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Potty Training Too Late?

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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 … 

Anita Cleare

Friday 30th of October 2015

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.


Friday 30th of October 2015

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.


Saturday 21st of September 2013

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.


Friday 20th of September 2013

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! :-)


Friday 20th of September 2013

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!


Tuesday 17th of September 2013

I think kids are pushed too much and too quickly these days. They will all get there in their own good time