When Can You Start Toilet Training?

Just like walking, children cannot be toilet trained before they are physically ready.  That usually happens around 18 months. But like walking, some children are physically ready a bit earlier.  WAIT!  Using the toilet by yourself is so much more than physical readiness.

Potty training is a complex skill, with cognitive, sensory, motor and behavioral components.  Saying that you can’t do anything at all until the child asks to be trained is as silly as carrying your infant around all day until he tells you that he is ready to walk now.  Babies spend every day from birth onward refining the skills for walking.  The same could be said of potty training, but only when parents understand how to do effective pre-training.

My new book, The Practical Guide to Toilet Training Your Child With Low Muscle Tone, helps parents learn about good pre-training as well as all the skills needed for potty use.  Pre-training is when parents expand elimination awareness, relevant language and toileting knowledge in their infants and toddlers.  No pressure, no fights and no failure.  You can’t fail pre-training!  My book is targeted to children with low tone, but every parent can use these pre-training concepts successfully.   Children with low tone are more like typically-developing children than most of their parents can imagine.

Children that have been well prepared are going to show readiness signs sooner, and be more motivated and excited to train.  This is because training readiness isn’t just biology, folks!

Will early training harm children?  I think it depends on what you mean by “early” and “training”.  Forcing a child to do anything, shaming a child, and having repeated failures is never good for children of any age.  It just doesn’t work.

Older kids can learn faster because they have more motor and cognitive skills, but they may have entered the defiant stage of toddlerhood.  That can make potty training a nightmare. They have left that perfect training period that the Baby Whisperer, Tracy Hogg, speaks so eloquently about.  Her ideal training situation is the phase in which children still want to please adults, have the physical abilities to get on and off a potty, and can now remember routines/understand rewards. This is typically 16-24 months.   If you have a spirited or shy child who is super-hesitant or easily frustrated, and always has been, then you need good pre-training advice even more than the parents of children with low tone!

I think the Elimination Communication (EC) theory has a lot to offer parents who want to learn pre-training.  Low Tone and Toilet Training: What You Can Learn From Elimination Communication Theory   But EC isn’t toilet training.  The parents that used to hold their 8-month old over the potty still have to train their toddler to pee on their own.  Adults that are positive, read a child’s cues correctly, and use consistent methods that inspire rather than frustrate children will have the best results.

If you try to potty train your child when they are more likely to fight you over any request, if you use ineffective motivators or the wrong equipment, and if you express your frustration, or worse, your lack of faith in them, you will have major problems at any age.

The last lines of my book apply directly to this post:

Be prepared, be consistent, expect to practice, and stay positive!  You can do it!

My book, The Practical Guide to Toilet Training Your Child With Low Muscle Tone, is now available as an e-book on my website tranquil babies, and as a clothbound hard copy in the U.S. by contacting me through my website.  

There is NOTHING out there that explains the role of low tone in the process of potty training, and gives parents real advice that works.  Books for children with autism or cerebral palsy don’t apply in most cases.  Generic toilet training books have great suggestions that often create more frustration and failure.  I decided to change all that!

My readiness checklists make it clear what you need to work on, what your child’s strengths are, and then the remaining chapters help you from picking the right potty to transitioning to the adult toilet out in the community.  You will understand why low tone makes things more challenging, and what you can do to move forward today!



By Cathy Collyer

I am a licensed occupational therapist, licensed massage therapist, and certified CBT-i sleep coach in private practice in the NYC area. I have over 25 years of professional experience in adult and pediatric treatment. It has been a joy to help people of all ages improve their ability to grow and thrive! Occupational therapists are focused on enhancing a client's functioning in everyday life. We are practical healthcare providers, interested in teaching, adapting actions and environments, and building a client's useful skills for living their best life, regardless of their challenges. I am the author of five books, including "Staying In The Room: Managing Medical And Dental Care When You Have DID" and "The Practical Guide To Toilet Training the Autistic Child". I lecture on many subjects, including sleep, trauma, and development. Contact me to learn more about how I can help you achieve YOUR goals!

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