Potty training your baby boy doesn't have to wait till he's ready to start preschool. Although pushing the potty is never a good idea, there are plenty of ways to start introducing the potty -- and even finish potty training -- as early as you want to start.
Decide if Early Potty Training is Right for Your Family
On average, boys potty train older than girls; most finish by 31 months, according to the University of Michigan Health System. Starting earlier usually means kids finish earlier too, but it also means the total process of potty training will take longer, according to a 2003 study in Pediatrics. Pushing won't make it happen faster, so if you want to train early, be sure you're ready to be patient through a messy and potentially long process. Use back-up diapers, pull-up diapers or cloth trainers when necessary to make the process more relaxed. Early potty training is best viewed as a long-term process rather than a job to accomplish quickly.
Use Elimination Communication to Potty Train from Birth
Elimination communication is a way to help your baby use the potty as early as birth, and ideally before six months. Elimination communication isn't exactly potty training, since it focuses on communication, body awareness, and interaction between caregiver and child rather than child independence. Although it's criticized as a method that requires a parent to be constantly present and attentive, experts such as Christine Gross-Loh, author of "The Diaper-Free Baby," say that you can easily do it once a day and still help your baby potty train earlier. To start elimination communication with a boy who's younger than six months old, decide on a "cue sound" that you will use to encourage him to pee. Take his diaper off, put him on a towel or open diaper, and watch him. When he pees, make your cue sound. Pay attention to see if he gave you a "signal" either before or while he was peeing, such as wiggling, grunting or making a certain expression. As you start to anticipate when he'll go next, either because of signals or because of timing, you can hold him over a potty and encourage him to go there. Use the "classic EC hold" by putting your hands under his thighs and supporting his back and head against your chest, and use your index finger to point his penis down. It's also helpful to use a potty with a splashguard in case your aim is off! Keep in mind that elimination communication isn't a quick path to potty training; it's a gradual process of communication and awareness that eventually leads to potty independence.
Encourage Independence to Potty Train a Young Toddler
Early toddlerhood is a fun time to start potty training if you're patient and willing to deal with a little mess. When your boy starts walking, you can teach him to pull his pants down, or let him go without pants on a floor with a hard surface. Most toddlers will not be able to aim well if they pee standing up, so teach him to sit on a potty that's low enough for him to get on without help -- and make sure this potty has a splash guard. You can teach him to aim down, but even if he makes it to the potty in time, he'll sometimes forget to aim. When he has an accident, respond calmly in a matter-of-fact way, and encourage (but don't force) him to help you wipe up the mess. Over time, he'll get the hang of getting to the potty in time. Although starting at this age will take longer than waiting to start later, many boys who start at their first birthday will be mostly reliable by the time they turn two.
Use Praise to Potty Train Before Age Two
Between 18 and 24 months, many boys will start to show at least some of the signs of readiness for using the potty as outlined by the American Academy of Pediatrics. However, as he gets closer to his second birthday, your boy will probably also become more willful, independent and attached to his routines. This can make starting potty training at this age challenging. The methods that work for a younger toddler are helpful at this age, but you can also incorporate gentle encouragement such as rewards or praise to make the potty more attractive for him.
- Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images