In between breaking up squabbles, kissing boo-boos and otherwise generally micromanaging our children, I got a chance to ask my sister about how she potty-trained her two boys, Owen and Andrew, by the time they were 18 months.  Owen is now almost five and Andrew is two-and-a-half.  She is expecting her third baby in a few more weeks and this last baby, like his (or her) older brothers, will be wearing cloth diapers.

Catherine told me that she didn’t set out to potty train her sons early but when her mother-in-law brought over a small plastic potty she had found at a garage sale, it got her thinking. Owen was just over one at the time. She says she could tell when he was peeing or pooping so she started to talk to him when he was “going.” She’d say “You’re peeing, good boy,” or “Good pooping, Owen!”  This helped him to learn the words that were associated with his bodily functions.

Much of Owen’s early potty training was spent naked.  He seemed to like being in the buff as many young children do, and the hardwood floors in her house meant that an occasional accident on the floor was no big deal. She left the potty in the corner of whatever room they were hanging out in and let him use it when she sensed he needed to go or whenever he wanted to sit on it. One thing she attributes to his success was his age–he hadn’t reached the stubborn and willful “Terrible Twos” and he was quite happy to please his mother and responded well to praise. In hindsight she says she doesn’t know how others potty train their two-year-olds because her boys were far too disagreeable and prone to power struggles at age two.

Catherine is extremely in tune with her children and practices “Attachment Parenting.”  By watching Owen for cues, she would plop him on the potty whenever she sensed he needed “to go.”  And she also began to put him on the potty right after nap, after meals, before leaving the house and upon getting back home–times when adults and older children often empty their bladders. This sent Owen the message that there are “times” when we use the potty so we don’t have to go when there isn’t a bathroom around.

Something we hear often today when getting ready to potty train is that we should wait until the child has the “words” to communicate.  Owen was not an early talker by any means.  He was mostly using “baby signs” and would sign “potty” if he needed to go.  He was potty-trained long before he was fully verbal.

Since Owen potty-trained early and was also a cloth diaper wearing baby, I, of course, asked Catherine if she thought there was a relationship between the two.  She said she thought there was.  For one thing, she was motivated to get him potty-trained because she was the one washing the diapers.  But she also said, she felt that the cloth helped him to understand at a young age the cause and effect of peeing and then feeling wet.  Though she let him go diaper-less as much as possible when training, she said he did wear  a diaper when she didn’t have time to have to clean up accidents or when she left the house.

Now, I’m certainly not saying that all cloth-diaper-wearing toddlers can be potty-trained this young. However, Catherine’s second son Andrew was also potty-trained early–and by seventeen months! All kids have different personalities, different temperaments, and different levels of control over their bodily functions. My girls were trained by two and a half and two and a quarter. Will Cooper be earlier? I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous since I’ve promised to keep you all apprised! But what I really want to know is this: Will Catherine have a Hat Trick with this third baby or will he or she throw her for a loop and be in diapers until the age of four?  I’ll be sure to let you know!