How Long Does it Take to Potty Train a Toddler?

The length of time it takes toddlers to potty train varies

mother and daughter potty training
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Parents often wonder how long it should take to potty train their toddlers, but there's no hard-and-fast rule. Some children learn in a matter of days, while other children need weeks, months or longer to master the practice.

My Potty Training Experience

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, but it wasn't until he was almost 4 that he would consistently go poop in the potty.

He developed the habit of holding his bowel movements, which took a lot of time and patience to break. As for night training, he never had a wet or poopy night after the age of 3.

Working with children in daycare, 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 weren't fully trained when leaving my care a year later.

Parents interested in the length of the process should talk to other parents with no interest in one-upping or competing with them. They'll likely receive a vast array of responses. Here's what parents have shared with me about potty training. 

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

A parent named Liza confided that her children all learned to use the potty at different ages. Her eldest two learned at age 2, but this has not been the case for Liza's youngest.

"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 ABC's, counting, recognizing shapes, speaking in full sentences, using her manners, but she is not advanced when potty training comes in the picture.

She still refuses to let me know if she has to go and sometimes it is a downright tantrum."

Liza's situation 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 Potty Trained Late but Finished Quickly

Beth waited until her son was physically and emotionally ready to be potty trained.

"Also, one of our pediatricians was very clear that for a boy I should aim for his 4th birthday," she said. "However, about two months before that day [my son] 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 percent in underpants. He was ready. We might have been late but we were just right for us."

Beth's story indicates that sometimes parents need to take a step back and let toddlers lead the way.

A Doctor's Twins Potty Train in a Few Weeks's pediatrics expert, Dr. Vincent Iannelli, said his twins took just two to three weeks to become potty trained. But he pointed out, "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 doctor feels that he could have spent a very long time training his 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 

Liz's son became potty trained at 30 months old. She and her husband reserved a week to focus on potty training him.

"This was our first attempt at training Oliver," she said. "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."

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.

Wrapping Up

I wish I could offer parents a solid number about how long potty training takes. Two days. Two weeks. Two months. It would be nice, but too many factors influence potty training. A toddler's development and temperament, parenting style, the potty training method and even the seasons play a part in how long it takes to potty train a toddler.

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