Stop Asking If We're Potty Training Our Toddler — Trust Me, We Have Plenty Of Time

by David Clover

Shortly after my son's first birthday, people started peppering me with questions about his development. At first, there was the ever-popular "Is he walking yet?," but once he made the transition from a hesitant step here and there to running across our living room, that question was replaced with a new one: "Is he potty-training yet?" Frankly, I wish people would stop asking. At 18 months, my son still has plenty of time for potty-training, and I'm in no rush.

How folks inquire about potty training varies depending on their personal parenting philosophies. Some people start with the basic, “So have you started potty training yet?” while parens with a more child-led parenting approach tend to ask if he’s “showing any interest in potty training." Many parents even prefer the term “potty learning” because they see learning to use the toilet as a skill a child develops, and they find that the term “training” is too reminiscent of the idea of training pets. But whatever you call it, and whatever approach you take, the basic idea is still that eventually, the kid will stop using diapers and go to the bathroom to do his business, just like the rest of the family.

According to online health resources from the University of Michigan, the current average age of potty training is 29 to 31 months old. In the past, kids used to potty train much younger: in the 1940s, for instance, the average age was around 18 months, according to WebMD.

But the later age of potty training might not be such a bad thing, according to Andrea McCoy, MD, an associate professor of pediatrics at Temple University. “We’re learning that pressuring children to achieve potty training isn’t constructive,” McCoy told WebMD. “Two-year-olds are working to express their autonomy. Engaging in power struggles with them is frustrating and fruitless.”

As a parent, I often feel the pressure of trying to encourage my child to hit certain milestones. We're not just freaking out if our child is a little "late" in hitting one of these milestones, but we're also demanding that they do it early. And with all the pressure on children to walk and talk at a young age, it makes sense that people would be equally enthusiastic about children learning to potty train early. After all, that's one milestone that is supposed to make life considerably easier for the parents.

When my son was around 10 months old, my wife and I bought him a small, green, plastic potty. I had seen a list of potty training tips somewhere, so I thought it would be best to get ready, even though I wasn’t sure when actual potty training would start. He took to it immediately. I thought it would be great for him to get comfortable with it, so learning to use it wouldn’t be scary when the time came… but really, all he wanted to do was take the damn thing apart, over and over again. I still have no idea when that little green potty will be used for its intended purpose.

If I’m being completely honest, I’m just not in that big of a hurry to get my son out of diapers.

I can say with all certainty, as his mother, that my 18-month-old isn’t “showing signs of readiness” of potty-training at this stage. How do I know he’s not ready to ditch the diapers? It’s simple, really: he won’t stop lying to me about having pooped. When I ask him, "Hey, did you just poop?," he 'll back away and attempt to hide his butt in the corner to avoid a dreaded diaper change. If he can’t answer me honestly about whether or not he already pooped, how is he supposed to communicate with me about whether or not he needs to use the bathroom?

If I’m being completely honest, I’m just not in that big of a hurry to get my son out of diapers. Sure, diapers are a pain in many ways: either you’re constantly buying disposables or you’re constantly washing cloth diapers. Plus they get stinky, and you always have to carry around back up diapers with you whenever you go anywhere. But I don't have any illusions that the transition from diapers to big-boy underwear will happen all at once. Plus, it's not like once you potty train, you never have to see your kid’s poop again: I've heard horror stories from moms who still get called into the bathroom to help their kids with wiping.

In the toddler stage, there are certain advantages to having your child still in diapers. For one thing, I don’t have to deal with surprise accidents or bedwetting yet, because he’s got a diaper on. When we took him to an outdoor music festival last summer, I never once had to crowd myself and my child into a stinky Porta-Potty. Diaper changes happened on a blanket on the grass, and it was literally no big deal.

Would I purposefully keep him in diapers longer because of those minor conveniences? Hell, no! But each stage has its pros and cons, and for now, there are more pros to keeping my son in diapers than there are to potty-training him. Besides, kids aren't a monolith, and children develop at different rates. So even if everyone else cares deeply about whether my son is potty-trained at 18 months, I'm OK with the fact that he's not yet.