I never potty trained my kids in the United States, even though we’re American. By the time my twins were ready, we lived in Somalia. We had one toilet with a toilet seat and a flush, like an American toilet. We had one hole in the ground, aka squatty potty. Squatty potties get a bad rap for being difficult to use among people who haven’t developed our squatting muscles. However, here is a huge shout out in praise of the squatty when it comes to potty training boys. My son loved aiming at the hole and there were no issues of not being able to reach.
Also, the floors of our entire house in Somalia were bare cement. Accidents were no problem at all. One more bonus of raising kids in rural Somalia — anywhere could be a toilet. I caught our son several times ‘watering’ trees and rocks in the yard.
Is potty training like this everywhere? What about cold climates or houses with carpeting? What is potty training like around the world? Of course no country or culture is homogenous, but here are anecdotes and stories about potty training around the world:
Kids in China wear a onesie-style outfit with a split crotch. If a kid 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 goes on the ground. It doesn’t seem to matter where they are or what they were doing.
Here’s a story from China of an American businessman doing market research surveys with a family, “I was waiting for them to fill out the survey. I looked down and the kid was peeing on the ground about 2 inches away from my feet and the mom was holding him away from her lap. When I jumped back because I was startled, the mom looked at me and laughed.”
In Germany, kids are potty trained by age 3 because it is a requirement for starting school. Germans emphasize cleanliness and since peeing while standing up, for boys, tends to make a mess, little boys are taught to sit down on the potty.
Potty training isn’t really a word in rural Indonesia. 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. Kids learn to use the bathroom quickly and in the appropriate places, whether that means the squatty potty, a ditch, or beside a rice field.
Kids are potty trained between 2-3 years old in groups at daycare. 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. Daycare staff do not encourage parents to push kids too early. But, kids must be trained by age four before they start school full time.
The floors in the south of Pakistan, Sindh, are concrete. This means kids are free to run around and pee wherever they want. Moms give them a bath at night and in the morning, take off their diapers and they 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 or they will get peed on! By age 2, most kids are potty trained, except those who can afford diapers. They take much longer.
Grandmothers are eager for their grandchildren to potty train, but mothers lean more toward the ‘when they are ready’ attitude. There is a current trend toward more child-centered parenting and so there seems to be less pressure than in the past. But older mothers say potty training used to be highly competitive in the UK, with many parents using the Gina Ford method to accomplish training in a single week.
–Clara Wiggins, author of the Expat Survival Guide
United States of America
There are so many gimmicks and expensive items related to potty training. Potty chairs, which are so disgusting to clean out. Potty seats, but what do you do when you are out and about? You can’t exactly tote a potty seat in your purse. There can also be a lot of pressure and a sense of competition, or shame, if your child is the last one potty trained.
Paying attention to your individual children and positive reinforcement are common among moms who don’t seem to dread or resent potty training.