With all of the conflicting information - and opinions - out there, how do we as parents set realistic expectations for EC and potty training? Tune in this week as Nicole cuts through all the noise to bring you the facts about what age you can expect your LO to be wrapped up by, and how you can help the process along.
You Will Hear:
- The 5 outcomes that indicate your child has been officially potty trained
- What age(s) completion is usually possible by
- How to determine whether your child is capable of being wrapped-up or potty trained
- Tips for reaching completion as soon as developmentally possible and appropriate
- How to match your expectations of potty independence with your child’s experience and capability
Links and other resources mentioned today:
- Go Diaper Free Book
- Tiny Potty Training Book
- Tiny Undies small baby underwear
- Mini Potty
- Private EC Support Group on Facebook
- Private Potty Training Support Group on Facebook
- Go Diaper Free Store
- Tiny Undies Store
Download the Transcript
If you can't listen to this episode right now (um, sleeping baby!?)...download and read the transcript here:
EPISODE 236: What age should a child be potty trained by?
Hello, and welcome to the Go Diaper Free podcast. I'm your host, Nicole Cheever, Go Diaper Free Certified Coach and mama to three kiddos who all went through EC and potty training at different ages and stages.
Hello and thanks for joining me on the podcast again today. I'm Nicole Cheever with Go Diaper Free, and this is episode 236. What age should a child be potty trained by? You can find the show notes at godiaperfree.com/236. Head over there when you're done listening to find the show notes, ask questions, leave comments, and find all the links to everything I'm going to talk about today.
This is the million dollar question. What age should a child be potty trained by, and overall with this episode, I want you to walk away being able to manage your expectations about EC and potty training. A quick internet search of this question or anything like it is going to yield so many different results, you're going to find a lot of conflicting opinions, a lot of "proof" out there of why you should wait or why you should potty-train earlier, and really what the expectation should be for your child. “Should” really depends on so many factors. I'll get that answer out of the way right now. It's really not helpful to ask the question, "When should my child be potty trained?" Rather, "When can they be potty trained?"
“Should” depends a lot on your own culture and your own expectations within your family, but “can” boils down to capability. If you have the Go Diaper Free book, it explains capability in there very clearly with lots of sources cited, and in general dispels a ton of myths about elimination communication. So if you have people in your life who are skeptical, if you yourself aren't quite sure, the Go Diaper Free book is the place to be. It's the place to find all of the reassurance, all of the scientific evidence, all of the reasoning why EC can and does work from as early as birth.
I want to get the definition of potty training out of the way because it may seem like splitting hairs, but this is actually really important to understand when you're asking this question. If you're wondering when your child can and should be potty trained by, and you want to be able to manage your own expectations as a parent or a caregiver, understanding the definition is key. “Potty trained” does not mean no accidents ever. “Potty trained” is when your child and you can accomplish these five things. This is from the Tiny Potty Training book which Andrea wrote because a lot of parents were having a hard time finding clear help out there, or they were having trouble wrapping up EC. We'll get to that in a moment, but the Tiny Potty Training book gives you five outcomes to know that your child has been trained.
Number one, you know when your child needs to go. That's part of potty training. You have to be able to tell when your child needs to go potty. We use the four roads to potty time to get there: Whatever their signals or their pee-pee dance is, whatever their natural timing is, those transition times in your daily life, and your own intuition.
Number two, your child knows where and when to go potty, how to get there, how to sit on it. Things have “clicked,” they're getting it.
This is the mechanics of potty training. This is when the actual training of your child takes place. Andrea likes to call it the “on-the-job training,” because you're providing them with the tools and skills to be able to accomplish the task.
Number three, your child is aware of when he needs to go beforehand, at least most of the time. They all get distracted. We all do. So if most of the time your child is able to notice before they start peeing that they need to go, that's one of the outcomes.
Number four, your child is now wearing clothing, either commandos, undies, pants, whatever you want to have on, and things are clicking while they're wearing clothing also. There's a misconception out there that you can just leave your child naked for the summer and they'll be potty trained, but potty trained while naked is not potty trained. We do wear clothing in our culture, at least here in the United States, so you're going to have to use clothes. That's one of the other outcomes.
And lastly, number five, you are able to go on diaper-free outings together and your child has had potty success outside of the house. So you're not stuck at home all the time. You're not visiting relatives or going to the grocery store and having a bunch of accidents or “misses” as we call them in EC. Those are the five outcomes that tell you your child has been trained.
