When should children start potty training?

The Comprehensive Guide To Potty Training Readiness:Knowing When To Start

When should parents begin the potty training process?

In The Comprehensive Guide To Potty- Training we touched on the timing of potty training and that parents should not use age to determine when to initiate potty training. This guide explains exactly what parents need to observe in a child to ensure the greatest chance of success. It also includes many of the statistics parents are often curious about including the average age for several potty- training related criteria, though it is for reference only and is not a goal or guideline. Since no two children are alike, no two potty training experiences are the same, there is no one size fits all when it comes to potty training. As children grow and develop at different rates physically, mentally, and psychologically, it’s impossible to assign a specific age to start potty training. Instead of focusing on age, parents should look for potty training readiness signs discussed below and not be concerned with how one's child measures up against others. Some kids will be ahead and some will be behind as far as potty training age is concerned, however, there is absolutely no correlation between potty training age and aptitude or future success. 

What is the average age that girls and boys are potty trained?

The following statistics are for reference only and should not be a goal or guideline that parents consider when potty training: The average potty training age in the US is currently 37.5 months, with girls typically trained at 35 months and boys at 39 months.

How long does it take for kids to potty train?

The time it takes to potty train varies greatly since children are unique. It can take anywhere from a few weeks to a year. UC Davis reports: The average time to complete the potty- training process is 6 months. Most girls complete the process without accidents within a few months while boys tend to take several months longer. Typically, children stay dry throughout the night about 10 months after day training as ADH (Anti- Diuretic Hormone) The younger the child when starting potty training, the longer the process usually takes.

In a 1200 people survey of parents in the UK who have potty trained at least one child, madeformums.com revealed: the most common time period to complete potty training reported by parents was 2 to 3 weeks. However, 68% of the parents were potty training for the second or more times as only 22% were successful the first time.

When are children in other countries potty trained?

Over half of the nations worldwide potty train by the age of one year. The age at which children are potty trained is often dictated by the parents’ socio-economic status and cultural norms. Less developed countries that lack diapers, clean water, and sanitation often start potty training shortly after birth due to necessity.

Is the US behind other industrialized nations when it comes to potty training children?

While there has been dialogue suggesting that the US lags behind the rest of the world in potty training age, this is a misrepresentation. The US potty trains around the same age as the other industrialized nations in the world that have access to diapers, clean water, and sanitation, typically around three years of age.

How has the potty training age in the US changed over the years?

In the US, during the 1920s and 1930s, potty training started soon after birth and was completed by 9 months of age. However, after the war, the potty training age shifted upward to 18 months and older as experts sought to distance themselves from the often coercive and abusive practices of earlier years.


How did the advent of the disposable diaper affect the potty training age in the US?

The disposable diaper was invented in 1951 by Marian Donovan, from South Bend, Indiana, a homemaker who used a waterproof shower curtain as a cover with disposable absorptive material.

In 1961 Pampers by Procter and Gamble became the first commercially available diaper, and mass production began. The potty training age grew from 18 to 24 months when the diaper was introduced during the 1960's.

As other manufacturers entered the market, the diaper wars began which resulted in huge marketing dollars and substantial Research & Development taking place.
The large R & D investment led to more absorbent better-fitting diapers as super absorbent polymer SAP was introduced in the 1980s. Better-fitting, drier diapers meant parents could leave children in diapers longer without the baby being uncomfortable and crying. Substantial marketing budgets were allocated for campaigns tailored to instill confidence in mothers keeping their babies in diapers longer. The diaper companies introduced diapers in bigger sizes to fit older children and drive profits even higher.

As a result, during the 1980s and 1990s, the potty training age began to soar from 24 months to 36 months and beyond.

The two largest manufacturers, Procter & Gamble and Kimberly Clark, continue to dominate the diaper industry as they have for the past 50 years, with Pampers and Huggies respectively. Currently, the age is at 37.5 months with some sources insisting the age has climbed to over 42 months of age.

Which pediatricians have influenced the potty training age in the US?

