10/06/2010 05:35 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

A Slow, Simple Approach to Potty Training at 15 Months Old (Video)

My 15-month-old asked to go poop last week. It sounds strange because I wasn't really trying to train her yet (despite my concerns about disposables and landfills). Though I suppose in some ways I've been training her since day one.

My "European" method for potty training

I'll call it the "European" method, though let me be clear, the norm here is probably more similar to the United States where most parents wait for a magic age when their kid will be ready to be trained in 3 days: in the U.S. that tends to be closer to three years old, while here it's closer to two (For more, see my post "Who decides when to potty train: you, baby or Big Diapers?").

My method is really just something I've gleaned from conversations with a few moms. These are the women who explain to you -- like the Parisian I met on the airplane heading to San Francisco last June -- that they've been putting their 13-month-old son on the potty for a few months now. It's not a strict thing, just a slow, simple approach.

When asked, they don't usually know anything about Elimination Communication (EC): the practice where parents try to read their kids' needs and then cue them to go over a toilet even as early as a month or two old (For visuals, see video On the toilet at 6 weeks old).

Rather than being part of a movement -- EC or otherwise -- these early start parents seem to do it because it just makes sense to put your kid on the toilet if you see him making an effort to eliminate. And then it becomes habit. Though it's not really something you have to do every time since many of these women have full-, or part-time jobs.

Modified elimination communication

With my first child my mother put a lot of time in training her early, but until 16 months she had never even seen a potty (See video Potty diaries: waiting for baby). So with baby number two, I decided to introduce the ideas -- in a very casual way -- a bit earlier.

Really all I did was tell her every time she went poo by repeating the words "caca" (Spanish baby talk for poop) and then pulling out the toilet around one-year-old a handful of times to just get her used to the idea.

There was no rhyme or reason -- or really much effort -- to the process, but suddenly last week, at age 14 months 3 weeks, my toddler asked to go "caca." I was so startled I wasn't sure if I should act on it, but after a moment's hesitation, I did.