I recently read an article of an American blogger that I like about early potty training. Her website Mama Duck offers precious parenting and family advice. The author, Shelley, is a mama of 4 and she shares all her tricks and tips on how to raise them in a healthy way.
If you’re wondering what early potty training is and what pros and cons it might offer, than you’re in the right place.
Yes, because I have to admit that reading that article was slightly shocking for me. I had no idea that potty training before age 2 was actually possible. I, mom of one, always heard that the best way to go was after age 2.
However, it’s never too late to learn so I devoured her article “All the toddler potty training tips and info you need to potty train by 2” and couldn’t help but wondering what pros and cons both solutions might have.
Is early potty training really possible?
Shelley supports the idea that, with the right strategy (that she extensively illustrate in her article) and tricks, you can early potty train your child before the age of 2.
This doesn’t mean potty training before all the right conditions are in place or your child owns the necessary physical abilities, but being able to recognize the signs, where the most important of all is the cognitive ability to “hold it”.
She successfully early potty trained all of her four kids, two of them with a sensory processing disorder, which means that they process the stimulation differently than most other kids.
Therefore, it’s clearly possible! But HOW?
Let’s see what’s important to know when you choose early potty training VS potty training after age 2.
Difference between cognitive function and social behavior
There’s one thing that really fascinated me and that I honestly never heard before. Maybe in Italy, where I’m from, early potty training is not very common. And it’s that, depending on when you choose to potty train, you’re actually choosing if you want to teach:
- a cognitive function OR
- a social behavior
I know, at first they seem like big words but here’s a quick recap of the difference between the two of them.
Cognitive function (ergo early potty training)
In short, it’s the ability to respond to a primary physiological need. Shelley uses the example of walking: when the child is ready and has enough strength in her legs, she’ll instinctively try to stand up and go. It’s a primary need.
Although, she still needs to be guided in the process. She first sees you hopping on your legs 24/7, then she’ll feel pushed to move by her natural curiosity and will start to crawl (belly or knees) and eventually she’ll seek your help to stand up and make her first steps.
Fall after fall with you behind her to catch her, right? Until she’s finally ready to go on her own and you expect her to do so.
Same thing happens with the early potty training.
Social behavior (ergo potty training after 2)
It’s one of the many educational teachings we give to our kids, such as “brush your teeth” or “get rid of the diaper because you’re ready and it’s time” (or because preschool doesn’t accept kids who still wear diapers).
This last one is what happens for the majority of the kids who start potty training after age 2. Including myself according to my mother’s favorite story: the only thing that convinced me to use the potty was that preschool wouldn’t accept me. Next day I was on the toilet 🙂
So which one should we choose?
In the end, it’s better to potty train before or after age 2?
Clearly both choices have pros and cons, as well as conditions without which things might not worked as planned.
Early potty training before age 2 or not?
In reality this is a million dollar question!
The answer lies exclusively in us as parents, so it’s important to consider all the pros and cons and understand which solution feels more appropriate.
None of them brings any damage to the kids, it’s just a matter of deciding how to make the process easier for you and your little one.
So let’s dive into all the reasons why you should choose one or the other option, shall we? 🙂
Reasons to early potty train before age 2
- Before turning 2, children usually (besides exceptions) respond better to authority because they’re not yet in the phase in which they want to show you that their personality is different from yours (also called Terrible Twos). This means that it should be easier for you to make her get used to sit on the potty or toilet and she’ll accept the process and related rewards more gladly. As soon as she’ll acquire the physical ability to control the stimulation, it’ll be easier to make her associate pee/poo with the toilet.
- Clearly, getting rid of the diapers expense or, in case you use reusable diapers, of the chore to wash them. Even if you decided to still use the diaper at night, it’s already a big a relief.
- Teaching a cognitive function is apparently easier than teaching a social behavior. For cognitive function there’s a fundamental will and need to learn from the baby herself. While for the behavior the child starts to wonder “why on earth should I ever do this? Diaper is so comfy and it doesn’t interrupt my playtime or while I’m trying to climb the bookshelf”. Ultimately, it requires a stronger motivation to convince her.
- It allows you to get ahead on a very important development passage without having to worry about it during the terrible two phase, which can be tough enough as it is without the potty training. Choosing to wait until the kid is perfectly aware she using the diaper as a commodity, might make the process way harder (or a real fight in some cases).
Reasons to potty train after age 2
- Early potty training requires few weeks of semi-house-detention. Going out is not impossible, but it’s a lot more work for parents. For what I read in Shelley’s article, it’s possible and it offers many pros, but in my opinion not everyone (including me) would be able or have the right conditions to add this routine to the other thousands. To sum it up, you should place your child on the potty literally every hour, wait 5/10 minutes and celebrate every time she happens to pee or poop in it. While in the rest of the time you should pray she doesn’t make it in her underwear. Incidents happen even after she learns how to hold it, but in this phase it’ll happen more often. That’s why Shelley smartly suggests to use a timer. According to her, it’s totally doable with a little determination and I believe her, but not everyone has the actual time to stop doing grocery and drop the loaded cart every 45 minutes to bring her to the restroom.
- If you teach a cognitive function (before age 2) you have to be coherent and consistent. You can’t take the diaper away and put her on the toilet every hour the first day and then go back to the diaper the second day. It’d be like helping her to walk today and pushing her back on her knees tomorrow.
- Special cases such as a delay in cognitive function development. In this case it’d be like trying to teach a 6 months old to walk so I strongly suggest to rely on a professional figure.
- Family reasons where both working parents might need extra help, for example from the daycare teachers.
After reading the pros and cons of both options, you should be able to understand if you’d prefer early potty training or not.
I have to admit that I wish I found her article sooner.
Even though some of the steps that Shelley describes can seem a lot of work, I personally believe I would have given it a shot.
I noticed that my son was able to stop the “pee stream” on purpose when he was 19 months old, which means that I could have started by then. Instead I naively waited to see other signals (such as being able to pull his pants down) and I missed the train.
I’m not totally sure I’d have had the determination and consistency, especially with all I had going on in that time. Although, I truly believe that by keeping the final goal in mind, I would have definitely tried my best.
Now we officially are in the terrible twos. Even though daycare is a great help in potty training him, I have the feeling that it’ll be way harder than what it would have been back then.
However, I’ll still try to use her 8 steps and we’ll see how it goes. And I’ll certainly try the early potty training if and when I’ll have a second child.
I truly believe that Shelley knows very well what she’s talking about and has established a very effective strategy.
And you? Would you prefer early potty training or waiting after age 2? Let me know in the comments 🙂
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