There are potty training opinions and then there are potty training facts. Today, we’re talking facts. The top 10 potty training facts to know before you get started.
These truths are those that I held onto tightly while potty training my 4 children. The ones that, through and through, made it possible for me to potty train my entire brood before each of their second birthdays.
That is, in my book, enough to make them facts. Well… that and of course all the research from reputable sources, medical journals, and seasoned childcare and parenting experts!
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Why the Rush to Potty Train?
When my first child was born, I had it in my head that I would potty-train him as soon as possible. I had read somewhere that it takes roughly 500 years for a diaper to decompose, and that freaked me out.
I’m not an environmentalist by any stretch of the word, however, I am mindful. I even tried cloth diapers for a few months, to no avail (more on that another time.)
Paired with the knowledge that the more a child can do for himself, the better for his brain development and confidence level, I didn’t want to put potty-training off any longer than necessary.
So I started “practicing” potty-sitting and introducing the children to the toilet before their first birthdays.
Potty Training Rookie For The Win!
Being adamant about potty training by 2 years old + being a first-time mom + being me (kind of stubborn) = lots of criticism from other (not first-time) moms.
I heard all the normal stuff. “You’ll see.” “Good luck with that.” “Hahaha!”
But it just didn’t make sense to me. I had seen how effective child training was in other areas of my parenting and I had a solid grasp of the science of how potty training works in a child’s brain… so why couldn’t I potty train sooner rather than later?
For that matter, why wouldn’t I WANT to potty train sooner rather than later?
So, in true Shelley style, I wrapped up all the negativity, shipped it off to Timbuktu and went on my merry parenting way, ready to potty train my little man just as soon as he was able.
And that’s just what I did. Then I did it again with my little lady. Then with another little lady. And finally, yet again, with my last little man.
That makes four little ones, both boys and girls, of VARYING personalities all potty-trained before their second birthdays.
It’s important to note that I don’t take credit for their ability to use the potty at that age. Those precious babies get all the credit for that. All I did was require them to use their abilities.
I merely gathered the potty training facts, used the information to make a decision about when and how I would potty train, and the kids did the rest.
Potty Training Facts
#1. If your child doesn’t already obey you well, he’s not going to for potty-training.
An established authority in your home is a necessity for potty training. Whether you’re starting at 18 months, or 3 years old, if you tell your child to… well, anything… and he doesn’t. He’s certainly not going to simply begin obeying when you tell him it’s time to sit on the potty.
I am a big fan of positive reinforcement. There is, however, a big difference between healthy positive reinforcement and continual bribing, negotiating and begging.
You’re the parent. Establish authority. It’s rightfully yours. Read more about first-time obedience here.
#2. Boys and girls aren’t all that different. (only with regards to potty-training of course)
Since my boys were potty-training before their second birthdays, they no-doubt had to sit on the potty instead of standing. They used a step-stool to climb up on the toilet, sat down and held “it” down.
The girls did all the same thing, with exception to holding “it” down. That one tiny, extra step was the only thing I did differently with the boys.
Within about 6 months, they had learned how to use the potty for #1 while standing up. Learning that was a natural process. They had seen daddy do it and only required my help a few times before they could take care of business on their own.
Of course, it was (and still is) messy! I mean, come on, daddy is still messy for goodness sake! I don’t think there is any amount of training that can teach a man how to aim!?
#3. Personality differences are a good thing.
In this post here, I map out how to discover your baby’s love language. And in this book here, the original love language master tells you everything you need to know about your child’s love language.
When it comes to potty training, positive and negative reinforcement work. By understanding your child’s love language, you can then customize your reinforcement to train your child more effectively.
I include detailed instructions on how to do this in my online parenting course here.
Don’t allow yourself to get caught up in the “potty training is going to be a nightmare because I have a strong-willed child” nonsense. Strong-willed or not, remember what I said in potty-training fact #1?! Read more about strong-willed children here.
Understand your child’s personality going into potty training, and tweak your training accordingly, but don’t quit before you start because of preconceived notions about personality types!
#4. Potty-trained doesn’t mean adult capabilities.
The potty training definition as a two-year-old doesn’t mean having the ability to get up in the morning, head to the potty, pull britches down, use the restroom, flush, pull britches up, wash hands, neatly replace the hand towel, and then head downstairs and repeat the process 15 times throughout the day.
No… little ones need help. They need help activating their abilities. They need you to give a boost when necessary. Or to remind them every hour or so to use the toilet (whether they feel like they need to or not.) Or to flip a light switch on. And to help with buttons and straps and wiping, and plenty of other stuff.
Young potty-trainers will likely also need to wear protection at nap time and certainly at bedtime. It’s not uncommon or disqualifying for a child to need nighttime protection for a few years.
