Around the world, the average age of potty training is around 12 months of age, but in the United States, the average age of successful potty training is between 2.5 and 3 years of age. Even in the U.S., the average age of potty training has slowly been increasing over the past few decades. For this reason, you may find it strange that your child is not yet potty trained at age 2-3, and wonder if they are suffering from developmental issues, either physical or emotional.
While it is a good idea to check with a developmental pediatrician, it is important to keep in mind that there are several cultural reasons why modern American children toilet train later than other children.
Many parents in other countries regularly practice elimination communication from the moment a child is born. This involves assessing when an infant is about to urinate or defecate and slowly teaching them to do so on cue. Although some American parents practice part-time elimination communication, it is most effective when it is done full-time, by a caregiver who is constantly with the child.
Work and childcare in the United States means that the child may have several child care providers who do not consistently practice elimination communication, which means that American children may be less aware of when they are eliminating and how to control their bodily functions.
In Western countries, such as the United States, most parents use disposable diapers. Modern disposable diapers are designed to keep your child comfortable and prevent diaper rash by keeping moisture away from your baby. This makes it more difficult for children to feel when they urinate.
Even modern cloth diapers are often made with layers of special material meant to keep your baby feeling dry, leading to the same issues that disposables cause regarding knowing when your baby has urinated.
Alternatively, many countries with a lower potty training age utilize traditional cloth diapers, which do not have a moisture barrier, or do not utilize diapers at all. This allows their children to feel when they urinate and may encourage an earlier motivation for potty training.
Attitudes Towards Elimination
In the United States, there is often an attitude of shame associated with urination and bowel movements. This includes calling a baby's diapers gross or stinky, and putting pressure on children to learn to use the toilet to be considered a "big kid." These attitudes can cause children to feel anxious about toilet training, causing them to toilet train successfully at a later age.
If your child is toilet training later than you expected, it may be cultural and environmental influences that are causing the delay. It is important to discuss your expectations and desires with a trained developmental pediatrician to prevent unneeded stress and disappointment while encouraging your child towards self-sufficiency. Contact a company like Partners in Pediatrics for more information.