It’s an ongoing question for parents everywhere. Potty training is a big step for both parents and children and a milestone achievement. However, learning to use a toilet can be a difficult and long process for children with many obstacles along the path. Some children can master using the toilet in only a week or two but other children can take months or longer. Generally the older a child is the less time it takes, but every child is different and it is important to pay attention to your child’s readiness. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics there is no right age to start potty training and readiness depends on the individual child. So the answer to when to start potty training boys and girls is not necessarily a universal one. If you think your child might be ready, below is a guide to help you decide when to start potty training.
Infant Potty Training
Most parents start potty training their children between the ages of two and three. However, some children can start potty training as early as four months. A growing group of parents are starting potty-training early and teaching their babies to use the toilet before they can walk or even talk. Known as elimination communication, early child-hood potty training relies on a parent’s ability to recognize the signs of an imminent pee or poop.
Signs of an impending bowel movement or urination include grunting, facial expressions, or bearing down. If it appears that your baby looks ready to soil their diaper, give them the opportunity to urinate or defecate outside their diaper. With a younger baby, the infant can be held in a squat position over the toilet while the parent supports the baby’s thighs, back, and head. An older baby can sit on a small potty or a toilet insert. By doing this, advocates of elimination communication believe that babies will learn to associate the bathroom and toilet with bodily functions and will be able to consciously pee or poop into the toilet.
Even though this practice is becoming more popular, there are some experts who disagree with this early age potty training. Some doctors state that muscles and nerves in babies are not grown enough for babies to be able to consciously hold urine and stools and recognize the need to go to the bathroom. Also, if children are pressured into learning to use the toilet before they are ready, more problems may arise later in time, such as accidents and constipation.
Toddler Potty Training
Most parents will start potty training their children when they are between the ages of two and three, depending on what works best for them and their child. If you think it may be time to start potty training, look for signs that your toddler is ready to start. Some signs that indicate your child may be ready to start using the toilet include the following:
- Your child can hold their bladder and urinate a fair amount at one time
- Your child has dry periods with no urination for at least two hours or during naps
- Your child has regular bowel movements at a fairly predictable time
- He/she can sit down calmly in one position for several minutes at a time
- Your child can pull his or her pants up and down
- He/she seems interested in parents’ or siblings’ bathroom habits
- Your child does not like the feeling of a soiled or wet diaper
- He/she feels cooperative and not opposed to using the toilet
- Your child can follow basic directions easily
- Your child recognizes the signs and physical feelings that indicate he/she needs to use the bathroom and can hold it for a few minutes until the bathroom is reached
Your child does not need to need to show all of these signs for potty training to be successful. However, if your child doesn’t show many of these signs of readiness, it might be advisable to wait a little longer. If your toddler isn’t ready for potty training, it will be an extremely difficult and drawn out process to teach them to use the toilet.
If any time along the potty training process your child starts showing reluctance, re-evaluate your child’s readiness. Discovering that your child isn’t ready is especially common when he/she is facing major life changes, such as starting a new daycare, the arrival of a sibling, or a house move. With this new major change in their life, he/she probably isn’t ready to make another change to using the toilet. If your child resists using the toilet or isn’t getting the hang of it in a few weeks’ time, it is probably good to take a break and re-evaluate in a couple months.
When to Start Potty Training Girls
In some ways boys and girls are very similar and in other ways, they are very different. For many parents, one difference they might note is that girls tend to be ready to potty train earlier than boys. According to the University of Michigan Health System, the average age for a girl to be potty-trained is 29 months versus 31 months for boys. The signs your daughter is ready to potty train is the same for boys and include signs like being able to sit down and get up from a potty seat and being able to stay dry for periods of at least two hours.
When to Start Potty Training Boys
Usually boys show sign of readiness to potty train later than girls and many parents notice that the potty training process takes longer in boys than in girls. There is no clear explanation for why this is, but there are different theories. If potty training is done primarily by the mother, then boys without a male role model to imitate may take longer to understand the concepts of using the toilet. Another theory is that boys tend to be more active than girls and might not want to take the time to stop and use the toilet. Also, boys need to go through a two-step process to become potty trained and need to learn to urinate standing up and have a bowel movement sitting down.
Signs of readiness for your son to start potty training are similar to signs in your daughter. Signs of readiness include staying dry for at least two hours, having a fairly regular bowel movement schedule, and being able to follow basic instructions. Another sign of readiness is that your son is able to pull up his pants after using the bathroom, which is a motor skill usually developed several months after some of the other signs.
When potty training your son, you might be concerned if he urinates when sitting down. There is no need for concern, at least initially, because this is very common and may even be advisable. Bowel movements and urine often come at the same time and it makes sense to have your son sit for both to understand that both bodily functions take place in the toilet. If he starts by sitting, it shouldn’t be difficult to have him later change to standing. Whether your son sits or stands, both options will help him to the ultimate goal of using the toilet. It is advisable to start out with whatever makes your son the most comfortable.