It has been long debated when the best time to start potty training should commence. What age is most appropriate? 18 months? 24 months? Does anybody know? Early potty training often gets a bad rap. Previous research and studies done associated it with physiological and behavioral problems. These findings are not backed by research, and have been found by experts to be flawed.
The two factors relevant to potty training are: when to train, and specifically, how to train. Obviously, every child is different, so training will look different for everyone. An important thing to remember is to not compare your child to another. Do not expect them to train in the same way or under the same time constraints as a previous child.
Timing is subjective. You can get online and research this until the cows come home (like I did). I found no conclusive evidence to support that there is a “magic time” to potty train a child. The best time to start potty training is when the child starts to show an authentic interest in using the potty. Yes, when they see a grown-up sit on the “magic toilet” and start to ask questions, or show curiosity, this might be a good time to start training.
I have seen and heard of a lot of parents either force timing (because they want them to learn and get out of diapers), or on the contrary, ignoring when their child starts to show interest in sitting on the potty (because a diaper is more convenient). Best practices seem to be to let the child initiate the first move. One way to peak awareness regarding this subject is to buy a potty book, expose them to a children’s show that talks about the potty, or to talk more about what it means to use the potty (this is what big kids, mommies and daddies use to go to the bathroom). If you are concerned that your child is not showing interest, or would like them to be more exposed to the idea of using the potty, these are just some suggestions.
Techniques and Strategies
Again, potty training techniques and strategies are subjective. What works for one child will not always work for another. There is also the obvious difference between how a girl will potty and train, and how a boy will. Here are a few different ideas under each gender category.
Girls do not have the same versatility in the potty training arena as a boy will have (for obvious biological reasons). One technique that I have witnessed a close friend successfully try with two of her girls is the “put on underwear, and stay home for the weekend” approach. This simple, yet effective way to train was daunting for a few days, but paid off big time in the long run. When her girls showed interest in using the potty, she sat them on their own portable potties. The girls explored and got used to the idea of peeing and pooping on it. After some success, she bought a few packs of underwear and literally stayed in for the entire weekend. She took the diapers off, put on the underwear, and let the fun begin. Sure, there were tons of accidents and lots of wet laundry! It was not an easy task. But by Sunday, those girls did not like the feeling of the wet underwear on their skin, and chose the alternative (the potty!!). I like this idea because it promotes natural consequences – not wanting to sit around in soiled underwear – and it promoted autonomy with the potty. Both of her girls successfully mastered the potty using this technique, and they have never looked back.
As previously discussed, boys have a few different alternatives when it comes to potty training. As all parents know, having a boy is not for the faint of heart; so potty training can get very interesting. I will share with you that I let my own boy do much of his potty training in the great outdoors…our backyard. Not everyone agrees with this method, and that is fine. I found it effective and simple. Indoors, he was able to tell me when he needed to potty, and I could sit him down and he could go. But combining this with peeing outdoors allowed him to practice while standing (because he wanted to pee just like daddy). I have also found with boys that when they know daddy pees and poops on the potty, it seems to be a great motivator because they would love to emulate that. Another boy method is to “hug the toilet”. This is not as graphic as it sounds. What it basically entails is having them put their arms around, or their hands on top of the toilet tank, lean over, and aim hopefully for the inside of the potty. This idea was suggested at a toilet training seminar I took a couple of years ago.
The biggest take away I would like to offer is to NEVER shame your child for not being ready to go to the potty, or going to the potty in their pants. This might seem like a no brainer. However, in the midst of chaos and calamity, it is difficult to hold our temper when a child has made a huge potty mess in their pants, on the floor, etc. This actually could do psychological damage to your child, creating shame, resistance, and even anger. Please do not do this, no matter how difficult the potty training situation is. There are experts to help you through this difficult, yet exciting developmental stage of a child’s life.
If you find that you need more information or help regarding this topic, we are here to help! Please feel free to email or call us at 832-421-8714. We would love to hear from you!