What’s Normal during Potty Training?
2/27/2007 | by Jennifer Shu
As a pediatrician, I am often asked what is considered to be normal during potty training. The
answer’s easy—pretty much anything goes and can be considered normal for children. Here are
some thoughts why:
Every child is different. Just as all children have different physical characteristics,
personalities and genes, they also have different patterns when it comes to potty training. Some
will be eager through the entire process while others will show no interest whatsoever. Parents
can try to figure out what approaches work best for their child’s style and act accordingly. For
example, some children respond well to praise or rewards (so go get some stickers or star
charts) while others follow directions easily when it’s expected of them (don’t bother with
It’s a gradual process. Sure, we’ve all heard stories of children who train practically overnight,
but the vast majority take weeks, if not months, to stay dry consistently throughout the day. We
don’t expect our children to start walking or talking overnight, and neither should we hope that
they will learn to use the potty right away. Be patient since it’s normal for things to go relatively
Expect setbacks. The phrase “one step forward, two steps back” comes to mind. You will likely
see some progress in potty training, only to have it plateau or even regress before your child
advances again. Fortunately, the setbacks are often minor so look for the big picture, overall
improvement in the training process.
Nighttime training happens later. While daytime training often finishes by age 3 or 4,
nighttime training may take until 5 years or even longer. Some older children will continue to wet
the bed at night, possibly because they have relatively small bladders for the amount of urine
they produce or because they are such deep sleepers they don’t recognize the urge to get up
and go to the bathroom. Most children and adolescents, however, will stay dry at night as well
as they do in the day—but it won’t usually happen at the same time.
It will happen. Although it may not seem like it when you and your child are in the middle of
training, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. After all, kids who are developing
typically in other ways (such as their motor skills and speech) just don’t go to high school in
diapers. Luckily, most kids succeed in their potty training by the time they reach kindergarten,
with only a very few stragglers catching on after that. Keep telling yourself that today might be
the day that your child is trained, and if not, there’s still tomorrow!