Is it “normal” that my child is not potty-trained yet?

One of the most common concerns for parents of toddlers is potty training. Child psychologists are often asked if there is cause for concern when a young child still has toileting accidents, whether at night or during the day. Parents, particularly mothers, tend to put too much pressure on themselves and their children to be trained at very early ages.  Mothers compare notes on how young their children were trained, proudly impressing one another with tales of how early their children were trained, each even younger than the other, while at least one mother remains anxiously quiet, wondering if something is wrong with her child since he is not yet trained at 3.  The truth is, unless a child is truly ready to begin potty training, it can be an exercise in frustration for both the parent and the child. The American Academy of Pediatrics printed a useful guideline for parents to introduce potty training


Studies such as Blum, Taubman, and Nemeth (2003) have found that there is generally little use in beginning intensive potty training prior to the age of 27 months (2 years and 3 months!) unless a child shows he or she is ready and motivated. Beginning before a child is physically and cognitively ready can prolong training. When training was started prior to 27 months, it often took more than 12 months for the child to be fully potty trained. Given that most children typically do not show signs of readiness (e.g., understands words for potty, stays dry for 2 hours) until after 2 years of age (Schuman et. al 2003), it might put more pressure than necessary on both parents and children to start before then. Of course studies report averages, so there will be children who are ready earlier and those who are not ready until later. This is “normal” and not cause for alarm.

The bottom line is, potty training should not be a source of stress. Parents need to begin training when their children seem ready. Very early potty training is not linked to intelligence by any known scientific studies. Relax and know that your child will achieve this milestone in the time frame that is right for him or her.



American Academy of Pediatrics. (2004). Toilet training your child: The basics. Contemporary Pediatrics, 21(3). Retrievedfrom

Blum, N.J., Taubman, B., & Nemeth, N. (2003). Relationship between age at initiation of toilet training and duration of toilet training: A prospective study. Pediatrics, 111(4), 810-814

Schum, T.R., Kolb, T.M., McAuliffe, T.L., Simms, M.D., Underhill, R.L., & Lewis, M. (2002). Sequential acquisition of toilet-training skills: A descriptive study of gender and age differences in normal children. Pediatrics, 109(48), 1-7