Addressing Potty Training Myths

potty chair

Some kids potty-train themselves in days; others don’t get the hang of it for weeks and may continue to have “accidents” for months or even years. But before you get frustrated about how long it takes for your kids to fully master this skill, you should be aware of a few myths about potty-training – and brush up on the facts. Some persistent (and unhelpful) potty-training myths include:

Potty-Training Should Start When Your Child is 18 Months Old

False. The truth is that there is a wide age range of readiness, depending on the child’s maturity, physical coordination, whether they have older siblings, and more. You should start potty training when it’s right for your child and not listen to anyone else’s arbitrary calendar. Signs of readiness include: taking an interest in the toilet, being able to pull pants up and down, staying dry for naptime, wanting privacy during “poop” time, and being able to follow simple directions. Some children may be ready to start when they are 18 months old – or even earlier – but some will not be interested until age two or even age three. If you push a child before he or she is interested or ready, your best efforts may backfire. At best, it will take longer than it should. At worst, your child may start “withholding” and develop painful infections or constipation.

toddler sitting on potty seat

Potty-Training Should be Over by the Time Your Child Turns Three

False. Again, all children are different, and there’s no set age when potty-training should be “finished.” Some children may continue to have accidents for a while after they are fully trained. Additionally, bed-wetting may continue to be a problem for some children into their school-aged years.

Potty-Training Can Happen Overnight

False. Well, sometimes true; but not for everyone. Some moms (and some books) claim to have a method to potty-train in one weekend. This method may work for some children, but even if it works for your child, he or she may continue to have accidents for weeks afterward. Learning to use the potty (and recognizing when you need to go) is a skill that is developed over time and no amount of speed-training will change that.

Potty-Training is a Discipline Issue

False. Potty-training can sometimes turn into a control issue, but when it does, it is your child who has control over where and when he or she goes to the bathroom. That can be incredibly frustrating for parents. The fact is, you cannot scare, humiliate, or punish your child into learning a skill quickly. You can be firm and consistent – and in fact, children do best with consistency – but you won’t get far if you make it into a battle. The more you can stay positive and give them plenty of encouragement, the easier the process will be on all of you.

boy on potty seat

Once They’re Potty-Trained, Your Job is Done

False. In most cases, you should only have to do it once. But it’s possible for kids to take two steps forward, one step back – particularly if a major event upsets their normal routines. A move, a new baby sibling, starting a new school, or a major illness could all start a new round of potty “accidents.” If you have these big changes in your life, you need to be patient, understanding, and consistent. The less you harass your child about the accidents, the less of a big deal they will make about it, and the quicker it should pass.

Let’s face it, changing diapers and cleaning up after accidents is no picnic, and most parents are overjoyed when that particular chapter is behind them. But if you give your children the space and time they need to develop this important skill, they will probably learn more quickly and in a more pleasant way. That will give you plenty of time to celebrate.