Toilet Training: Is My Child Ready?

By Tracy Fulwood 

As we survey the complexity of the human child in its natural habitat, we can see the splendour and complexity that this creature brings.  From the moment it appears to the time it takes its first steps on planet earth, we observe that there is a considerable distinction between what we know and what we don’t. With the latter leaving its parents questioning if they actually know anything at all. As the creature prepares to emit a cry of defiance, no where on the planet does wildlife put on such a spectacular show. We are left with a most interesting question. When do we start toilet training?!

If child rearing sometimes feels like a David Attenborough dialogue in a BBC documentary, don’t stress. You are not the only one left searching for answers and toilet training is one parenting topic that can leave us most baffled.

There are definite signs of readiness when your child is ready to start toilet training. This means if your child is willing and able, it will be easier to tackle this brand new habit. There are three challenges though that parents can face when dealing with readiness.

  1. Missing the signs.
  2. Relying on readiness alone to start toilet training.
  3. Believing “independence” factors are necessary to start.



Missing the signs of readiness is often due to simply not knowing what they are.  This challenge is often coupled with the expectation that your child needs to be a certain age before you can start toilet training.  Age has nothing to do with readiness!  Your child can display signs of readiness at four months, fourteen months or two years plus.

My sixmonth old daughter would go to the same spot on the mat every day at 9.30am and do her poo. I would stand next to her and wait for her to finish then go change her nappy.

Without any awareness that a regular poo routine was a sign of readiness, this Mum was missing a perfect opportunity to have her infant poo trained. Imagine that! No more poo nappies again at six months old.  Simply popping her daughter on the potty in the same spot at the same time it resulted in her daughter currently doing a poo each day. Her daughter’s sign of readiness made it so easy for her to be poo trained but without knowing or believing it was even possible.

 “Sebastian and Tristyn were showing signs of readiness at fourteen months, so I started toilet training.  They were daytime trained by seventeen months; night time trained by eighteen months.  No more nappies from seventeen months old! I saved over $6,000 in nappies with my twin boys by finishing toilet training early.”  (Kylie, Brisbane)

Readiness = Easier.  Don’t miss the boat simply because you didn’t know.


The second challenge is waiting for your child to show signs of readiness before you can even start. The problem is your child may not show you signs of readiness. There are two personality types, which have a greater chance of this happening.

In the “Know Your Child” program, we teach parents to identify their child’s distinct personality type. This in turn provides a greater understanding of your child’s needs and more confidence in raising them.

The four Know Your Child personality types are:

  1. Courageous Lion
  2. Loveable Lamb
  3. Cheeky Monkey
  4. Wise Old Owl

While not exclusively, the Loveable Lamb and the Wise Old Owl have a greater chance of NOT SHOWING signs of readiness with toilet training.

Loveable Lambs are very laid back. While beneficial in other areas, it makes toilet training quite difficult. They are often the child who doesn’t care if they are wet or dirty and are at the last to tell you they need to go. They will choose the easy path every time and when it comes to toilet training, this is the nappy.  There is no reason to make the effort to change anything if they are perfectly comfortable with the status quo.

The Wise Old Owls are cautious and don’t like change. They are quite fearful, particularly in new things. This child will stick to what they know over attempting anything new.  There is absolutely no reason to show you signs of readiness when they are more comfortable with the first way they were shown; the nappy.


Waiting for your child to suddenly tell you one day, “Mum, I need to poo!” can cause months of delay.  Telling you they need to go is the finish of the process, not the beginning. They are learning a brand new skill that needs to be taught. Yes, there are some children, often the “I do it”, independent Courageous Lions. But what if you don’t have this child?

Telling you they need to go, being able to walk, talk, pull their pants up and down themselves is the finish of the process, not the beginning. In addition to this, if we have used a disposable nappy, this takes the sensation away, making awareness even more difficult.  First teach then aim for independence.  Give them the opportunity to learn this new skill.  Don’t have the unrealistic expectation they will suddenly know how to do something they have never done before.


So what are the key signs of readiness you need to look out for with toilet training?

  • Pulling at the nappy or taking it off.
  • Dislike of wearing the nappy and/or a battle at nappy changes.
  • Telling you “wees” or “poos” before or after they go. (This could be verbal or non-verbal e.g. tapping at the nappy, crying when wet or dirty.)
  • Taking an interest in the toilet or potty.
  • Taking an interest in you or siblings going to the toilet.
  • A dry nappy –  displaying an ability to hold on.
  • A regular poo routine.

If your child is showing signs of readiness, it means they have an awareness of what their body is doing. Don’t worry about how old they are so get going.  They may tell you “poos” when they mean “wees”. It doesn’t matter. Initially it is just a feeling. The important thing is they are aware. It will be easier for you and them if they are willing and able.

If your child is not showing any signs of readiness, consider there may be chance they won’t.  To avoid delay, you may want to step in and help your cautious or laid back child learn this brand new habit in ways that will suit them.