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Which Toilet Training Method is Best? 4 Popular Strategies

by Vannessa Rhoades 14 Jun 2023
Which Toilet Training Method is Best? 4 Popular Strategies

Perhaps you've reached your limit with diaper changing. Or maybe your little one has expressed an interest in an activity that necessitates being able to go to the potty on their own. Regardless of the reason, you've decided it's time to begin toilet training (potty training). That said, it may not take you long to figure out that you don’t really know much about the specifics of this process. Simply telling your child to use the potty instead of a diaper obviously won’t work. 

The Internet is chockful of conflicting opinions and techniques surrounding toilet training. This can leave a lot of parents feeling overwhelmed. How do you decide which approach is best for your situation? While we can’t make that choice for you, we can provide insight into the advantages, disadvantages, and processes of some of the most popular toilet training methods. We can also help you decide whether your child is genuinely ready to begin potty training.

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What’s the Best Toilet Training Method?

If you’ve determined that your little one is ready to start toilet training, the first thing you’ll want to do is figure out which style works best for your household. There’s really no one “best” way of doing it. Each potty training method has its pros and cons. Let’s take a closer look at a few of the most popular techniques.

Child-oriented potty training

One of the most successful potty training methods, according to research from the National Institutes of Health, is simply observing a child’s readiness signs for each stage of the process. This concept was first presented back in 1962 by the renowned T. Berry Brazelton and is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Child-oriented potty training typically starts between 2 and 3 years of age, when your little one begins telling you they want to use the toilet. With this method, caregivers may talk about using the potty and offer it as an option, but there’s no assertive push to make the child use the toilet. Instead, they allow their little one to take the lead and often continue using diapers or pull-up training pants until the child is trained.

Advantages: This method works well for parents who aren’t in a hurry to toilet train. It doesn’t require a parent or caregiver to concentrate all their time and energy on the process or devote large chunks of time to it. Because it’s initiated by the child, there tends to be more cooperation and less regression.

Disadvantages: It takes a while. You may still be using diapers for a longer stretch of time with this method as compared to other toilet training techniques.

3-day toilet training method

Introduced in 1974 by psychologists Nathan Azrin and Richard Foxx, this method is a favored option for caregivers who want their little one toilet trained quickly. Along with child-oriented techniques, research indicates this is one of the most successful strategies for toilet training. This train-in-days method is most effective when the child is at least 22 months old. On the first day of training, all diapers are tossed aside. The child is dressed simply in big kid underwear and a t-shirt, shown the potty, and told to let their caregiver know when they need to go. Accidents will happen (many, many accidents, in all likelihood). Caregivers are supposed to pick the child up and rush them to the potty each time in order to finish. This technique requires a lot of patience, plenty of praise, and a large stockpile of clean undies and fluids.

Advantages: Most caregivers see results quickly, so it’s especially useful for a child who needs to be  toilet trained in time to start school or another activity.

Disadvantages: You’ll need to devote your entire schedule to concentrating on this activity for the full 3-day span. Be prepared to clean up lots of accidents.

Parent-led toilet training

The basic premise of this method is that caregivers or parents prompt a child to go to the potty at regular intervals or based on a set schedule. For example, a parent may take a child to the toilet every 2 hours to sit on the potty throughout the day or after every meal, etc. It can be used at any age.

Advantages: This method may be more appealing to parents who need to adhere to a strict schedule. It may also be easier to be consistent with this method when there are multiple caregivers involved. Parent-led toilet training doesn’t require any massive changes to the family routine or big periods of time to concentrate only on toilet training.

Disadvantages: Since the child isn’t the one leading the charge, they might not learn to identify their body’s signals as quickly.

Infant toilet training

Sometimes referred to as natural infant hygiene or elimination communication, this method is favored among many Asian and African families and is popular with many who practice attachment parenting. Infant toilet training generally started between 1 and 4 months of age and is completed by the time the little one is walking. With this method, diapers are rarely used. Instead, parents observe their baby’s body language to determine when they are about to pee or poop, then take them to the toilet. Parents who wish to diaper their child at night are encouraged to use a cloth diaper (never disposable) so that the child can feel it when they are wet.

Advantages: Parents who practice this method save an outrageous amount of money on diapers. Babies tend to get fewer diaper rashes, and many caregivers report feeling more connected with their children with this method.

Disadvantages: It’s messy. It also requires a huge amount of time and attention from parents who must concentrate on their baby’s signals. This may be impractical for many families, particularly ones where caregivers alternate frequently.

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Is Your Little One Ready for Toilet Training?

You may be ready to get this potty training show on the road, but your child may be another story. Many children begin to exhibit signs of readiness between the ages of 18 months and 3 years. When trying to determine whether your little one may be inclined to start the process, keep an eye out for these signs of readiness:

  • telling you they want to go potty
  • showing an interest in the potty and how it’s used
  • being coordinated enough to remove their pants and wash their hands
  • demonstrating mature bladder control (dry diapers for long stretches of time)
  • showing the ability to follow directions with multiple steps
  • showing a desire for more autonomy

The Bottom Line

If you and your child are prepared to start the potty training process, selecting the appropriate method is essential for your family. While selecting a method, take into account your child's temperament, your parenting approach, and the practicalities of your routine. Remember that potty training is not a quick fix and demands a significant amount of perseverance and determination, regardless of the approach you choose. However, it can be less overwhelming if you select a method that is suitable for your child and family.

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