Pushing Your Kids To Potty Train Before They’re Ready Is Almost As Horrible As Bragging About It

potty-trainingPotty training is one of those milestones that causes endless headaches for parents. I blame all the people who insist that babies are born trained and never want to be in diapers, for fooling the rest of us into believing we’re doing it wrong. It turns out all of those potty-over-achievers may be doing more harm than good. Pushing your child to potty train before age two is linked to increased risk of later wetting problems. So if you’ve bought into the hype that your child needs to be potty-trained before they crawl, you can relax now.

”Parents who train their children early to meet preschool deadlines, to save landfills from diapers or because they think toddlers are easier to train should know there can be serious repercussions,” says lead author Steve Hodges, M.D., an associate professor of pediatric urology at Wake Forest Baptist.


The study, reported online in Research and Reports in Urology, involved 112 children ages three to ten. Patients were grouped into three categories of potty training: early, normal and late.”Early” was considered before age two, “normal” was considered between two and three and “late” was after three. Sixty percent of the early trainers had daytime wetting issues. One interesting thing the researchers uncovered in the study was that these wetting issues – or what they call “voiding dysfunctions” – had a lot to do with constipation.

When kids are trained to “hold it” early, they may develop constipation. Hodges explains, ”When children hold stool, it backs up in the rectum. The enlarged rectum presses against the bladder, reducing its capacity and causing the nerves feeding the bladder to go haywire.” In this study, early trainers were three times more likely to complain about constipation than late trainers.

So it seems those of us who can’t get our kids out of diapers early may inadvertently be doing something right. Hodges says, ”Uninhibited voiding in diapers is likely beneficial to bladder development. In my practice, it’s often the children who trained earliest and most easily who end up with the most severe voiding problems.”

The best advice I ever got about potty training was, ‘he’ll do it when he’s ready.” It was also the most frustrating advice, because it took the ball out of my court. But everyone who said that to me was absolutely right. One day he just started asking to use it. Now I’m one of those annoying parents who claims kids will do it “when they are ready.” Truer words were never spoken.

I think it’s normal to stress about having your toddler trained before they go to daycare. I was relieved that my kid was trained before he got to daycare, but he didn’t start until he was three. I understand why parents feel pressure to get this milestone out of the way, but if more research proves waiting may be beneficial for our kids, maybe we can all stop regarding age two as some kind of “magic number” our kids need to be trained by, and let them give us cues when they are ready.

(Jamie Hooper/ Shutterstock)

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