Starting Elimination Communication at 2 years old: Is EC age-appropriate for older toddlers?
Today I’m going to answer a question from one of our readers about whether to start Elimination Communication at 2 years old.
Is Elimination Communication (EC) age-appropriate for older toddlers, or should we skip it and do something else?
Here is Sara’s question for our pondering today:
Q: Hi Andrea, I hadn’t heard of EC until my son was about 12 months old. While I love the idea of it, I’ve only really had a couple of half hearted attempts at it. I intend to EC my next child, but I’d like to start with my son too. He’s now 2 years old, and actually tells me when he’s peeing/pooing. I think this should make it easier for us, but I find he resists when I hold him over the sink, potty or toilet. How can I help him to feel comfortable? ~Sara P., Perth, Western Australia
A: Hey there Sara and son! I’m really happy that you asked this question and I do know plenty of folks who started Elimination Communication with a 2 year old or older.
HOWEVER…The problem is that EC is not developmentally appropriate for children of that age.
It is really best to practice EC within the age range of 0-18 months.
Toddlerhood is the age of mastery, and the best potty training solution for a toddler is something that is gentle, firm, and quick. Like ripping a bandaid off. Or turning a boat 180 degrees.
EC is not like ripping a bandaid off. It’s like unwinding a long, long strip of gauze off of a mummy. It takes time, patience, and gentle two-way communication.
So, you might end up still ECing a 39 month old. Which is not developmentally “okay.” We humans complete things and master things in life, all the time, especially the little toddlers. It’s healthiest to attain this mastery at a pace and age that is appropriate.
(And per the Montessori school of thought, 12-18 months is the “sensitive period” for potty learning - once this learning is under their belt and in their control, they are free to move on to other developmental tasks and further learning about the world.)
That said, Sara, the COOLEST thing is that your son, at 2 years old, is showing signs of interest and you should totally take advantage of that and potty train him right away (keep reading for how…).
And, note that a toddler who is showing interest in the potty can just as easily lose interest in a few weeks or months…in fact, that’s usually the case. It is not linear. It is not up to him to complete the job and self-potty-train. It’s your job to teach him the tools he needs to be successful and MASTER this gig.
At what age can I start potty training my child?
You can begin potty training at any age, starting at birth.
Popular medical belief states that a baby has no sphincter control until 18-24 months.
This is absolute bull honkey. For example, my first son began to hold it (not out of fear or coercion, but out of an innate desire to not soil himself) at age 2 weeks.
I started elimination communication with my other 4 babies right at birth, and they began to hold it and look to me for help within days.
You needn’t “wait til they’re ready”…you may however “wait til they’re capable.”
But you can begin helping them meet an inborn need for cleanliness from the get-go…from birth.
Potty Training Ages…and the corresponding potty training methods
For more help deciding, please see this blog post and podcast #88 called “What Age Can I Potty Train My Child?” But here are some quick notes:
- For ages 0-18 months, Elimination Communication is the best solution. EC will either wrap itself up between 14-18 months or you can follow this up with the next method, below.
- For ages 16 months-30 months (the latest window I’d recommend to begin conventional toddler toilet training), non-coercive potty training that takes an average of 7 days is best.
- For over 30 months, you may need to visit the doctor. Waiting til this age is not healthy, oftentimes resulting in constipation, withholding patterns, and extreme tantrums.
WebMD says that the average age of potty training completion in the US is actually now 36-38 months.
No wonder why it’s so difficult! The average group of children in our country have been potty trained WAY past the most beneficial window. And many children lie ABOVE this average. Yowch. I would NOT want that job of potty training the 4 year olds.
(Before you or your friends bite my head off, yes, so-called “experts” will tell you that you can not start til 18 months, or 2 years, or that 3 years is the best time to begin. They’ll tell you that “early potty training” is harmful. If you’re strapping them to a potty chair all day or giving anal soap suppositories…yes, I agree.
But EC isn’t a practice like this. Neither is the 7 day one I speak of. Most of these “experts” are merely doctors or psychologists who happen to be affiliated with diaper companies or invested in their own book promotion or agenda, and most of their writings are simply based on a ton of myths.
Ask yourself and your friends: When were YOU potty trained? When was your mother potty trained? How did they do it? I’d wager it was between 12-24 months and it was done by deciding to do it and then doing it without fear.)
Given the general perceived difficulty of toilet training a toddler, it’s no wonder why folks seek out a gentle practice like Elimination Communication and want to try it with their toddlers.
However, it’s just not the best solution for the 18 month+ crowd.
Is there a good, non-coercive, gentle, yet effective potty training option out there?
Yes. And it complements EC. In fact, it even includes a section that was written just for folks who’ve done even a tiny amount of EC with their child in the past.
I’ve helped parents potty train 10,000′s of kids and my program starts at 18 months and up.
The average length of time to completion with my book, The Tiny Potty Training Book, is 7 days.
