19 - 21 Months

5 things every parent should know about potty training  

Wouldn’t it be lovely to wake up one day and find your toddler using the potty all on their own? The reality is, making the transition from diapers to using the toilet is rarely quick and seamless 🙃

According to Gabrielle Felman, Lovevery’s senior child development expert, your job isn’t to “train” your child but rather to teach them a brand-new way of going to the bathroom. She and many early childhood educators call this potty learning. It involves helping them understand not only their own body’s signals, but also the routines and expectations of using a toilet. Ultimately, your toddler is the only one who can control their own bodily functions. Most children don’t develop all the skills they need for true potty independence until age 3 or older 

1. There are many ways to potty train.

Some potty training approaches are quick and dirty—a three-day boot camp with a lot of hands-on parent intervention and no shortage of accidents (or “misses”). Other approaches are more gradual—a slow introduction that involves occasionally using the potty until they seem ready to use it all day. You can choose the strategies that you think will work best for your child and family. 

2. What you say makes a difference.

Stick with matter-of-fact descriptions to help your toddler feel comfortable with anything related to pooping and peeing: “Your diaper is wet and poopy right now. Let’s get a clean diaper on you.” Avoid making faces or using words like “yucky,” even in a joking way. Likewise, try calling potty mishaps “misses” instead of “accidents.” “Accident” implies that something bad happened. Not making it to the potty on time is just a normal thing that happens as part of the learning process. 

3. Introducing the concept well before you expect success may lower the stress.

Your toddler may not reach toileting independence any sooner with a slow, low-pressure approach, but it may make the process less stressful for both of you. You can start introducing the idea of the potty as early as you’d like. Research shows most toddlers aren’t ready for structured guidance—like sitting on the potty at certain times of the day or going without diapers for long periods—until at least age 2.

4. Think about other changes in your toddler’s life when considering timing.

Consider holding off on a more structured potty learning program if your toddler is in the middle of another big transition, Felman recommends. Welcoming a new baby to the family, starting childcare, weaning from breast- or bottle feeding, discontinuing the pacifier, and moving from the crib to a bed are each enough to handle on their own. Even children who are already using the potty regularly are likely to have more potty “misses” during these times of transition. 

5. Nighttime and daytime potty learning are different.

Staying dry at night is all about physiology. A child needs to feel the sensation strongly enough to wake up, or they need to have enough bladder control to hold in pee for a long time. Your child may become a pro at daytime toileting but need a few more years with diapers at night and during naps. Most children stay dry through the night somewhere between the ages of 3 and 7. 

Learn more about the research

Brazelton, T. B., Christophersen, E. R., Frauman, A. C., Gorski, P. A., Poole, J. M., Stadtler, A. C., & Wright, C. L. (1999). Instruction, timeliness, and medical influences affecting toilet training. Pediatrics, 103(Supplement_3), 1353-1358.

​​Butler, R. J., & Heron, J. (2008). The prevalence of infrequent bedwetting and nocturnal enuresis in childhood: a large British cohort. Scandinavian Journal of Urology and Nephrology, 42(3), 257-264.

Vermandel, A., Van Kampen, M., Van Gorp, C., & Wyndaele, J. J. (2008). How to toilet train healthy children? A review of the literature. Neurourology and Urodynamics, 27(3), 162-166.

Wyndaele, J. J., Kaerts, N., Wyndaele, M., & Vermandel, A. (2020). Development Signs in Healthy Toddlers in Different Stages of Toilet Training: Can They Help Define Readiness and Probability of Success? Global Pediatric Health, 7, 1-6.


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Posted in: 19 - 21 Months, 22 - 24 Months, 25 - 27 Months, 28 - 30 Months, Social Emotional, Potty Training, Lovevery App, Parenting, Child Development

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