Elimination communication starting with a newborn, the naked potty training method, using the potty training readiness signs, parent-led potty training, child-led potty training, using disposable training pants, or not using disposable training pants, travel around the world and you'll find there's no one way to potty train.
In fact, the age and method of potty training is largely determined by culture. Parents will most likely potty train at the same age and in the same way as their peers. In the U.S., that's around age 3 with child-led methods. In China that's around 6 months with elimination communication. But some parents want more information. Is there a best way to potty train?
Surprisingly there is little research comparing the many potty training methods. Even the heavily promoted potty training readiness signs are not back by research as being the best deciding factor of when to potty train. (Those signs were first backed by diaper company marketing in the 1960s.) There is some research that can help parents make a decision about potty training. However, the best way to potty train is really determined by how parents view potty training and parental expectations of toilet training, rather than in the method they choose.
What is the fastest potty training method?
Again, there's no comprehensive research comparing all the methods for all the ages. What is known is that elimination communication with a 3 to 8 month old can take 4 to 5 months to complete. Child-led potty training with a child 18 months of age or older can take 6 to 14 months to complete.
Experienced parents will likely tell you that disposable training pants will slow down potty training because these are just like diapers, keeping a child dry and unconcerned with accidents. They also prevent parents from recognizing the elimination needs of their child.
Are there health concerns with any potty training methods?
A few studies have compared children’s ages during potty training and child-led versus parent-led methods. Older potty training, from the age of 18 months and above and whose parent’s used child-led methods, have been correlated to an increased risk of incontinence, urinary tract infections, and bed wetting well into older childhood. For children potty trained younger with parent-led methods, the children had fewer bladder control problems. Also, as the age of potty training has increase, so have the increased rates of constipation in children and adults.
The exact cause for this is still speculative, but the prevailing theory is that delayed potty training also delays muscle development and control.
Research has not found health or psychological risks for infant potty training and elimination communication. It is known that 50% of the world's children are potty trained by age 1 and most by age 2, with the U.S. being a major exception. It's not likely that the majority of the world is suffering health or psychological problems because they used a potty rather than their pants when they were infants.
Pediatrician Jill Lekovic reports in Diaper-Free Before 3, “Even one of the most popular and well-regarded pediatric reference textbooks, Nelson’s states:
There is little to indicate that the experiences involved in the toilet training of most children are of major psychological consequence”
So what is the best way to potty train?
The best way to potty train is with a positive approach and attitude and appropriate expectations. This applies to all potty training methods. Beyond that, parents need to make the decision as to what is best for themselves and their child.
Have Age Appropriate Expectations
Whether you choose to practice elimination communication or later toilet training, you should have age appropriate expectations. Your infant will need to be taken to the potty regularly or she will need to eliminate in a diaper. Your 1-year-old may not need to be carried to the potty, but you should not expect her to take herself either. A 3-year-old should not expect to be fully and independently toilet trained in 3 days after 3 years of using a diaper.
Don't Have Expectations Above Your Child's Abilities
This advice also applies to potty training infants, 1-, 2-, and 3-year-olds. If your child sits on the potty for a few minutes and nothing happens, that's OK. Let her get off and don't force her to stay on the potty until something happens. Yep, your child will probably have an accident immediately after getting off the potty. That's a sign that she has yet to develop muscle control while sitting bare bottomed on a potty. His muscles have been trained to relax while diapered and possible standing if she's an older child.
Don’t expect your child to tell you he needs to go before he has an accident. This is a skill that’s learned. If he’s not telling you, he still needs guidance from you on this skill.
In general, don’t expect your child to be perfect at any of the potty training steps until he has been taught the steps and had lots of practice. The ability to use the toilet only comes after lots a practice and gentle guidance from you and is not related to age. Recognize that some kids need more practice to get it right.
Be Positive, Reward, and Be Positive
Methods that come with a positive attitude and lots of praise and rewards work best. Focus on every accident and mess your potty training child creates and you will slow down potty training and make it a stressful experience for all involved. Be positive about teaching your child a new skill, focus on every success no matter how small, and reward successes every day, and you'll make potty training a positive experience for all involved. This in turn will lead to a faster process from beginning to end, no matter the age of your child or method you use.
Calendar-Free Toilet Training is Best
If you think your child should potty train in 3 days, 4 weeks, or 2 months, by Christmas, or before the first day of preschool, then you may be setting you and your child up for failure and stress. Potty training is a process like any other skill you teach your child. It will take time. How much time will vary greatly from child to child and parent to parent. Looking at the calendar will only add stress to that process and will not be positive if you pass your arbitrary deadline.
Choose the Right Method for You
If natural infant hygiene makes sense to you, then choose elimination communication. If the potty training readiness signs make the most sense to you, then choose a child-led approach. In the end, the best way to potty train is going to be the one that works for you. If you can't imagine dealing with rushing a newborn to the pot, then this will not work for you. If you dread a 3-year-old in diapers, then starting before or at age 2 will work best for you. If you want fast, don’t use disposable training pants. If you can’t bear the mess, then use disposable training pants. Choose the right method for you and that will be the best potty training method.