Potty Training Too Late?

Potty training - are we potty training too late? And is this a problem for the planet, our purses and our kids?

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Potty training - are we potty training too late? And is this a problem for the planet, our purses and our kids?The great potty training debate has reared it’s head again.

It’s popped up this time in a story about children starting school in nappies because parents … in largely deprived communities … were not parenting effectively.

For all its rather scare mongering tone I do think the story raises some questions.

I know of plenty of devoted, hard working parents … some of whom are very affluent … who have struggled to potty train their children, and particularly their sons, until they are almost 4 or older.

My mum was a playgroup leader in the small industrial town we lived in back in the 70s. She says the children starting at her playgroup at 3 were always potty trained.  Not because she insisted on it but just because at the time children were always potty trained by 3 if not 2.

Now obviously back then far fewer mums worked. And I definitely found that potty training around childcare was tricky.

Despite my best efforts, my daughter, wasn’t one of those children who potty train in a week. We would just seem to have cracked it at home when it would be time for 3 days of nursery again and even though the nursery staff were very supportive, we always seemed to go backwards.

But I think the big change in potty training has come not with mums working but with the ever more super-duper dry-as-a-bone diaper “technology” that is now on offer and that we all demand.

We love diapers that keep our children from feeling soggy but the discomfort of totally sodden old-school terry towelling diapers was a massive motivation for even the boys under 3 to master the potty.

According to my mum some children … including me! … definitely used to struggle with potty training and take their time but, unlike now, there was no temptation to go back to wearing soggy diapers.

And it became a virtuous circle. Children hated wearing soggy diapers so they wanted to succeed at potty training, so more of them did and motivated their friends to do the same.

So what’s the solution?

Should parents all try to potty train before 3? Should they persist even if their children don’t seem “ready”? Is it easier to potty train early from cloth diapers?

And does it matter? Are children being held back in an important stage of physical awareness and self-control? Or does it not matter if they are still in diapers when they are 4?

But even if it doesn’t, there is another issue and that is the environment. The switch to disposables has had a massive impact on waste world wide. And maybe, if we care about the future of the planet we really should consider potty training as early as possible.

What do you think? Do share your thoughts …

And if you’re looking for more thoughts on parenting do check out our other posts … 


16 thoughts on “Potty Training Too Late?”

  1. Parents are definitely potty training later these days. I wonder whether the ‘wait until they are ready’ message has gone too far? As you say, with modern disposable nappies children have very little incentive to change. Once they are too far past 2 years children are more likely to get stubborn and resist the process I think.

    1. It is a tricky one isn’t it Anita – we definitely didn’t find potty training easy and so I am nervous about pushing but really do worry about the amount that goes into landfill worldwide.

  2. I’ve got six kids and they’re all potty-trained. We used disposables–and they’re all potty-trained. Two of them took MONTHS (close to a year), one took 11 days, one took 3 days, one literally trained overnight, one’s experience has entirely slipped my mind–and they’re all potty-trained. It eventually gets done. My two who were slow? WAY more about their stubborn, independent personalities (Hi, Braden and Jonno!) than about their diapers. Braden’s 21 now. Still stubborn and independent. I could tell you stories….

    Two things that went on when I was a toddler in the late 60s: Some mothers believe in potty-training infants and claimed their babies were trained at 9 months (did you think that was new?), and toddlers routinely got spanked or otherwise punished for accidents. Not potty-training until 3 years old was radical, for sure…but the kind of gentle training most thoughtful parents do today was pretty much unheard-of too.

    Worry about it less. Trust more. Don’t shame them or punish them if you can manage to keep your cool 100% of the time (but know that really, you probably can’t, and they won’t hate you for it). The day will come when, barring certain disabilities, they will all be potty-trained.

  3. Thanks for lnking up to the Parenting Pinterest Party – I think that we shouldnt worry too much about when they start showing the signs of being ready…and we take their lead whether this is at 2 or 3.5 years old. My daughter was ready at under three, my son just over three, and I didn’t push either of them. Both were trained fairly quickly. Overall, we ought to try to be a bit more relaxed about the whole process. Its not a competition after all! 🙂

  4. Some very good points. We used cloth diapers when my daughter was an infant with the occasional disposable for outings, etc. As she got older, we found the cloth diapers did not work at night time for us. No matter what we did or used she leaked every night, so we switched to disposable at night. My husband started using the disposables more and more, so we just got rid of the cloth diapers. When it came time to potty train, she basically had it down before she was three, but then she decided she didn’t want to be potty trained and refused to be (purposely having “accidents” everywhere). She went back in diapers/pull-ups. Then at her third birthday, I told her know more diapers except at night. She was trained (again) almost instantly.

