Parents are often unsure about starting toilet training or potty training for their toddlers. Since each child may attain developmental milestones at a different age, it is important to look out for signals to know when your child is ready.
Most toddlers may not have complete control over their bowel and bladder movements up to 24 months or two years of age. They may show improvement between the ages of 24 and 30 months. In fact, the average age of beginning toilet training is 27 months (1). However, it may vary for each child.
Read this post to learn about potty training, the various training methods, and signs that indicate your toddler is ready for it.
What Is Potty Training?
Potty training is the technique of teaching your child to identify body signals for bowel movements andurination. It also involves teaching them how to use a toilet or potty chair (small toilet seat) correctly and at appropriate times (2).
Potty training doesn’t happen overnight but might take three to six months. It may take less time for some children, while it may even take longer than six months for others.
Difference Between Potty Training Boys And Girls
Parents usually say that it is easier to potty train girls than for boys. However, the training concept remains the same—learning to manage bowel and bladder movements. With that being said, every child has a different learning curve. Importantly, it depends on the signs of readiness from the child.
Boys and girls both need encouragement and rewards or praise during potty training. They also need support and love when accidents occur.
Let us discuss the differences between toilet training boys and girls.
- Timeline: According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, gender has little role to play in toilet training. However, in toddlers and preschool boys, the tendency to be physically active may delay their potty training (3). A few population studies demonstrated that toilet training for boys is delayed by approximately six months when compared to girls (3).
- Getting started: During initial training, boys should be encouraged to sit down while peeing. Itis because it may be difficult for them to regulate the flow of urine while standing. Interestingly, boys will gradually try and learn to urinate while standing by seeing other boys doing the same thing (2).
- Wiping: Cleaning themselves and washing hands is an important part of training when children get older. Girls should be encouraged to wipe from front to back to avoid germs from bowel movement from entering the urinary tract (1).
Is Your Child Ready For Potty Training?
Toilet training should start when the child shows signs of readiness. Most children will show these signs when they are 18 to 24 months old. Parents may start toilet training when (2):
- The child can walk and is able to go to the toilet seat or potty chair.
- The child can let you know or indicate when ready to go to the toilet.
- The child can control the muscles used for bowel and bladder movements.
- Pulls down underwear, diaper, or training pants by themselves.
- Tells you when there is bowel or bladder movement or asks you to change the diaper.
- Shows interest in wearing underwear or using the toilet.
- Follows simple instructions of going and getting things.
- Understands words that are associated with using the toilet.
- Shows uneasiness or discomfort when the diaper is wet and dirty.
- Have dry diapers for at least two hours during the day, after naps, or overnight.
- Follows you into the bathroom and shows curiosity in learning how to use the toilet.
- Shows interest in copying what older children or parents are doing.
- Enjoys doing things for you that gets them a reward or praise.
- Have bowel movements that are consistent throughout the day.
- Knows how to walk to the toilet, sit on it, and get off.
Toddler Potty Training Techniques
Let us discuss a few potty training techniques in detail.
- Brazelton child-oriented potty training: This technique was introduced by T. Berry Brazelton in 1962 (5). This training technique should be used when your toddler starts to show signs of readiness, which is usually after 18 months old. It involves using positive words for praising, avoiding shaming, punishment, or the use of force, and making the training experience positive, natural, as well as without threatening gestures (6).
- Three-day potty training: This training technique is quite quick. Parents may choose any three days or a long weekend to initiate the training when the toddler is ready. This technique requires easy access to the toilet. Parents may keep the child bare-bottomed or use clothes with elastic waistbands or training pants. It also involves giving your child more fluid than normal and encouraging or taking them to the toilet first thing in the morning, after every meal, before and after naptime, and before bedtime.
- Parent-led potty training: This technique is useful when parents want to follow a strict schedule. It involves making the toddler use toilet based on a schedule or after specific time intervals. You may encourage the child to use the toilet every two or three hours, after meals, or before bedtime.
- Assisted infant potty training: It starts very early when the baby is two to three weeks old. It involves placing the baby on the toilet seat as soon as the baby shows signs of bowel movement or after a large meal. In this technique, the baby is rewarded with food or affection after a successful bowel movement (6).
- The Azrin and Foxx ‘toilet training in a day’ method: It involves promoting appropriate behavior using rewards or positive reinforcement such as toys, food, or affection and practicing negative reinforcements (verbal reprimand, punishment, or decreased positive attention/affection)when accidents occur (6).
- Gradual, parent-led toilet training: It is a combination of the Brazelton (child-oriented) technique and the Azrin and Foxx (parent-led) technique. In this technique, parents leave the potty chair at a place where it is easily accessible to the toddler. The technique also involves rewarding the child after each successful bowel movement, not forcing them during training, and not making them sit on the toilet seat if nothing happens.
- Bare-bottom (no-pants) training: This technique may take a week to complete. It involves dressing your toddler in a long, loose T-shirt (covering their private parts) without diapers, underwear, training pants, or shoes. Also, the potty is made easily accessible where the child spends most of the time.
- Wait-and-pee method: This technique is all about allowing toddlers to potty train themselves. Unlike other methods, where parents place the child on the toilet seat or encourage them to use the toilet, in this technique, parents praise or reward the child when they decide to go and use the toilet on their own.
- The training-pants transition: This technique is used when a toddler starts to shift from diapers to pants and learn to lower them when there is an urge for bladder or bowel movement. Some parents may try diapers that feel cool to touch when peed in. This may help in training the child to learn to stay dry.
- Eyes on the prize: This practice involves rewarding the toddler with treats or small prizes like stickers or badges for their effort. This also gives children the motivation to learn. This method is usually used in combination with other methods mentioned above.
Potty Time Tips
You may try the following tips for successful potty training (2) (4).
- Encourage and help your toddler to use the toilet every two to three hours to minimize the chances of accidents. Make it a practice to make your child go to the toilet in the morning and before bedtime or naptime.
- Make sure the caregivers, babysitters, or grandparents follow the same routine or schedule while potty training the toddler.
- Since the body has a reflex to poop after a meal, encourage your toddle rto sit on the toilet seat for 15 to 30 minutes after a meal.
- You may teach boys to stand and pee by teaching them to aim at an imaginary point while urinating.
- Accidents may happen. However, make sure not to punish your child or show disappointment. Let your child understand that mistakes are also part of the learning process.
- You may also keep special toys or books for the potty time in the toilet.
- Dress your toddler in easy-to-pull-down clothes while they are undergoing the training.
- Make sure to use positive words or rewards when they try to do things on their own, including sitting on the toilet seat when nothing happens.
- Avoid potty training if you are expecting a big change such as moving, traveling, sickness, or a new baby’s arrival.
- Be calm and patient as every child learns at their own pace. Feel free to try multiple potty training methods to find the one that works the best for your toddler.
Most children will have daytime bladder and bowel control by the time they are three to four years old. However, if your child is still wetting or soiling during the daytime, discuss it with your healthcare practitioner.
Potty training is about teaching your child to recognize their body signals for bladder and bowel movements. It also involves teaching them the correct use of the toilet at the right time. You may initiate potty training when your child shows signs of readiness. Talk to your doctor to clarify your concerns or questions regarding the potty training of your child.