Toilet Training & Cultural Differences in Child Care

by Teresa J. Siskin
Toilet-training can help your child develop a sense of confidence and independence.

Toilet-training can help your child develop a sense of confidence and independence.

Knowing when to toilet-train your young child can be difficult because there is no “right” age for success. Understanding different approaches to the process from around the globe can help you find a training method that works for you and your child.

Infant Training

Cultures in India, China and Africa support toilet-training practices that begin within the first 12, and sometimes as early as the first six, months of life. Because babies are typically carried close during these early months, parents in these cultures learn to recognize and subsequently respond to their infant’s elimination cues. While training children to manage their toileting at such a young age requires parental supervision, it comes with the advantage of avoiding the use of diapers and the complications that can come with them, such as diaper rash or chafing.

Training Between 12 to 18 Months

European and U.S. families in the early 20th century preferred toilet-training children between 12 to 18 months. Training in this age window can have its complications. For example, that's also the age range in which your child learns to walk, he might not want to sit patiently on a potty seat as he trains or might have learned to prefer diapers. If your child falls into this category, you can still use this time to reinforce good bathroom behaviors when he is receptive, such as flushing the toilet or singing toileting-related songs.

Training Between 18 to 24 Months

The National Association for the Education of Young Children, a leading U.S. resource for early childhood development and education, along with the American Academy of Pediatrics, suggests you begin trying toilet-training when your child demonstrates an interest through developmental cues that typically emerge between 18 and 24 months of age. Signs of this interest can include curiosity about the toilet, using words like “pee-pee” in relation to the act indicating awareness, showing a preference for clean diapers, and the ability to pull bottoms up and down. When these signs emerge, NAEYC recommends you develop a plan for training that involves patience and consistency as you work to build your child’s toilet confidence.

Older Toddler and Preschooler Training

NAEYC also reinforces the idea that while some children are fully trained by 2 years of age, others take longer to master elimination control. Some studies have shown, however, that those children trained well into their third year exhibited higher frequency of accidents. A 2009 study published in the "Pediatric Journal of Urology," for example, found that those children who began toilet training after 32 months of age suffered a higher rate of a type of incontinence.

About the Author

Teresa J. Siskin has been a researcher, writer and editor since 2009. She holds a doctorate in art history.

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