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How Long Does it Take to Potty Train a Toddler?


Question: How Long Does it Take to Potty Train a Toddler?
A reader asks,
"How Long Does it Take to Potty Train a Toddler?"

It took my son no time at all to learn to pee on the potty. He started doing this when he was 2 years old. I would say it wasn't until he was almost 4 years old before he would consistently go poop in the potty and have no poopy accidents. He got into a cycle of holding his bowel movements that took a lot of time and patience to break. As for night training, he never had a wet or poopy night past the time he was 3 years old.

Working with children other than my own, I've seen the full gamut. I've known toddlers who took to potty training within days of putting on underwear for the first time and other toddlers who would come into my classroom already in the midst of potty training and still not be fully trained when leaving my care a year later.

Talk to other honest parents who are not caught up in trying to one-up you or get into comparisons and you'll hear the same thing. I'll share with you what other parents have told me about how long it took to potty train their toddlers.

Liza's Three Children Potty Trained at Different Ages and Speeds

"I have three children, my first and second children were potty trained at age 2, and they did this pretty easy. Now my third child–she is a different story! She is almost 3 years old and she is not potty trained yet and she has been my most difficult one. She is doing things ahead of schedule: skipping, knowing her ABCs, counting, recognizing shapes, speaking in full sentences, using her manners. But she is not advanced when potty training comes in the picture! She still she refuses to let me know if she has to go and sometimes it is a down right tantrum."

The Takeaway: Liza shows how a child who seems very advanced in other areas doesn't always potty train the earliest or the quickest. Try not to put too much pressure on your advanced child.

Beth's Son Started Potty Training Late but Finished Quickly

"I wanted to wait till he had all the signs of readiness because I heard it would be a breeze if he was ready physically and emotionally. Also, one of our pediatricans was very clear that for a boy I should aim for his 4th birthday. However, about 2 months before that day he discovered the leftover potty gear from an earlier failed attempt at potty training. I told him those items were for when he used the potty. In the days to follow he got very interested in the idea. I think he wasn’t convinced if he wanted to give up diapers. But, one day it just clicked.

One day he was in diapers and the next day he was 100% in underpants. He was ready. We might have been late but we were just right for us."

The Takeaway: Beth consulted with her doctor and set a late date. Then she waited patiently until her son was ready. That day came earlier than she planned and potty training took much less time than she expected. Sometimes you may need to take a step back and let your toddler lead the way.

A Doctor's Twins Potty Train in a Few Weeks, But it Could Have Been Longer

"My twins were fully potty trained in about 2-3 weeks. But the quick potty training wasn’t due to any magic formula or inside information that Pediatricians have. We simply waited until they truly showed signs of being ready to be potty trained, which in their case wasn’t until they were about 3 years old. I truly believe that if we had started any earlier, then they still would not have been potty trained until they were just over 3 years old or maybe even a little later."

The Takeaway: Dr. Iannelli feels that they could have spent a very long time training their twins, but by waiting until they were truly ready, the length of time was shortened. Don't get started too early and end up dragging things out unnecessarily.

Liz Shows How Potty Training Time Can Be Shortened with the Right Approach

"My son was potty trained at about 30 months. My husband and I took a long (5 days or so) weekend to focus solely on this. This was our first attempt at training Oliver. We went cold turkey. No more diapers, and we stuck to it. We had no other distractions and we just focused on him. We asked him often if he was still dry and he would have to physically check to make sure. We never got angry when he had accidents, but we did express how yucky it was. He never wore a diaper again after the first day of that weekend. Even at night."

The Takeaway: While this approach may not work for all children, an intensive, fully involved approach like this can be just what your child needs. Just make sure your child is already showing the signs of readiness when you start. If you feel like you've approached potty training lackadaisically in the past, see if ramping up your efforts helps.

I wish I could offer parents out there even a broad number. Two days. Two weeks. Two months. It would be nice. There are just too many different factors -- your toddler's development and temperament, your parenting style, your potty training method, even the seasons -- that play a part in how long it takes to potty train a toddler.

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