Introduction

Photo of a toddler with his mother (Ryan McVay / Photos.com)

Children usually reach a point where they no longer want to wear diapers, and would prefer to use the potty or toilet instead. Although this usually doesn't cause any problems, parents often wonder what they could do to make this transition easier for their child. Is there a “right” or “wrong” time to start encouraging a child to stop using diapers? Research suggests that it could be a good idea to start thinking about potty training when your child is about two years old.

After birth, children begin a long learning process. As their brains develop, new connections form between nerve cells. Control over the body's muscles and internal organs needs to develop too. Children learn to control their bladder and bowel movements over time. These are complex processes in which various hormones, the nervous system and muscles all play a role.

The speed at which children develop varies greatly. Bladder and bowel control is just like any other part of child development. For example, some children already start walking at ten months, while others start after one and a half years or later. Studies involving several hundred children have shown that most children start using the potty between the ages of two and three years. But the research showed considerable differences between individual children: while some children had already learned to use the potty or toilet by the age of two, others only learned when they were four years old. In general, though, children usually aren't ready to use the potty before the age of 18 months. There is no need to hurry anyway: if a child starts potty training relatively early, it often takes longer for him or her to succeed than it would at a later point in time.

Research hasn't been able to pinpoint an ideal time to toilet train. But some studies have suggested that children have difficulties changing their habits if they're much older than two by the time they start potty training. These studies also concluded that it doesn't help to pressure your child into using the potty. Doing this may even end up leading to other problems like constipation.

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Please note that we do not provide individual advice on matters of health. You can read about where to find help and support in Germany in our information “How can I find self-help groups and information centers?”

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