What if I started potty training too early?

You may not have to deal with a stadium full of screaming fans as the referee making a lot of the important calls in Baby’s development as they grow, but it’s still easy to worry about whether you made the right call now and then. You don’t have the chance to review tape to figure out whether your call on time to potty train was fair or foul, for example – all you have is Baby’s behavior since then to go off of. If they take to potty training like a duckling takes to a pond, for example, you obviously made the right call. But if they are struggling with it, does that mean you called it wrong, or is it just part of the learning process as Baby grows?

What does “too early for potty training” mean?

In most cases, “too early” for potty training mostly means that a toddler doesn’t have all the skills they need to succeed as they learn how to master potty chair use. It’s definitely possible for toddlers to be potty trained before they’ve checked off every box in the “potty training readiness” checklist, but the more signs of readiness a tot is showing, the better their chances of a quick, easy, successful transition from potty-training to potty-trained they have.

Some doctors argue that not all young toddlers who can be potty trained should be, because children who can hold in their pee and poop might do just that, and resist going to find a toilet for as long as possible, which can lead to problems like urinary tract infections and constipation. This mostly refers to toddlers under two years old, but with all young children, it’s important to make sure that once they’re controlling their own bladders well enough to be potty training, they’re using the toilet regularly, instead of holding it in for as long as possible first to maximize play time.

What can I do if think I started potty training too early?

When you’ve started potty training, the Mayo Clinic recommends keeping an eye on your toddler’s progress and if they are having trouble getting the hang of potty training, or it isn’t starting to click after a few months, they recommend being willing to stop for a few weeks, or a few months, and try again when they might be a little bit more ready. If Baby doesn’t seem to be making any progress with potty training, or seems to be resisting it, taking a step back and letting them go back to diapers for a little while can help take some of the pressure off, which can make training run more smoothly the next time around.

If you have an external deadline for potty training, like starting preschool, and there isn’t a way for your family to avoid that deadline, or push it back, try working with Baby to figure out what it is about potty training that they may not like, or may be having trouble with. If they are bored by sitting on the potty, confused about why they need to make this big change in their life, or afraid of the toilet, there may be a way that you can restructure how you’re doing potty training to fix the problem.

  • Steve J. Hodges, Kyle A. Richards, Ilya Gorbachinsky, L. Spencer Crane. “The association of age of toilet training and dysfunctional voiding.” Research and Reports in Urology. 6:127-130. 2014. Retrieved July 19 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4199658/.
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Potty training: How to get the job done.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, November 15 2014. Retrieved July 19 2017. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/in-depth/potty-training/art-20045230.
  • “Are you potty training too soon?” Cleveland Clinic. Cleveland Clinic, May 18 2015. Retrieved July 19 2017. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/2015/05/are-you-potty-training-too-soon/.
  • “How to tell when your child is ready.” Healthy Children. American Academy of Pediatrics, November 21 2015. Retrieved July 19 2017. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/toddler/toilet-training/Pages/How-to-Tell-When-Your-Child-is-Ready.aspx. 

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