Potty Training: Turns Out There May Be No "Right Way"

While being the oldest sister had many upsides—like forcing my younger brother to play princess dress up with me, and the argument-ending "because I'm older" quip—the one thing I always hated about it meant my parents relied on me to help around the house. Normally, that's understandable, and knowing how to do dishes and sweep the floors are surely qualities my roommates value. But, the one chore I hated, and often got saddled with, was throwing away dirty diapers. Any time I was told to dispose of one, I would pinch as little material as possible between two fingers, hold it away from my body, and dash, cartoon-like, to drop it in the special garbage can my parents kept in the bathroom.

So when my youngest brother was finally potty trained, I might have celebrated more than my mom. I'm still not sure how that veritable miracle happened, I'm just glad it worked.

According to Laura Sanders' recent Science News piece, despite the myriad of methods found online and in books, they all boil down to two basic approaches to potty training: child-led and parent-led. The truly confusing thing is that there's no scientific study pitting the two methods against each other, so there's no way to know if what you're doing is the "right" way.

As for the best age to start potty training, that seems to fluctuate based on culture. While most doctors agree that by 18 months, most children have enough control to begin training, in parts of Africa and Asia, potty training can start in the weeks after birth. In Iran, kids are potty trained just before they turn two. And in the U.S. in the 1950s, a Baltimore study found that about half of children were potty trained by age two. More recently, though, the age in the U.S. has been slowly increasing to around age three.

But, there's studies that refute both waiting to start, and starting too early. Jumping the gun could mean you'll spend longer potty training your kiddo. Waiting until the child is older could lead to slightly higher risks of problems like incontinence and urinary tract infections. Though it's not clear if these issues are direct results from the age at which a child started potty training.

So, with no scientific consensus available, this brings me back to the solid belief that it actually was a miracle that kept me from sprinting around the house with dirty diapers.

Still confused if the time is right to start potty training? Take our quiz and find out!

Find out the differences between potty training girls and boys.

Image: Child on potty chair via Shutterstock.

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