  • Dr. Benjamin Spock and Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, both prominent pediatricians and child development experts, generally advocated for child-centered and individualized approaches to parenting, including potty training. Their approach and guidance emphasized understanding a child's cues, respecting individual differences, and avoiding harsh or coercive methods.
  • Dr. Benjamin Spock: Dr. Spock, in his influential book "Baby and Child Care," emphasized the importance of responding to a child's needs and understanding their unique developmental timeline. He generally encouraged a flexible and gentle approach to potty training, considering the child's readiness and temperament. While he did offer general guidelines, he believed in adapting strategies based on the child's cues and developmental progress.
  • Dr. T. Berry Brazelton: Dr. Brazelton, a pediatrician and child development specialist, authored the influential parenting book, "Infants and Mothers" that also emphasized an individualized and child-centered approach. His concept of "child-oriented toilet training" focused on understanding a child's cues and readiness signals. Dr. Brazelton's approach encouraged parents to pay attention to their child's developmental milestones and engage in a cooperative, non-coercive method of potty training that respected the child's autonomy.

What are the readiness signs parents should look for to indicate a child is ready to potty train?

Parents should look for the presence of the following 21 signs to indicate a child is ready to start the potty training process. The age range indicates the approximate age the sign is likely to occur and should not be a consideration for parents as it may very well fall outside of the range provided.


Although parents always want to know what age potty training should begin, age should not be a factor for parents to even consider. Recognizing the signs of readiness for potty training in a child is crucial for a smooth and successful transition from diapers to using the toilet. Parents should be attentive to these signs but also keep in mind that every child is unique. Not all children show the same signs or progress at the same pace. It's essential to be patient, provide positive reinforcement, and create a supportive environment for the child during the potty training process.

There is no correlation between the age that children complete potty training and their intelligence or any other indicator of the child's abilities or future achievements. The most advanced child may be the slowest to potty train and vice versa; there is simply no way to tie potty training to any future abilities.

Does potty training early cause psychological damage to children later in life?

Contrary to popular beliefs, there has never been any research or studies that indicate that potty training is in any way related to the psychological well-being of children at any point during their life.

Is it bad to potty train a child too early?

The general consensus is that parents are better served to potty train early than late. However, there has been one study that has associated the following problems with early training:

  • Resistance and frustration: If a child is not developmentally ready, attempts at potty training may lead to resistance and frustration for both the child and the parents. This can create a negative association with the potty training process.
  • Incomplete bladder control: Younger children may not have developed full bladder control, leading to frequent accidents. This can be discouraging for both the child and the parents.
  • Difficulty recognizing bodily cues: Potty training too early may mean that a child has not yet developed the ability to recognize and respond to the physical cues that indicate the need to use the toilet. This can result in inconsistent success and setbacks.
  • Emotional stress: Pressuring a child to potty train before they are ready can lead to emotional stress. This stress may manifest as anxiety, fear, or a sense of failure for the child.
  • Regression: Some children who are pushed to potty train too early may experience regression, reverting to previous behaviors such as bedwetting or refusing to use the toilet.
  • Toilet training resistance: A child who is forced into toilet training before readiness may develop a resistance to the process, making it more challenging to achieve successful potty training later on.
  • Physical discomfort: Forcing a child to sit on the potty for extended periods when they are not ready can cause physical discomfort and may contribute to negative associations with the toilet.

Is it bad to potty train too late?

Most experts and research tend to agree that parents should potty train earlier rather than late. Some problems associated with late training are:
  • Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs): Prolonged use of diapers can create a warm, moist environment that is conducive to bacterial growth. This can increase the risk of UTIs, particularly in girls, due to the proximity of the urethra to the anus.
  • Constipation: Delayed potty training can sometimes lead to constipation, especially if children withhold stool due to fear or anxiety about using the toilet. Chronic constipation can contribute to bladder dysfunction and urinary retention issues.
  • Bladder Dysfunction: If a child becomes accustomed to voiding in diapers for an extended period, it might affect their ability to recognize and respond to bladder sensations. This can potentially lead to bladder control issues or urinary incontinence.
  • Delayed Bladder Maturation: Some studies suggest that delaying toilet training might lead to delayed maturation of the bladder, potentially increasing the risk of bedwetting (nocturnal enuresis) later in childhood.
  • Psychological Impact: While not strictly a physical problem, prolonged diaper use can affect a child's psychological well-being. It might hinder their sense of independence and self-esteem, which could indirectly impact their overall health and development.

Of course, late training does not guarantee problems; however, it's better to err on potty training earlier than late according to recent research. Since no two children are alike, few generalizations can be made and hold true for all children when it comes to potty training. This is very much the case for parents looking for the ideal age to start potty training. Parents should not take into consideration a child's age but rather recognize the potty training readiness factors to ensure that a child is physically, mentally and emotionally ready to start the process, as children develop at different ages and rates. 

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