Some children are more or less sensitive than others. Those less sensitive can take some time training their bodies to “feel” the urge while sleeping.
None of that defines being potty-trained. Being potty-trained, by my definition, means not needing a diaper during wake time hours!
No diapers when awake. Period.
#5. Every accident does not equal regression.
There are a million different articles about potty-training regression. Regression is a real thing. Although, an accident or two or three is unlikely regression.
Accidents are just accidents. True regression is often the result of a medical issue. Such as constipation, diarrhea, UTI, bladder infection, trauma, or heightened stress.
And since constipation and diarrhea are not rare occurrences in childhood, it’s best to assume an accident is just an accident vs. calling it regression at the first mishap.
Additionally, not making it to the potty in time, because he didn’t want to stop playing in order to use the toilet is not the same thing as an accident. That is an obedience issue. Truth be told, of my 4, there were only a handful of actual accidents during potty training (where the child couldn’t hold it or didn’t realize she had to go.)
Most of their “accidents” were actually “I was having so much fun playing, I just didn’t want to stop to use the potty!”
In which case, we revisited our training and reiterated that using the potty was not optional and that they must stop playing to use the potty when necessary.
#6. Pull-ups are diapers.
This is where the fact vs opinion notions gets a little foggy. My preference, when potty-training, is to make the switch to underwear during all wake time hours.
Using pull-ups during naps and bedtime until sleeping dryness has been established is a good idea. Doing so will save you lots of laundry frustrations when you have to wash your child’s sheets over and over and over again!
However, wearing a pull up during wake time will feel exactly the same to your child, as wearing a diaper.
This is why, I believe, so many children have a hard time understanding what they need to do when potty training with pull-ups.
They must be thinking, “Wait… so this soft covering on my bottom that I’ve been peeing and pooping in for two years isn’t meant for peeing and pooping anymore? And I’m not supposed to use it for that? But you want me to keep wearing it?”
Pull-ups and diapers are a safety net. They’re good for sleeping hours because your child does not have the same level of control over her bodily functions during that time.
However, she does have control during wake time hours, and you want her to learn to use that control, right?
#7. Before the age of 2, potty-training is a cognitive training measure.
Before the age of (roughly) 18 months, your child’s bodily elimination is reflexive. When her bladder it full, it automatically empties.
Between the age of 18-24 months, a literal neural pathway connection is made that gives her the ability to “hold it.” At that point, elimination is no longer reflexive. She is making a conscious decision to do it.
When you take advantage of good child training measures to potty-train at the very first signs of readiness, you are using your child’s natural brain development to her (and your) advantage!
Social skills are generally more difficult to train into than natural cognitive development. For instance, a 3-year-old that has been purposefully using a diaper as a toilet since he was 18 months old (remember that’s when it became a decision) is going to have a difficult time breaking the habit of using his diaper.
Potty-training a child at this age means you essentially have to un-train him from using his diaper and then train him to use the toilet in its place. That is both more stressful and more difficult, on you both.
For more information on potty training a toddler, read here. I’ve provided you with everything you need to know on the subject. Including commonly asked questions and concerns.
#9. Toddlers need to use the toilet at least every two hours.
Most toddlers will need to urinate between every 1-2 hours, sometimes every 45 minutes. Likewise, toddlers on a nutritious diet, empty their bowels between 2-3 times a day (although they may skip a day here and there.)
Set your child up for success by helping her keep track of time between potty breaks. Be ready to go when she is! Prepare your home with a timer, potty seat or toilet seat adapter (adapters are my preference – read why here), stool, positive reinforcement like this or this, and a whole lot of praise! Read more about effective praise here.
#10. Signs of readiness are key.
Signs of potty-training readiness include: waking dry from a nap, drawing attention to her body when she eliminates and stopping urination while in the process (you won’t know this unless you let your child spend some time without a diaper or underwear on.)
These signs will present themselves between 18-24 months. They are there! Paying close attention to your child’s actions and being in tune with her will help you catch them as soon as they present themselves.
Resist the urge to dismiss your 20-month-old’s dry diaper after a nap! It’s not a fluke.
Allow your child to run around in his birthday suit on occasion and watch for him to stop playing and look down.
Start preparing yourself around your child’s 15-month mark to observe for signs of readiness. Then be ready to act when you see them!
Potty Training Facts Make All the Difference
Potty-training, like any other significant accomplishment, requires intention. Potty training facts are important to know before you get started. They’ll give you a base to build your training upon.
The details about how you will successfully potty train your little one will be different than mine. Or that of your friend. There is room for detail variations when the facts are used as a foundation.
Start well and finish strong! CLICK HERE TO READ ANOTHER POST LIKE THIS – MY COMPLETE POTTY TRAINING GUIDE