About Amy Graff:
Amy Graff, who manages SFGate.com's Bay Area Moms, is a believer in potty training kids at a young age. She spent a miserable four months training her oldest child, Paris-lots of tantrums, bribing, sticker charts. She thinks that's because she started too late, when her daughter was 3 years old. With her son, Dante, she put him on the potty just around 2 years old and he was diaper-free in three days. Here's the lowdown on a quick-and-easy potty training method that works great with toddlers. For more tips and to join forums on this topic, go to www.sfgate.com/moms.
At what age should you start potty training?
Children are typically ready between 15 to 27 months. This is a great age because toddlers are compliant but they're also ready for some independence. If you wait longer, you'll be dealing with a temperamental, strong-minded 2-year-old who will likely resist the process.
How do you know when your child is ready?
He needs to be walking well. Actually, you can even take him on long walks to prepare him. Walking helps build the pelvic floor muscles that help control the bladder. Your child is also probably ready if she's having a bowel movement at about the same time every day.
Is 18 months that early? When are most parents potty training their kids?
In the United States, the average boy gives up diapers at 39 months and the average girl at 35 months, according to a 2001 study by the Medical College of Wisconsin. More than 50 percent of the world's children are toilet trained by the time they turn 1, according to Contemporary Pediatrics magazine. Before 1950, most children in the United States were toilet trained by 18 months-but then the disposable diaper was invented.
Why is earlier better?
Obviously, it's nice to stop changing poopy diapers. But also think of the environment and all the waste you're eliminating. A child who continues to wear disposable diapers between the ages of 2 and 3 creates an additional half-ton of solid waste in the landfill.
So how do you potty train an 18-month-year-old toddler?
Follow these tips:
- Mark three days in a row on your calendar to entirely devote to potty training. Make no other plans.
- Buy several child-size potties and scatter them around the house.
- Remove your child's diapers and pants or skirt-and keep them off for the entire day. No underwear!
- Give your child lots of water and food such as pretzels that will make him thirsty.
- Every time tinkle starts to trickle pick him up and set him on the potty-fast. You will probably also notice signs that the pee is on the way-like maybe he starts to dance around a bit.
- Don't negotiate. Don't threaten. Don't get angry. As you place him on the potty, stay calm and firmly say, "Pee goes in the potty."
- Eventually, your child will get the point and head for the potty on his own.
- Don't leave the house until he has gone pee in the potty at least 10 times, and he's initiating going potty on his own.
- Keep an eye out for bowel movements and do the same thing: Set him on the potty and say, "Poopy goes in the potty."
- You're done! Some kids pick it up in the first day; most need the full three days; and some take a week. You might have a few accidents but you're on your way. It's wise to not put underwear on your child for several weeks after he's learned to use the potty; just put on his pants. Underwear feel too much like a diaper and he might go back to old ways.
(Note: This method is based on a class taught by Julie Fellom, founder of Diaper Free Toddlers San Francisco and the Waldorf-inspired preschool Neighborhood Playgarden. For info on Fellom's classes or to hire her for a private consultation, go to diaperfreetoddlers.com. Fellom will be teaching her class on Monday nights at 7 p.m., June 30 to July 28. Cost is $40.)
Doesn't it get messy?
That should be the least of your worries. Your child will be drinking lots of water so the pee is diluted. You can pull up your carpets or just have them cleaned afterward-if there even is any mess.
Can you offer them bribes?
No! You provide your child with shelter, food, clothing, unconditional love-the least he can do for you is go pee in the pot.
I've heard that some parents potty train babies?
Yes, some parents skip diapers all together or they start when their baby is only a few months old. With infant potty training, also called "elimination communication," parents observe their child closely, taking cues from the child's body language and trying to get him to a potty, a toilet, or even a sink before he eliminates. A baby may grunt, grimace, or stop nursing sending the parent a signal that the big event is coming. For more information, check out Infant Potty Training: A Gentle and Primeval Method Adapted to Modern Living by Laurie Boucke. Also visit diaperfreebaby.org.
For more tips and to join forums on this topic, go to www.sfgate.com/moms.
- Baby Bjorn
- Potty seats and chairs and portable potties in an array of colors.
- Early-Start Potty Training by Linda Sonna, Ph.D.
Books for kids