Potty Training Prodigies

Is it dangerous to potty train too early?


What is the perfect age to potty train a child? These days, it seems  there's mounting pressure on parents for their children to be diaper free by the age of two. Many parents are even starting to train their children during infancy.

Some circles insist that cloth diapers are better for training, while others swear by disposables. With so many conflicting methods, potty training can be a daunting task.

Currently, we are potty training my almost three year old son. He has his own red potty and often sits proudly on his miniature throne. He loves to report to us that he used the "big boy" potty because we all jump up and down like silly monkeys. He's mostly excited about earning his prize, one Skittle for liquids and two Skittles for solids So far, we've seen a lot of success with this method and hope to be diaper free very soon.

Yes, I'll admit that a small motivates my little guy to run for his potty, but not every child needs external motivation to get the job done. A dear friend of mine started potty training her daughter when she was 7 months old using the Elimination Communication (EC) method.

Her tiny peeing prodigy was trained by the young age of 16 months. I've always envisioned her infant daughter, sitting on her potty and reading War and Peace. Sure, this child is super smart, but my friend simply listened to her daughter's cues and led the way to the potty instead of the changing table.

Elimination Communication is a non-coercive process that involves parents observing their baby's signs and signals, providing cue sounds and elimination-place associations. In other words, they carry their infant to the potty when they see the signs that they need to go.

Supporters of EC feel that children are usually taught to use their diapers as toilets and are later asked not to. By that time, babies have dulled their body awareness by becoming accustomed to eliminating in diapers.  This slows down the muscle control needed to become potty trained because learning how to tighten the sphincter muscles is critical to the process. EC parents argue that babies and kids don't learn how to tighten those muscles when they are in diapers

One group of doctors insists that early potty training is actually dangerous for children and believe just the opposite to be true. In an article published on Babble last week, authors Steve Hodges, M.D., and Suzanne Schlosberg, claim that kids who trained earliest and most easily tend to develop the worst problems later on. They say it’s important to know that virtually all toileting problems--accidents, bed wetting, urinary frequency, and urinary tract infections--are related to chronically holding in what needs to come out. The article also said

The reason kids who train at age 2 have more problems than children who train later, in my opinion, is that they have spent more months or years deciding for themselves when they should pee or poop, before they’re mature enough to understand the importance of eliminating as soon as they feel the urge. What’s more, the bladder needs about three or four years to grow and develop, and uninhibited voiding facilitates maximum growth.

They suggest waiting until your child is three years old to start training him or her to use the toilet. Coincidentally, we waited until both of our sons were almost three years old to potty train them. I figured, why push my little guys to do something that they didn't seem ready for?

I gained perspective when I just couldn't envision either of them graduating from college and wearing a Pull Up under their cap and gown when they walked across the stage to get their diploma.

At what age did you potty train your child?  Do you believe that it's better to start early or later? What method did you use? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

Leigh Hewett March 30, 2012 at 02:57 AM
Here is a link to their research, if you'd like to check it out. I'm not saying that I agree with them but they do present some interesting arguments. http://itsnoaccident.net/about-the-book/
Leigh Hewett March 30, 2012 at 02:58 AM
Thanks for these links!
Leigh Hewett March 30, 2012 at 03:03 AM
Wow...2 days old? That is admirable. Thanks for sharing your experience!
Risa Haynes March 30, 2012 at 03:27 PM
We used EC from about 7 months on, when our daughter could confidently sit up on her own, and she was trained by 16 months also. I've heard this claim that this is "training the parents," and as someone who has now done it, I would completely dispute this or at least dispute the fact that this is somehow negative. Parenting is almost entirely about learning to navigate the needs of your children and guiding them through their development. To this end, infant potty training is the same thing. When my daughter was 5 months old, I realized she could associate my hand gestures with words. I was getting ready to put lotion on her after a bath, like I did every night, and I said, "Time to put the lotion on." When I turned around, she was rubbing her hands together like I do to warm up the lotion! It was at that point that I realized how much of our world she was comprehending. From that point on, I've treated her like she understands, which made EC so easy for us. Now at 2, she is only in diapers at night. I would also point out that all over the world their are cultures that don't have disposable diapers or a huge stash of cloth, so this method is just the norm. I would also be curious to see who funded the study you mentioned, Leigh. It's not unusual to find these type of studies being funded by the commercial opponents (aka disposable diaper industry lobby). Thanks for writing an article mentioning EC - hopefully more parents look into it!
Stephanie Gross April 01, 2012 at 01:40 PM
Leigh, great article! We are working with our daughter (2 years, 3 months). She started asking us to change her immediately after she would go in her diaper and we began potty training at about 20 months. However, she just wasn't quite ready and after a couple of weeks wanted to back off, so we didn't push her. Now she is showing interest again and we are encouraging her along the way. My sister-in-law is planning to use the EC method. She tried it during her son's first weeks, but has since decided to wait a couple of months before giving it another go.


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