    Thank you for sharing at Sharing Saturday!

  5. Really tough questions! As the mom of a 2.5 old boy, I get so confused about the “signals” that he’s sending me about his readiness for potty training. One day he wants to try using the potty; the next day he doesn’t. One day he hates being wet and wants his diapers changed constantly; the next day he doesn’t care. There are just no easy answers! I do think that it’s a mistake to force a kid all of a sudden to do something that he’s not sure about.

  6. I agree with the points you make – the diapers now are so absorbent that toddlers don’t really have must incentive to use the potty to avoid the uncomfortable wet feeling. At the same time, some kids really just aren’t ready to be potty trained at 2, and forcing the issue will only end in frustration on all sides. What worked for us was encouraging the “big girl” aspect of it. But still, my daughter was closer to 3 before using the potty with any regularity.

  7. I agree with the points you make – the diapers now are so absorbent that toddlers don’t really have must incentive to use the potty to avoid the uncomfortable wet feeling. At the same time, some kids really just aren’t ready to be potty trained at 2, and forcing the issue will only end in frustration on all sides. What worked for us was encouraging the “big girl” aspect of it. But still, my daughter was closer to 3 before using the potty with any regularity.

  8. i do agree that ever dryer nappies doesn’t help. We were tempted, when potty training Goblin, to invest in some of the cheaper less effective nappies so that he did get a little discomfort and feel it would be better to go to the loo. Potty training took for ever for us, At least a year to be absolutely dry. I don’t think starting earlier is the solution – Goblin wasn’t ready, and I think if anything we should have started later. Some kids get it, and get it really early, but others don’t. Children should be given the space to do it in their own time, and if that means some are going to school (aged 4) in a nappy, so be it.
    Thanks for linking to SPP, I’m pinning to the Sunday Parenting Pinterest board.

  9. I have 6 kids. My 4th was trained when he was 31/2. He was just not interested. With my last 2 I learned to start them young when they were not old enough to be interested or not. I learned the true meaning of “trained” when my daughter who was 22 months wouldn’t go in her diaper on a long trip because she was “trained” to use the potty

  10. I think potty training, like many parenting issues, is a case by case decision. What might be right for some children would not work for others. That being said, many preschools will not allow children in the 3-year-old classroom without being potty trained. It was a long “adventure” for my son. He was very interested at 19 months but then a few months later decided he wanted nothing to do with it. He was not fully potty trained until he was 3 yrs 2 months old. I am happy those days are long behind us.

  11. I agree with you. Life becoming tough day by day. Parents are always busy in their work. So it is difficult for them to take care properly. As a result most of the children are getting potty training late. I think there is a solution for parents. Potty training apps can help them.

  12. I like your article. It doesn’t condemn one way or another. Great job. We potty trained our first at 15 months (done by 17 months) and then used EC (elimination communication) for our second starting at 4 months. Aside for a few setbacks/accidents during the first week of crawling and again at walking (10 months) we were pretty much potty trained from 4 months on. (It took a week or so for him to go with encouragement and to be able to signal when he needed to go). By 1 year he was in a big boy bed and took himself to the bathroom. He is now 19 months old and going strong. I have been met with nothing but criticism and speculation because of the route we went and usually by mums who’s children are still wearing diapers at almost 4 years old. While I know that everyone does it differently, I can honestly say that once a child communicates they need to go, they should probably be taught. I have met many mums who readily admit that *they* aren’t ready and yes the few months of accidents every now and then with our first wasn’t lots of fun, I can honestly say, I do not feel that potty training is about me. It was about my kid. He was able to hold it by 12 months and if I hadn’t been 8 months pregnant and unable to reach my feet easily, let alone the floor, I would have started right then and there. As it was we waited until the new one was 2 weeks old before we started the older one. 2 extra months in cloth diapers because of me and I felt horribly guilty. Does what we did/do/will do (another due in Dec) make it right for everyone? No. Hopefully though, we can stop judging mums who start early and encouraging everyone that if their child doesn’t train in 3 days, that’s ok. Thanks again for the great post.

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