So, skip the EC with your 2 year old and enjoy a diaper-free toddler within roughly 7 days of doing my program.
I have had this catch-all as part of my offerings for the past 5 years, just in case you’ve missed the EC window like Sara. This way the world gets more diaper-free kiddos…faster…gentler…with less headache. We love what we do! And we get GREAT results.
Thank you so much for your question, Sara!
Please leave your tips for potty training a 2 year old in the comments below!
Please leave your tips for potty training a 2 year old in the comments below!
PS - here’s the video version of this episode in case you prefer to YouTube it. ;)
I’ve been listening to your podcasts and ECing since my baby was 3 weeks old. It’s been super fun, sometimes frustrating, but overall amazing. My baby is now 15 months and in every podcast you mention that all your babies were out of diapers by walking. We started walking at 11 months but I wasn’t quite ready to ditch the diapers as he is a very subtle signaler. We rely 95% on timing and intuition plus the poop face. Every so often he will signal and sometimes even go to the potty himself (Shhh… I live for those moments). My question is this: can you do an episode on this particular age range of 12-18 months? You sometimes refer to it as a hybrid EC and PT time, and we are trying to introduce the pottying skills you teach in the Tiny Potty book, but I am just not quite convinced we can “wrap it up” just yet. Perhaps I am wrong and he is already ready – but wet diapers really don’t bother him at all and I don’t want to be constantly changing clothes and mopping up after him. Can you elaborate more on what this “hybrid” time looks like? What are some good benchmarks to work on until we reach the golden age of 18ish months for potty training?
Hey there, I will definitely add this topic to my podcast ideas list. You can certainly wrap up when YOU are ready, and the golden age of potty training is a Montessori philosophy, not mine 😉. The important thing is that you are ready. I have a course on Wrapping Up EC and go more into the hybrid option there. So great you are catching 95% of the time, I would say that is success. 💖
Here is the link to the course: https://godiaperfree.com/minicourses/wrapup/
Hi Andrea ,
I have been following you for almost two years and have your EC book. My baby is 22 months old and I’m wondering if you can help ( Or does your potty training book or any other resources answer this? ) We did elimination communication from about 3 months old and loved it and only used diapers when we went out. She only pooped at home in potty. but then at around 11 months she really did not want to go on the potty at all, so I didn’t force it. And at around the same time she got badly constipated and it took us months to get her constipation back to normal , I’ve tried a few times but she does not want to go on potty. She seems almost afraid of it. Now at 22 months, She still only poops at home and often at home will be diaper free and will tell me ‘diaper on’ when she needs to pee or poop and she’ll say peeing or pooping too when it’s time. So , I know she’s ready but she’s afraid of the potty and also I’m afraid to push anything because of what’s happened in the past. Should I try a new potty or get something for our toilet ? Or please let me know of any resources that will help. Thank you so much!
Hey Kamala, You can do an easing in method with your little one. So this week you can talk to her about how she will start pooping/peeing in the toilet instead of asking for the diaper. Get excited about it as well. Just tell her each time she asks for a diaper. Say “in one week we are gonna use the potty instead of the diaper. yay! It is going to be so much fun!” Point out when you use the potty, and when other house members do as well.
Then when that week is up tell her as she is going to bed the night before that when she wakes up she is going to use the potty instead of a diaper! Yay! (remember get excited). When she wakes up the next morning, immediately take her to the potty. Make sure you are relaxed, and remember crying even at that age is still a form of communication. I don’t like this cold seat or I would rather be playing then sitting to go potty. Or whatever the case is. Crying is just another way they are expressing how they feel. 💕
Believe in her and remember she is looking to you to remind her that the potty is safe. As far as getting an insert or not, I would invest in one if you haven’t. 😊
Hi Andrea! Thank you for all of your information! I started EC with my son when he was 15 months old and now he’s 27 months. He’s still not at the point where he will consistently say “potty” BEFORE he starts going. You mentioned again that it should take about 7 days to be potty trained so I’m confused about what’s going on with him/us. We are mostly getting catches based on natural timing/transitions (he occasionally tell us before). He does go to daycare and they are trying to mostly keep him in underwear but part of the time he’s in diapers too. We’ve had some resistance to going to the potty but lately can convince him to try with a book but he will get off by himself when he’s done. We are about to move and have a 12 week old so I would love it if we could make some more progress soon!
It sounds like your little one may be asking for more independence. Have you tried handing over the reins and telling him from now on that he needs to tell you? There may be a few accidents in the beginning why he gets the hang of things, but should be able to catch on.
Also, with the arrival if a new sibling causes a lot of changes. This can kinda put a pause on other things like potty training while the acclimate to the transition on their newest addition to the family.
Lastly, I do think that having your little one in diapers part time at childcare might be causing some confusion. Therefore, if possible, I would stop sending your little one to childcare in diapers.