Potty Training Around the World
Updated: Oct 9, 2019
Around the world, 50% of children are potty trained by 12 months. This is not typical in the United States where we wait for the child to get much older before potty training. Typical ages in the United States are 2 1/2 for girls and 3 years for boys. So is potty training a child a development issue, or is it more of a cultural issue?
Parents around the world share the challenge of potty training their child. Here we will look at how other countries do it compared to those in the United States.
In the United States, since the late 1950s, the washing machine started showing up in most homes, and the disposable diaper started to become available. Potty training children began to become less of a priority and most often started later in a child’s early childhood years. The convenience of the washing machine, disposable diapers, and child psychologist, Dr. Brazelton who changed the age of a child potty training from 12 months to 3 years, modified potty training in the United States. Since the 1950s, potty training a child later and later in childhood has become more popular. Companies that make disposable diapers produce larger and larger diapers to support the idea of potty training a child later in childhood.
With the diversity of people in the United States, people are embracing later potty training ages as well as several different approaches to potty training. Different methods are available and the parent decides what works best for their child and family. While the majority of U.S. parents watch for signs of readiness and then let their toddler set the pace, parents often use special children's books, games, and potty chairs to encourage their child’s cooperation and progress with potty training. They may also use positive reinforcement techniques such as rewards to get results. Most children are completely potty-trained between the ages of 2 to 3 years old.
Some unique ideas from around the world regarding potty training:
In China, toddlers wear a onesie-style outfit with a split crotch. The child indicates that they need to go to the bathroom, the parents open up the slit, and hold the child away from themselves and the kids go on the ground. It doesn’t seem to matter where they are or what they were doing.
In Germany, kids are potty trained by age 3 because it is a requirement for starting school. Germans emphasize cleanliness in the potty training process, and so boys and girls are taught to sit down on the potty.
In the Netherlands, children are potty trained between 2-3 years old in groups while in childcare. There are little toilets and pots that all the kids use together, then they fill out sticker charts. Parents and daycare providers work together when the kids are ready and the process goes smoothly. Kids must be trained by age four before they start school full time.
In rural Indonesia, potty training isn’t even a word. Diapers are expensive and babies are free to urinate wherever they are standing or placed. Mothers and grandmothers just do a swift clean-up after.
In Pakistan, kids are free to run around and pee wherever they want. Moms give them a bath at night to clean them up, the children wear diapers at night when they sleep and in the morning, the diapers are taken off and the children are ready for the day. Eventually, they learn to recognize the urge and use the toilet.
In Sudan, potty training is done early. It helps that these mothers carry their babies on their backs often, so they either must figure out how to read their baby’s signals. By age 2, most kids are potty trained, except those who can afford diapers.
In Kenya and Tanzania, parents start potty training infants when they are a few weeks old. Since there is nearly always someone tending babies, they are able to immediately respond to the signs of discomfort. Babies who need to eliminate are taken outside and held over the ground in an appropriate place. By the time children are 5 or 6 months old, they stay dry throughout the day and night.
In India, potty training starts when a child is about 6 months old. At frequent intervals, caregivers hold babies above the latrine and toddlers are left to walk around diaperless and only wearing a shirt. The children are praised for remaining clean and dry. The children are usually completely potty trained by the time they are 14 months old.
In Finland and many other northern European countries, kids are routinely held over the potty after every meal from infancy onward. Many European countries tend to leave potty training completion until about 2 years old. The older European generation believes children should be potty trained by 6 months.
Overall, it appears that culture certainly has an impact on the potty training process around the world. In the United States, there is more diversity in the approach and method for potty training. There also appears to be more products available for potty training. Multiple methods provide for differentiated approaches for parents to choose from according to the family lifestyle and a child’s personality and temperament. Ideas from around the globe are incorporated into many of the potty training methods used by United States parents.