Now there's going to be follow-up after that. Those five outcomes do not guarantee you that you're not going to have any more accidents, and we'll get to that in just a minute. I also want to mention expectations for completion of elimination communication. So those five things are also what we can expect when EC has been completed, but as far as when your child might be capable of that, completion is usually going to happen between 14 and 20 months. But this again depends on how you close it up, how you wrap up EC, and how quickly their own long-term brain memory develops. So obviously that's going to vary between children. It's also going to make a difference if your child has some delays, so it just depends on when your child is capable of retaining that long-term memory, repeating those same tasks again and again reliably, and that does have at least a little bit to do with how you as the parent or caregiver teaches that.
Completion, or also known as “wrapping up,” can happen as a natural progression, as a natural part of EC, if you put those building blocks in place from when they're developmentally ready to learn them. You're going to want to look at the building blocks of potty independence section of the Go Diaper Free book, and it lists out all the pieces of the potty routine, from pushing their pants down, to getting to the potty, to sitting on the potty, all the little pieces and when, on average, you can expect your child to be capable of taking those on. So this involves brain development, motor skills, how you have your potty space set up. All of these factors contribute to when your child can be potty-independent. And this is one of the big reasons that if you try to search this on the internet, you're going to get so many different answers, because not every family has the same setup. Not every family goes through the same progression or methods of teaching, and so it's just going to be all over the board.
We recommend starting to pass that baton, starting to wrap up and hand over those reigns between 12 and 18 months. Most babies are capable within that time span. That's also what the Montessori School of Thought calls a sensitive period for a child to successfully master self-toileting, potty independence. When your child starts to show signs that their brain can hold that long-term repetitive action and execute it regularly, and that typically happens in this age range. Full completion is usually in the bag at that point, but just remember you can start passing that baton and wrapping up the EC process long before any of those signs are present. So if you're looking up, "When is my child ready to be potty trained? What are the signs of potty training readiness?" It's not when is your child ready to take on the full breadth of the potty training routine, it's when are they ready to take on each of these little pieces.
And you can start handing them over as soon as they are ready. When your baby's crawling, they're capable of moving to the potty space. When your baby is confidently crawling, mastering it, they're able to most likely crawl onto a mini potty, as long as you have one that is accessible to them. That's why Andrea created the mini potty, because it's super short and low profile, and even the littlest babies can typically crawl onto it. So as soon as your child shows that they are capable, then they are ready.
Once you've wrapped up, once you've handed over that baton, whatever euphemism we want to use for that, your child has been trained. Once your child has been trained, once they have met those five outcomes that I talked about at the beginning of the episode, all that's left for you to do is wrap up the loose ends and continue to promote full potty independence and good lifelong pottying habits. And that's again going to be different for each child. Many parents express frustration that they still have to remind their child to go potty or will say things like, "If it weren't for me, there would be pee on the floor all the time." Let's think about that for a second. If it weren't for you as the parent, there would be pee on the floor all the time, your child probably wouldn't eat, they may never bathe. These are all things that just come along with having a child. But because we are in a culture that puts diapers on children full-time and then typically doesn't start the training process till two and a half, three, four, sometimes five years old, obviously those older children are more independent in general. So if you're looking at a baby who's been EC from birth and you're wrapping up around walking or between 12 and 18 months, manage your expectations around what that child is capable of in their everyday life, not just with this view of what a potty-trained child "should" look like.
Ongoing independence, day-to-day life post-potty-training is the same as independence with any other part of your baby's life. You're going to be continuing to move forward and give them little bits of independence, and let go of the reins more and more as they get older, more confident, and more capable. This does not mean to ever, ever go back to diapers. Once you've wrapped up EC or you've potty trained, your child has shown that they get it. They have shown that they are fully capable. If you are steadfast and stay the course, because you know your child is capable, you can get through any regressions and any backsliding. It just takes being consistent.
I want to make a little comparison here as a last point to this. Pottying, or going to the potty in our culture is both a biological instinct and a societal expectation. What I mean by this is you don't have to teach your child how to go potty, how to eliminate their waste. Their body already does that. They already know how to do that from birth. It's like walking. A child who is given the opportunity to practice will learn to walk. Nothing we do is going to stop that or make it happen faster. Our children are going to learn to walk. They are biologically driven and built to do that. So it's the same with going potty. They're going to do that starting from birth. Or crying, or any other physiological process.
