Potty Training

here are some potty training myths that are actually true
7 Truths About Potty Training You Can't Ignore

Yes, letting your kid run around naked can actually help.

by Autumn Jones
Originally Published: 

I had two kids in diapers at the same time, which meant I was changing 200 diapers a day. OK, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but it felt that way. I daydreamed about my oldest being able to clean his own behind — so I started buying him underwear. Diving into research mode, I begin investigating how to potty train. Friends and books were giving me so much conflicting information, and it wouldn't be until going through the process myself that I would learn there are some myths about potty training that are actually true.

This phenomenon was clearest to me after potty training my second son. The differences in the experiences with the two of them were completely opposite. Noticing these discrepancies, I started to understand how some potty training facts end up becoming so widely accepted as myths. Each person's experience gives them information to share with other moms, and as the stories are passed along, some pieces emerge as myths or what "doesn't work" when you're attempting to potty train. So if you're embarking on the journey that is potty training, take into account these six myths that are actually true about teaching your child to use the toilet.


They'll let you know when they’re ready.

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The idea that kids know enough about their own body to discern when they're ready to potty train is often dismissed as a myth, since most preschools expect little ones to be using the potty no later than 3 years old. Additionally, plenty of books and articles tell you to start between 2 and 3 years old. “While I disagree with the notion that kids ‘know’ that they are ready,” says Dr. Jessica Madden, M.D., a board-certified pediatrician, neonatologist, and international board-certified lactation consultant, “they will start to show signs and give hints that they are ready to start potty training.”

Maybe they won’t have the explicit thought “OK, now I’m ready to potty train,” but their behaviors will let you know. “[These] include becoming very quiet and stopping what they are doing when they are making a bowel movement,” Madden says, “going into another room or hiding when they are making a bowel movement, or frequently taking off their own diaper and running around without one on.”


Being naked can help.

People will tell you that letting your little one roam the house au natural when potty training doesn't work because it doesn’t mimic "real life" circumstances. But don't let anyone convince you that this "myth" isn't helpful. Aside from my own personal experience potty training my kiddos in the buff, Madden says her understanding is that “being naked helps because it’s a lot easier for them to sit down on a toilet quickly without having to remove training pants or a ‘pull up.’”


Using pull-up training underwear helps potty training.

There is a rumor floating around that using Pull-Ups (or similar potty training underwear) can actually make it harder to transition to potty training. “I have heard this many times, but I am not sure why,” Madden tells Romper. “Potty training is very individualized, and in some cases, pull-ups can actually help with the transition out of diapers, especially at nighttime,” she notes. And disposable potty-training underwear make cleaning up afterward super quick and painless.


You can start over if it isn’t going well.

Finishing what you start is a good approach to a goal, and when it comes to potty training, some will tell you that forging ahead is the only way to teach your kid to use a toilet. But as Madden tells Romper, if it’s not going well or becomes a battle, you can take a pause for a few weeks. “It’s also important to make sure that you do not start potty training around the time of any big life stressors for a toddler, such as the birth of a sibling, moving to a new home, or starting a new day care or preschool,” she adds.


Preschool can sometimes lend a hand.

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I had always heard that day cares and schools want nothing to do with potty training, and expect you to have this on lockdown by the time you send your little one their way. I was surprised to learn that some preschools (including the one I sent my kids to) will help encourage potty training at school with children who are learning at home. “Although the majority of preschools expect for children to be fully toilet trained when enrolled,” Madden explains, “there is an increasing number that will accept partially trained children. I think that this is, in large part, due to the realization that many children are not developmentally ready to toilet train until they are 3 years old.” This way, they don't have to miss school while they're getting the hang of using the potty.


A kid’s wardrobe matters when it comes to potty training.

This is dismissed as a myth since some people don't see how what you dress your child in has anything to do with potty training. But anyone who has tried to wrangle a toddler out of some overalls while he's doing the pee-pee dance knows that is totally true. “I think that toddlers should dress in comfortable, easy-to-remove play clothes, whether they are potty training or not,” offers Madden. “While there’s not a specific outfit, per se, to wear when training ... they should be in clothing that they can easily remove by themselves.”


Kids can be potty trained at different ages.

Some may dismiss this notion as a myth, arguing that toddlers should be potty trained by the time they’re 2 years old. But as with many things, it’s not one size fits all. “The reality is that there is a wide range of ‘normal’ ages to start potty training — from 18 months to 3 years of age,” Madden tells Romper. “In some cases, children are not fully potty trained until they are 4.”

Every child is different, and what worked for your first kid might not work for the next. Ultimately, it comes down to whatever makes the process easiest for you as a parent and minimizes the mess (and tears) along the way.


Dr. Jessica Madden, M.D., board-certified pediatrician, neonatologist, international board-certified lactation consultant, and medical director at Aeroflow Breastpumps

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