We debunk six common potty training myths that may have you stuck. By Kim Bell
When it comes to potty training, everyone has an opinion – and the influx of information may leave you more confused than ever. The best advice is to separate the facts from fiction. Here are a few myths busted to help you on your way.
Myth 1: Your toddler needs to begin toilet training between 18 and 24 months
The truth is that there is no right time to start. Dr Andrew Adesman, paediatrician and author of Baby Facts, explains that while there are some reasons why parents may want to accelerate the process, because of the cost factor of nappies or daycare requirements, some toddlers are just ready earlier than others. The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) reports that in the 1940s, potty training started at around 18 months, but this was most probably because babies wore cloth nappies. Today, says AAFP, potty training is common anytime between 21 and 36 months, with only 40 to 60% of toddlers toilet trained by the age of three. Author of Oh Crap! Toilet Training and self-confessed “pooh expert”, Jamie Glowacki, adds that potty training is a developmental milestone, which will only be fully achieved when your child is ready. She recommends that if you want to hurry things along, revert back to our parents’ and grandparents’ days and shift your toddler from disposable to cloth nappies. The uncomfortable sensation of a soiled nappy may move things along.
Myth 2: He will let you know when he is ready
Here’s the thing, most toddlers aren’t interested in potty training. “Most kids are interested in the toilet, the toilet paper, flushing, and most importantly, in mimicking the behavior of the grown-ups. This is the interest you are looking for,” says Glowacki. Your child will most probably start to show an interest in your own bodily functions and ablutions, they may even show an interest in sitting on the toilet or potty, or use it. Once or twice. “This interest doesn’t necessarily build. And, in fact, if you don’t deem it important, the child will stop deeming it important,” adds Glowacki. They may shift their attention to other interests. “They will developmentally move on. And then your window of opportunity will be gone. It won’t be impossible to potty train, but it will get harder. Capitalising on this interest is key, but knowing what that interest actually looks like is even more important.”
Myth 3: Don’t use potty-training nappies or pull-ups, it will take longer to toilet train
The jury is pretty much out on this one. And it really does come down to personal choice. Dr Adesman shares that: “Of all the proclamations about toilet training, I hear this one the most. A good number of children feel good about using training pants and, likewise, parents can feel comfortable with their children using them. They are a positive stepping stone and a nice convenience.” However, some experts believe that toddlers who are used to nappies typically don’t have an issue walking around in smelly or wet training pants. Again, it comes down to readiness and what you see working best for your child. Try the training pants, and if they don’t work for your child, move on.
Myth 4: Boys are harder to train than girls
The experts agree that it is no harder to potty train a boy than it is a girl. Adesman explains that boys may start a bit later. “But we are talking about small differences in time, weeks or months, not years.” He adds that there are a few gender differences that need to be considered, such as bladder capacity and the fact that the mother is usually the primary caregiver. “When it comes to toilet-training, little girls and boys are much more similar than different.”
Myth 5: Potty training will go quicker if you offer a reward
This incentive often backfires, warns Glowacki. She adds that using the potty is a normal and expected behaviour that doesn’t require a reward. At some point, you will need to stop handing out sweet treats or stickers for going to the toilet. Instead, she recommends using positive reinforcement, such as a hug or high five.
Myth 6: Once you have potty-trained, it’s done
Unfortunately, this is not the case. Children who have successfully potty-trained can regress. This is usually due to stress, medical conditions, disruptions or even changes to their routine. Things like starting school for the first time, a new baby in the house or a bout of diarrhoea are all common reasons for regression. And your child may continue to wet the bed at night for several years, particularly if he is a heavy sleeper.
The good news is that all children do grow out of this – some just quicker than others.
Kim Bell is a wife, mother of two teenagers and a lover of research and the way words flow and meld together. She has been in the media industry for over 20 years, and yet still learns more about life from her children everyday. You can learn more about Kim Bell here.