The societal expectation piece is where we put the waste. Where does the pee and poop go? And this is like clothing. Your child as a toddler may know how to put their shoes on, but they're still going to forget to do it sometimes. They're still going to ask for help or need reminding, even though they are fully capable and know how to do it. So we as parents build good habits. We remind them to put their shoes on before we leave the house and eventually we'll say, "It's time to go," and our children will go and put their shoes on because they know that's part of the process.
This is what I'm talking about when I say have realistic expectations and make sure you manage them. If you are wondering where your child should be in the potty independence process, whether you've done EC or potty training, look at how they eat, look at how they get dressed, look at the things they do for themselves and notice where they are with that. Are they fully capable of remembering every single time to brush their teeth after breakfast, or whatever routine you've put in place? Are they able to do each little part of the toothbrushing process or are you still helping them with parts of that? And again, like I said at the beginning of the episode, this depends a lot on how you as the parent have wrapped this up. I'm still putting toothpaste on my five-year-old's toothbrush. He is capable of doing it, but I as the parent am still doing it. So I can't expect him every time to go and do that because I'm still keeping that part of the process as my job. If I want him to take that job on, I have to let him take it on.
So if your child is still needing reminders or still needing assistance with parts of the potty training process, they're still trained. If they're meeting those five outcomes that I mentioned at the beginning of the episode, they are trained. They will still have accidents. They will still forget. As they grow, as they get older and their brain develops more, they will be able to take this on more and more themselves, and some of that has to do with personality. But you may have a child who's still 16-years-old and you're having to remind him to go potty before you go on a road trip. That's just part of being a parent.
But those five outcomes, one more time, just so we have them down, your child is trained when: you know when they need to go potty, they know when and where to go potty, they are aware beforehand (at least most of the time), they're wearing clothing, and they've had success outside of the house. That's trained. So your child is capable of reaching all of those things typically by walking. Not every child is going to take all of this on by walking. Not every child is going to do all of this reliably by then, but all of them are able, all of them are capable, because this is developmentally appropriate for that age range.
So there you have it folks. The answer to, "When should my child be potty trained by?" or, "When can they be potty trained by?" is going to depend a lot on how you as the parent have done the training, and what you have been able to let go of, when. But in general, you can expect completion, potty training, wrap-up, whatever you want to call it, to be possible between 14 and 20 months.
If you're thinking, “That sounds way too young, you're crazy, what are you talking about?” I highly, highly encourage you to grab the Tiny Potty Training book because again, it has all of your resources in there, all of the sources cited, all of the evidence for why this is totally reasonable, and in fact was the norm, even here in the US up to only about 60 years ago. And if you're still pregnant or you have a baby younger than 18 months, grab the Go Diaper Free book and you'll get a lot of that same information, just geared more towards younger children, of why it's totally possible to help your child with pottying from as early as birth. It happens all over the world, every single day. It's not normal here because we are a diapering culture now, but I can tell you, Andrea can tell you, so many people can attest to the fact that babies are a hundred percent capable of holding it and using a potty from as early as birth. Obviously a newborn's not going to hold it very long and they're not going to be walking themselves to the potty. So that's why Andrea wrote Go Diaper Free. It's a really easy manual for you to understand, start to finish, no matter where you're starting. Whether it's newborn, 6 months, 12 months, you can start with your baby and have pottying success, and then have that completion between 14 and 20 months and ditch diapers, save money, increase the bond with your child, and have all of those benefits.
Thank you so much for joining me today. I hope that clears up that question at least a little bit for you guys. Now I want to hear from you. Head over to godiaperfree.com/236. Let us know in the comments there: when did your child reach completion? Did you practice EC? Did you do potty-training? What steps did you take to finally wrap them up? Next time on the podcast we're going to be talking about potty training and EC during road trips, so please make sure to tune in then. Until then, I'm Nicole Cheever with Go Diaper Free. Thanks for joining me and we'll see you next time.
Thanks so much for listening. This is the Go Diaper Free podcast at godiaperfree.com. We'll see you next time.
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About Andrea Olson
I'm Andrea and I spend most of my time with my 6 children (all under 12 yo) and the rest of my time teaching other new parents how to do Elimination Communication with their 0-18 month babies. I love what I do and try to make a difference in one baby or parent's life every single day. (And I love, love, love, mango gelato.)