course felt very difficult). She was trained in about ten days. My son was completely different. It took almost six weeks to fully train him – and even then he had sporadic accidents until he was around 22 months. Would it have been easier if I had just waited to start until he was 22 months? Maybe. Maybe he would have gotten the hang of it faster if I had started at 20 or 30 months. But by that time I would have had my twins and the factors required to train him (patience, low expectations, and perseverance) would have been in short supply. It didn’t matter if HE was ready at 18 months; I was ready.

Common knowledge tells us children can be trained prior to their second birthday – it was done that way for literally thousands of years (until around 1980)- but the impatience in us looks for any excuse to delay it. “Child Readiness Cues” give parents an excuse to put it off and disposable diapers facilitate the delay.  We don’t want to potty train because it requires an uncomfortable level of patience, low expectations, and perseverance, so we put it off until some fictional time in the future when our child will potty train overnight.

My point is not that all parents should potty train before age 2. I don’t really care when other people potty train their children. My point is that the right time for potty training has almost nothing to do with the age or maturity of the child – it has to do with the readiness of the parent.

When SHOULD you Potty Train?

When is the best window for you to go through the difficulty of potty training? It’s whenever you’ll have the maximum patience, the lowest expectations, and the most perseverance.

Is it before your next child is born?
Is it after your next child is born?
Is it in the summer when you can make most of the accidents happen outside?
Is it in the winter when it’s too cold to go anywhere anyway?
Is it before your child hits the terrible twos, or after you’ve had a chance to work through them?
Is it when an older child starts school so you can focus on the training?

These are all factors that affect successful potty training because these are all factors that affect the patience and determination of the parent. If you feel “ready” at eighteen months – jump in! A child can learn to go pee on the toilet at 18 months (regardless of whether or not they are verbal – neither of mine were). If you don’t feel “ready” until 30 months, wait! There’s no reason to start potty training early when you don’t have the willpower to see it through. If you start the process before you have the patience and perseverance to finish – or if your expectations are too high – the child will inevitably fail because you will give up.

What Method Should You Use?

When you do feel ready, there are many methods for you to choose from. I generally followed John Rosemond’s “Naked and 75” method proposed in Toilet Training Without Tantrums, which I HIGHLY RECOMMEND. The process was not quite as straight forward as the picture Rosemond paints, but nevertheless it worked in the end. I’m certain this is not the only method that works – it’s just the way I chose to do it.

When you decide to hop in, brace yourself – potty training will likely be the biggest trial of your patience thus far. Consider it an exercise in self-improvement. But you are strong, stubborn, and capable enough to make it happen. Ignore the hogwash about “child readiness cues” and just remember:


Today everyone at the BFBN is posting about potty training! Hop on over and check out what they’ve written.

Let’s Be Brave



2 thoughts on “Potty Training “Readiness Cues”: Patience, Low Expectations, & Perseverance

  1. This is SO TRUE!!! It’s the parents that needs to be ready, not the child. We started training my little girl at 16 months and she is now using the potty for pee and poop during the daytime, at 18 months. We actually introduced the potty to her at 12 months, when she could walk well. I would tell her to go to the potty and she would walk to it and sit on the potty. We did this every night before her bath time at night and she would randomly peed in it. We chose to do the full time training at 16 months not because we think she is ready but because I was ready to deal with the mess and we took advantage of a long weekend. It’s a long journey when you are going through it but it will get there mommy and daddy. Take the advice from this post. Be Patience, have Low Expectations (forget the 3-day training thing, give yourself ~ 3 weeks instead), and be Perseverance! In other words, get yourself ready, not waiting to see the “potty training readiness signs” from your child. This post should be in the mainstream of all parenting guides. Thanks for a wonderful post!


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